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Your great outdoors

With summer just round the corner, it’s now time to start prepping our outside areas for entertaining. Iggy Fenech gets some insider tips from interior designers.

While winter almost seemed to be here to stay, it’s really time to start wallowing in the joys of spring and summer: the outdoor barbecues, the time spent in the shade reading a book, the Pimm’s and lemonade with a host of fruit that goes down a treat on those suffocatingly hot, Maltese summer days.

But, in order to enjoy your outdoor experience to the full, you must first set the scene – and from the coolest colours to the best in this season’s must-haves, two of Malta’s most recognisable names in interior design tell us what’s in and how to make it work for you.

Nick Zammit Tabona

“After a season indoors, it doesn’t take much to lure us outside to bask in the warm sunshine or gather round for cool, conversation-filled nights with family and friends, especially when our outdoor space is well designed, functional and inviting.

“First of all, I would suggest that readers keep in mind that trends develop on a seasonal basis and may change slightly year after year, so keeping a basic design as the foundation and then adapting new trends (such as colour, texture or pattern) with items that aren’t costly or difficult to replace is key.

“Generally speaking, we tend to prefer that both the inside and the outside are not identical, but they should share a few common elements that bind both into one flowing space. Nevertheless, that’s just our preferred style and there is no set rule for this, so it all depends on the client’s request.

“One of the biggest challenges to focus on is obtaining privacy. It’s difficult to fully enjoy even the most amazing outdoor spaces when you are essentially ‘on show’ to all your neighbours, so we try to creatively use plants and design features to achieve even a basic level of privacy without compromising on any views or functionality of the layout.

“So far, the most lavish outdoor setting I’ve ever seen was a fully-equipped outdoor home cinema with a full-sized screen, sofas, a bar and a retractable roof; all overlooking a rock feature waterfall. It was quite unusual and totally impressive!”

Colours: This year, colours will be more subtle and sophisticated, mainly incorporating earth tones but with the occasional touch of color through movable items such as feature pots and soft furnishing. Thankfully, this will allow for a level of design flexibility.

Furniture: We are also seeing an increasing demand for warming fire elements, multi-use furniture (eg modular seating and hidden storage), and cooking spaces that, in practice, are an extension of the kitchen inside, as opposed to just a standard barbecue.

Edible plants: Another trend we’re sure is going to continue gaining popularity in 2015 is what we call ‘edible gardening’, which is basically incorporating edible plants such as herbs and small fruit plants into one’s outdoor spaces to then put to use in their own kitchen.

Fitness: We have had the occasional request for outdoor fitness areas, namely small open spaces dedicated to yoga, meditation and other fitness routines. I think it’s a great concept and I hope it will continue to develop in 2015.

Follow Nick on Facebook by searching for NZT Design & Turnkey Projects.

Vera Sant Fournier

“Just like the indoors have their own seasonal trends, so do outdoor areas, and if you have an outdoor space, be it a large garden, a back yard or a simple front terrace, make sure you maximise it to its full potential.

“What you should keep in mind is that your outdoor living area should look great, but it should also be functional. Privacy, safety, comfort, low-maintenance and tasteful decorations are all factors that will make your personal outdoor space that much more enjoyable. Yes… It’s as simple as that.

“Personally, I always like to create a flow and unity in my designs but, having said that, there is no rule that says what is applied indoors should also be applied outdoors. As long as it is tasteful and respects your indoors, it’s great.

“Over the years, we have designed outdoor spaces that had dishwashers incorporated into their custom designs, as well as built-in barbecue areas, projectors, and TV areas, but the one that takes the cake for me was an ice machine. Keeping those drinks nicely chilled is definitely an added bonus!”

Black fences: Wood which has been given a deep, dark stain will add instant drama to your garden. It is a stunning backdrop against green foliage and any other colourful flowers, and, of course, black is timelessly elegant and it’s an inexpensive way of adding a luxurious feel. Strategically placed, these can also help you separate your outdoors into different areas.

Eco-conscious furniture: As the environment continues to be a priority for, homeowners, we will be looking at more eco-friendly furniture. In simple terms, eco-conscious furniture is outdoor furniture that uses sustainable materials, has a smaller carbon footprint, or purchasing it will see a donation being given to environmental causes. Recycling furniture or using euro pallets is becoming increasing popular as well.

Ottomans: The Ottoman trend is picking up, and will rise to even more prominence in 2015, especially when it comes to outdoor seating. These, depending on your chosen material, are durable and stylish; and they can be paired with a low table, or left to stand on their own as a sleek seating option. By adding a cushion they become very comfortable, and my advice is to choose the cushion colour to match any existing themes that you may have going.

Statement pots: This year we’re seeing different finishes for pots too, such as rusted metal, concrete, and weather-resistant metals, which retain their beauty. A clear example is the Blackberries pot by Plust; the texturing of its surfaces and finishes seem to refer to the ripples of aluminum foil and this changes shape depending on the light intensity of the environment in which it is placed. Remember: Be creative with your pots, we are now spoilt for choice and not limited by colour, material or finishing.

Follow Vera on Facebook by searching for Vera Sant Fournier – Interior Design.

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