Pergolas, garden lighting and other outdoor design ideas

The bi-fold door craze, which has washed over the UK like a great wave over the past few years, has had a dramatic effect on outdoor design. These days, side returns feature wide, bright doors that open up onto patios, gardens or decking. Never before have we had so much access to our outside areas.

With such seamless transition between indoor and outdoor now available, it makes sense to furnish your outdoor space properly. The rule is that it should be in keeping with the same styles you aspire to in the home. Indoor and outdoor design aren’t separate but symbiotic: the garden and the home can work in unity all year round.

Outdoor design
Image source: Eclectic Patio by London Photographers Beccy Smart Photography

The days of forgotten, limp gardens filled with cobwebbed deckchairs are over. The British are now al fresco people, so it’s time to connect outdoor spaces with the rest of the home.


Shade is important in a garden, but parasols become dirty far too quickly and tend to take up too much view and space. A better option is to create a smaller, more intimate space with a pergola. A pergola is a outdoor structure made of beams and posts, usually fixed onto a patio. You can also get metal pergolas, for a more contemporary feel.

Pergola covering garden furniture

Pergolas can be used to make:

  • An outdoor entertainment, kitchen or dining area: Place outdoor seating underneath a pergola with a remote-controlled retractable canopy or awning, to protect yourself and your guests from the sun or rain whilst you relax. Plus, you’ll add £4,286 to your home’s value by creating an outdoor entertainment area, according to The Rated People Home Improvement Trends Report: 2021.
  • A shaded space for plants: Potted plants can be kept under the cover of the pergola, whilst climbing plants can flourish on the beams.

Find a local builder and get a pergola for those long summer days just around the corner. Get a free quote now!

Outdoor design

A successfully furnished garden shouldn’t look excessively neat or manufactured. In fact, overly worked outdoor spaces tend to look outdated.

wire chair eames style
Image source: Dezeen

Think beyond the traditional garden furniture set (matching chairs and table) and create a patchwork of beautiful items instead. A white marble table, for example, can look wonderful with some wooden chairs painted and protected in different colours. The garden is obviously a mostly green space, so bear that in mind when choosing furniture colour.

Invest in high quality, durable garden chairs and tables that would look right at home in your living room. If you wouldn’t use it inside, don’t buy it for the garden.

Cosy fabric garden furniture and fairy lights
Photo by Taryn Elliott from Pexels

Outdoor armchairs are particularly on trend, with teak wood and hard-knotted rope making good material choices. The lasting influence of Eames Chairs are being felt outside too, with chairs coming in more open, curved and relaxed shapes. Just remember, upkeep is crucial.

Loungers, if really desired, should be discreet. Ornate wicker furniture should be avoided altogether.

A local gardener can help you figure out the best design and layout for your garden. Get a quote now and make your garden an extension of your home!

Heat and shade

The temperature in your garden is rarely ‘just right’, so it pays to have some heating and shade available.

Fire pits, braziers and chimeneas are fantastic choices – if they look contemporary. There are some wonderful stainless steel choices out there that make clay heaters look incredibly passé. Many take their inspiration from contemporary Scandinavian wood burners.

Shade sail in garden

Find natural shade in your garden and set up furniture there. You can add a canopy with UV sun protection for extra safety.


Soft lighting is just as important outdoors as it is inside. No one wants to sit outside under the glare of harsh lighting, which also attracts bugs, but if you go too soft then you risk being overly atmospheric. Guests want to be able to see their food!

Outdoor design: Fairy lights over outdoor dining set
Photo by Askar Abayev from Pexels
  • Candles in lanterns: Well-placed candles provide enough garden light while emphasising certain choice trees or bushes. Add more natural lighting by using a fire pit or brazier as a main source of brightness.
  • Artificial lighting: A stand-out fitting, such as a starburst wall light, can become a real focal point. Fairy lights are suitable too, but only if used with restraint.
Outdoor design: Garden illuminated by LED lights
  • Warm lighting in the room adjacent to the garden: Well-placed and generous – but not overbearing – indoor lights throw a lovely glow on your garden. So, consider replacing harsh bulbs with softer, more retro ones that will bathe your outside space in an orangey glow. Doing so will save you money on outdoor lighting and further break down the barrier between inside and outside space.

Looking for an electrician? Find a vetted tradesperson right now on Rated People.

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    1. Hi Dave,

      How we work is that once a job is posted, it’s sent out to tradespeople registered with us, who work in that area. Up to three tradespeople can then buy the job lead for the chance to quote on your work and we send you the profile pages, complete with ratings and reviews, of those interested tradespeople. It’s then down to you to select the tradesperson you would like to work with. We have a homeowner’s checklist too to help with that decision: I hope you get your decking sorted!

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