Design your patio around your garden table

This month we wanted to discuss the fundamentals of good garden design and explore if it’s possible to design your patio around your garden table?

In our recent favourite outdoor furniture books article, we discussed how we felt garden furniture was maybe not viewed as important to garden designers as say hardscaping or planting schemes. So we’re going to try and address that by showing you how to design your patio around your garden table. Put our money where our mouth is so to speak…

Is it even possible to design your patio around your garden table?

We’ve published a number of posts recently that look at how to get the right size set. Our Garden Tables: A Buying Guide article is a great starting point for those looking to purchase their first garden furniture set or anybody unsure of what will work best. Our recently published What size garden table should I buy? article is another that helps you measure and pick the right size and shape for your patio.

However, inspired by garden designers such as Michelle Slatalla, Ula Maria, Matthew Keightley, Adam Frost, Kate Gould, etc, I want to take this concept and discuss how you can design your patio and wider outdoor space around Lazy Susan Garden Tables. Place garden furniture front and centre to the overall design.

Michelle Slatalla’s book Gardenista sums up this ethos as follows:

“Our homes' outdoor spaces can and should be as welcoming and carefully considered as our living rooms, when treated as extensions of our homes, these spaces enrich our lives immeasurably.” 

Arranging a garden and/or patio can be a daunting design task, but the layout is crucial to the comfort/function of your outdoor space. All gardens present design challenges, but as we want to spend as much quality time in them as possible, it’s important we get the fundamentals right.

Striking that balance between making the garden feel inviting, spacious, but also squeezing in enough seating is often the dilemma many with a small space face. In larger plots, it is often knowing what to do to fill all that square footage. At the end of the day, we want a garden that looks good, invites people outside, and most importantly, is a pleasure to spend time in. 

Garden designer Angel Collins in her article Gardening and landscape design: the 17 basic elements for House & Garden described good garden design as follows: 

“What good design is really about, I think, is mastering the hugely different dimensions that there are in any garden: space, scale, texture, harmony, colour, structure, light, dark, charm, strength, sense of place, romance, history and so on. But once you get going, it's not really about strict rules - every gardener develops instincts to guide them over time.”

She goes on to say that:

“The joy of a garden is that you can watch it grow over many years and therefore I think it is best to stick to a simple, classical design, and then re-energise and experiment with the planting over time. Here are the things to consider when you're starting off.” 

We want to take that and apply it to garden furniture, take a close look at how you can start to think about ways to design your patio around your garden table. Now, speaking on both a personal level and as Lazy Susan, we are not saying that one thing is more important than the other. All these things must work together. What we want to do is just look at things from a slightly different perspective.

Garden Tables & Chairs often feel like an afterthought once the garden design is finished. However, it is often one of, if not the, most used item when that garden is completed and used. But can you use it as the jumping-off point? Or is a good garden table more just the icing on the cake?

I suppose, for Lazy Susan, good garden design is about ‘zoning’ the space. We also touched on this in our What size Garden Table should I buy? post. Dividing up your garden to perform different functions. So, whilst designing the whole space around a Lazy Susan Garden Table is maybe unfeasible, after all, planting, etc is pretty important too, designing the ‘living’ zone maybe makes more sense? In most cases (but not always) that’s often the patio area just off or closest to access in and out of your property. 

This could be one of those articles where we maybe contradict ourselves. However, it is important to stress that there is no right or wrong. What works and looks good to one person is maybe not right for those next door. The building blocks of good garden design are there to guide, to help establish what works, but every garden is unique. Rules can even be broken. Only you can decide what you like and what works.

By going down the zone route you can create a garden that will make the best use of the space you have and also ensure that each member of your household gets their own little slice of that outdoor oases.

The fundamentals of good garden design

One of our Lazy Living mantras, and one we apply to both purchasing new Garden Furniture from us or garden design as a whole, is before you start, think about how you are going to use your garden or furniture. With furniture it will help you identify pieces/sets that best fit your needs, when designing your outdoor space, it will help you to identify all the elements (such as planting, patio, furniture, water feature, accessories, etc) you need to realise your perfect garden. To make that space work for you and your family.

