The importance of having even a small space outside, or just a visual link with nature, cannot be overestimated. A small garden, be it a balcony, roof, or terrace, is a sanctuary where you can escape the pressures of an urban existence.
Think of your space as an extension of your home, as an outside room where you can eat, read, admire a view, or watch your children play. The key to creating a sympathetic backdrop to outside living is to ask yourself first and foremost how you want to use your “room” and then, with this clear objective in mind, to set about making it a pleasant place in which to be.
It is obviously easier to create a congenial outside room in Mediterranean or tropical climates, but capturing and enjoying every minute of light and warmth in more northerly climes has its own special satisfaction. However, sun alone does not make for a comfortable outside space.
There are many ways it can be made inviting. Wind and drafts can be minimized, ugly views concealed, privacy created, and color used to make it tempting even when the sun is not shining.
Having concentrated your efforts into making use of your outside space in summer, don’t let it be wasted when you are inside or during the remainder of the year. Make sure your outside works visually from inside your home. Consider what it will look like from a window (not just when the sun is out), across the kitchen sink, down the hallway, or from your favorite living-room chair.
Thinking of your garden as a room also makes the concept of garden planning more approachable, for on a small scale, its principles are very similar to those of interior design. Decide what you want in your space and keep the design bold and simple. Where space is at a premium, the style and design of neither the garden nor the house can afford to work in isolation from one another.
If they are complementary, restricted living space inside will benefit from the view of the garden outside, and conversely, a cramped garden will seem less so if it is a harmonious extension of the building it adjoins.