Loving to live outdoors in the sun

Are you just loving this weather!

There’s no greater indicator of the British capacity for optimism than in our love of eating and living out of doors.

And now that we have the first real taste of the sun for many months…we are all “out there”.

In spite of the extreme unpredictability of our weather – and the fact that we have perfectly comfortable kitchens, dining rooms and conservatories – the outdoor furniture market at the last survey was worth something in the region of £975m.

It’s not just the increasing sophistication of barbecue equipment. We love to add sheds, summer houses, shade sails or canopies, and sun umbrellas into our gardens, to create outdoor living spaces. And it takes only a few days of good spring weather to bring about a profound change in mood.

Spending time outside in the fresh air and sun is relaxing and increases your vitamin D levels, which in turn makes you feel happy.

In terms of design, I treat the outside area in the same way as an interior by creating zones and generating different experiences as you journey through them. As well as the usual planting I try to do a couple of larger projects a year around the garden.

The great thing about garden design is that it’s seasonal. The colours and plant structure are forever changing naturally and this can be used to your advantage. Adding layers of colour and structured architectural plants can add variety and total flexibility, swapping them around as the plants come and go.

Garden design by Kirstyn Fox from Lakeland Garden Design

Garden design by Kirstyn Fox from Lakeland Garden Design: the Cottage at Hill Top, once the home of Arthur Ransome, now a luxury holiday house

You don’t need to buy “garden furniture”. Imagine extending your social evening by moving your dining table and chairs outside, recreating your dining room. Use simple strings of exterior festoon lighting, scatter tea lights in sparkly jam jars, and add a full dinner setting with candelabra for a dreamy and memorable event.

It’s easy to add comfort and colour by throwing in some bright funky scatter cushions and fleecy throws for later in the evening when it’s cooler.

However you do it, just get outside and make the most of the sun.

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WELL buildings are good for mental health

There was a lot of talk some years ago about “sick building syndrome”. But now architects and designers are moving forward through the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI).

It launched a movement to address issues regarding health and well-being within the built environment (issues which are somewhat overlooked by existing standards). From this the WELL Building Standard™ was established, with the aim to provide architects and designers with guidelines on how to make a real and measurable difference to how we function within our urban spaces. And even if your project doesn’t aim for certification the WELL standard offers an inspirational model when considering a human centred design approach.

The concept is known as biophilic design, and there’s a recognised accreditation (https://www.wellcertified.com) that I’m now following, aiming to become a WELL Accredited Professional. And I’m working with the local experts Epixx at their new showroom to explore putting ideas into practice.

WELL notes seven concepts that must be considered and fulfilled in the scope of a design: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. Why does this matter? Why do we need “positive spaces”?

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Designing with people in mind is a growing topic that can no longer be overlooked; the Human Spaces Report found that a third of global respondents stated office design affects their decision of where to work.

With over half the world’s population now living in cities, chronic illnesses are becoming increasingly prevalent. Globally, research shows, 76% of employees report a struggle with wellbeing, and work-related stress costs the US approximately €255 billion and Europe €550 billion annually. These issues indicate a clear need for healthier spaces.

Better indoor air quality can lead to an 8-11% improvement in productivity. Better nutrition leads to a 27% reduction in depression, a 13% reduction in stress, and overall better mental health. Being closer to windows makes us more productive, especially if there is a view onto nature. And adding plants into the workplace significantly reduces stress, health concerns, and sickness absence.

In Mental Health Awareness week, we feel it’s important to start taking these issues seriously. We’ll report back with further findings.

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