Of course, there are many elements to consider when it comes to designing your outdoor space, from planting scheme to materials, however, we genuinely believe the best way to start when it comes to the patio area is with the garden table. Let that dictate the layout. Start with it and work out from there. Think of that paved, tiled or decked area where the furniture will be placed as a room. A zone in the garden where most of the ‘living’ is done. Yes, that needs to tie into the garden design as a whole, but look at that zone as the living (be it a kitchen, dining or relaxing) part of the space.

The building blocks of any good garden design are unity, harmony, balance, scale and proportion. Whether you’re designing a modern urban style courtyard or a traditional English country haven, these fundamental elements remain the same. How you interpret them and apply them is where the fun begins…

If we focus in on the patio or living zone in any garden, the space where you’ll sit, relax, cook on the BBQ, for us, a good patio starts with good research. Identify what you need in that space to function in the way you need it to. To become the place where you want to spend time. Of course, this can’t be done without consideration for the rest of your outdoor space. But surely it can inform it?

If we are designing a patio around a garden table, then the following process is how Lazy Susan would approach it:

1. Research

Start by taking inspiration from other patio designs. Look at what the leading designers do within their garden designs. What’s on the patio? What materials do they use? How does it connect to the property itself and the rest of the garden? Visit gardening shows, purchase a few books and magazines. Research to identify what you like, what will work in your outdoor space, and what you need to make that space yours.

2. Plan

Take into account the size, shape and direction your garden faces, the style of your property and the wider surrounding area. These factors will have a significant impact on the finished patio design. A good garden table will ultimately be the focal point on your patio but how will it ‘fit’ with the rest of the garden? Achieving balance is key to good garden design. Look at the space as a whole, how will the furniture marry up with the landscaping and hardscaping in and around your patio?

3. Design

Do you prefer the modern clean lines of a formal patio with the muted colour palette and clipped shrubs? Are you more of an informal patio with soft curves and organic bold coloured planting? Think about where to site your patio? With easy access to your indoor living space so you can blur the lines is our advice. Think about how the space will function and flow from home to patio to garden. Look at how the part of the garden you want to site your patio catches the sun. Will it still work for a spot of lunch or will you be sat in the shade?

4. Measure

The best way to visualise it is to measure it out. Take careful note of all the measurements and then either draw it to scale on graph paper or use one of the many garden design apps such as iScape, Home Outside or Home Design 3D Outdoor & Garden to mock it up/illustrate it. Having that blank slate and to-scale floor plan will best help you plan the space, be it a full garden or just the patio. At Lazy Susan we generally find that converting from feet to inches at a scale of 1:1 is the simplest (and by that, we mean least confusing) way to do this, however, you go with whatever works best for you. 

For example, a rectangular patio that is 15 feet wide by 10 feet deep will convert onto the page as a 15 inch by 10-inch box (or 38.1 cm x 25.4 cm). You can then refer to the Table Space Requirements table in our What size garden table should I buy? article and calculate which of our Garden Tables will best fit that space. 

In the design software/apps, you can then easily add in any furniture, planters, BBQ’s, etc and move around the patio. If doing it on paper, then do little cut-outs to create the same effect. You’ll be surprised how little tweaks to the positioning of items on your patio can have a dramatic impact on the overall design. Don’t be afraid, experiment before you commit.

5. Develop

Once all the above is decided, then comes the hard part, realising your design. Do you need to start thinking about the construction work? Are you doing this yourself or bringing in the professionals? You can’t just site that patio any old where. Consideration of utilities, groundworks, etc might need to be taken into account. If that patio is already in place, then you’re just looking to redecorate, no issue. However, if hardscaping will impact on drainage, and the wider garden, the more likely you’ll need additional works to cope with rain run-off, etc.

If it is a full redesign/new patio then it is vital you get the construction done right. If you’re going down this route, then the previous steps are still essential. They will show what you’re after, give the professionals, be it garden designer or builder, something to work on/from. They may make suggestions that will make the space work better and/or recommend things you must do in terms of construction best practices, etc.

How can you design your patio around your garden table?

A good patio that really meets your needs will add greatly to how you enjoy your home and garden. Garden Furniture is integral to that. Think of it as a kitchen diner. It is the hub, the useable space that links inside with the outside and vice versa. It should function with the wider outdoor space and the buildings it links to or that are close by. 

Your patio should work with the wider garden, it should borrow from its surroundings. Think about orientation. Where gets the best sunlight, the least road-noise, is least overlooked by neighbours, etc? However, the key to making that patio truly work is the Garden Table and Garden Chairs. If there’s not enough 'working’ space for that outdoor furniture or poor access to your kitchen for example, then it could make the patio difficult to use, a place you don’t want to sit.

Maybe the heading of this article is a little misleading? You wouldn't necessarily design the garden around a table, however, its position should have a significant impact on the final design. For us it is the key ‘component’ the rest can be designed around it, placed to fit and flow.

A full garden design makeover will undoubtedly deliver a more cohesive design that ticks all these boxes, but it can be costly, time-consuming and is an upheaval many of us don’t want or need. Tweaking the space in stages, starting with the patio and working ‘out’ is often the most logical/workable approach.

Use our garden tables as the focal point on your patio. Strike a balance between your home and the rest of the garden. Think about flow around and on/off the patio. Think about how you use your outdoor space, set up the patio to fit, as a place to spend time and create conversation. 

Think about Scale and Proportion? Does the size relationship of that garden table set to fit with your patio and the other items around it? 

Think about Form? The shapes in your garden. Will a round, oval, square or rectangle-shaped Garden Table fit best? A patio and garden without strong, contrasting forms can become confusing. As Better Homes & Gardens say in their article The Elements of Good Garden Design

“A landscape without strong, contrasting forms becomes as confusing as a melody without rhythm”.

Think about Balance. It is best achieved when the elements on each side of a real or imaginary axis are equal. Everything that is placed in a design will carry a certain visual weight with it. A Garden Table to one side on the patio can be complemented by a large planter on the opposite side, for example.

If you are wanting a clean modern look, then costly hardscaping is often needed to achieve the required high quality ‘sleek’ finish. That costs. As a rule of thumb, if you do want to or need to spend, then we would advise you to invest around 10% of the value of your home into your garden. A good garden designer could potentially set you back around £200 to £400 per square metre. A well-designed garden will, of course, add value to your property, but you must strike a balance between what you spend, what you want and what it will add if sold.

The other option is to work with what you’ve got. Take a critical look at the garden and see how you can improve it. Make it look and function better. Focus on the patio or decking. Spend on the ‘zone’ you will get the most benefit from first before tackling the other zones and completing your grand plan. As we mentioned earlier, subtle tweaks to the positioning of items on your patio can make a big impact.

For us, if you are looking to design your patio around your garden table your patio, then your budget should be as big as you can stretch, but not so big that you break the rules of good garden design - think Scale, Form and Balance. Good garden and patio design is achieved when all the building blocks fit together as one whole - landscaping and hardscaping working together in harmony.

Your Garden Table & Chairs are an integral part of that. What good is a well-designed space if you can’t sit in it, use it and enjoy it?

And if it is all a little overwhelming, hire a pro to help you design your patio around your garden table. A large garden project is an incredibly daunting prospect, so hire a garden designer to deliver the vision you have or to provide one if you’re unsure. It could potentially save you money in the long run by preventing any costly mistakes.

I’m sure we’ll revisit this subject again on our Blog. We really struggled to wrap this post up if we’re being honest. We could have written our own garden design book on this subject with all the pooled knowledge in our team. It’s such a vast subject and there’s so much we wanted to say and share. However, if you have any questions about our Garden Furniture or how you can go about designing your patio around your garden table, then please don’t hesitate to Contact Us.

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