30 garden design ideas for a beautiful outdoor space

Our brilliant garden design ideas will inspire you to transform your outdoor space this summer

Garden design ideas for a patio in a white colour scheme with table and chairs on a summers day
(Image credit: Colin Poole)

Our fantastic garden design ideas will give you all the inspiration you need to transform your outdoor living space. No matter how big or small your garden is, with just a few simple touches you can turn your outdoor space into a tranquil oasis that you'll want to spend all your time in.

Whether you're after ideas for a complete garden makeover to turn an uninspiring plot into the garden of your dreams, or you simply want to update your existing space with some new furniture, a smart seating area or atmospheric outdoor lighting, we've got it covered with these 30 brilliant garden design ideas. 

Read on for your ultimate garden inspiration, then check out our guide to planning a garden makeover for more advice for your project. 

1. Get in the zone

Garden with zoned seating areas with tropical style planting

(Image credit: Alasdair McIntosh)

In a small garden, you might think that breaking up the space into separate areas would make the space look even smaller, but zoning a garden like this can actually increase the feeling of space. This small garden has been divided into zones that are separated by low maintenance tropical-style planting. The decked dining area is positioned nearest the house, which can be practical for easy access to the kitchen. The snug seating area at the bottom of the garden feels cosy and secluded and is perfect for relaxing. Adding a firepit means it can be enjoyed later in the year too when the evenings are cooler. 

Love the idea of decking in your garden? Head to our decking ideas feature for more inspiration. 

2. Create a living room feel 

An outdoor living room at the bottom of a garden

(Image credit: Jamie Mason)

If the bottom area of your garden is the place that gets the most sun, it's the ideal spot for a seating area where you can enjoy the sunshine. As it's further away from the house, it also gives a feeling of seclusion and privacy. The decking gives the space a more permanent feel, as though it's an extension of the house, which is enhanced by the shelves on the rear wall. Add some bright bunting and colour pop cushions for some fun and flair.

Find more inspiration with our guide to outdoor living spaces

3. Bring in some foliage 

A shaded seating area with ferns and living wall

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

Foliage covered fences and walls can act as a handy barrier to exterior noise, which is particularly useful in city gardens. Plant climbers such as fragrant jasmine in raised beds next to your fence and encourage them to spread out, creating a living wall effect. Enhance your secluded oasis with foliage and a large parasol for shade and lose yourself in the greenery.

4. Plan your planting 

Two deck chairs on a bricked seating area

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

If you're struggling with ideas for how to fit your planting around your seating area, try sketching out some ideas first. Mark out your area and see where you could place your foliage. This seating area has beds that have been preplanned and built-in when the bricked patio was being laid. Large statement pots with colourful planting, such as these hydrangeas, are an easy way to change up the look and feel of the space from one year to the next. 

5. Size doesn't matter

An outdoor dining table in a small garden

(Image credit: Lizzie Orme)

Here raised beds define the seating area in this modestly spaced garden. Though they narrow the area, it actually lengthens the look of the space and it's still the perfect fit for an outdoor dining table. Here the raised beds are painted white, which reflects sunlight and creates a bright and airy feel to what could otherwise be a small and perhaps oppressive garden.

6. Create built-in seating

Outdoor seating area with built in sofa

(Image credit: David Giles)

Want to maximise space in your garden? Having permanent seating up against a wall gives a seamless look, especially when combined with raised beds. The wall behind the bench seating also offers added protection from the wind or sun. Simply add some colourful bench or scatter cushions to ramp up the comfort factor. 

All those cushions will need storing away when it's raining and during the winter months, however, so if you don't have a shed or garden storage it's a good idea to incorporate storage underneath your bench seating instead. Opt for a design where the top of the bench seat can be lifted up to reveal a large storage compartment, perfect for keeping all your cushions and throws in.

7. Add a pergola

Seating area under pergola structure with yellow cushions

(Image credit: Joanna Henderson)

If your garden lacks shelter then adding a man made structure like a pergola could be a good option for you. Painting it a dark colour can help it tie in with your furniture and creates a more fresh and contemporary feel. String festoon lights up for when the sun goes down and frame the area with an outdoor rug and matching cushions.

Head to our pergola ideas feature for more advice. 

8. Choose statement furniture

Statement outdoor chair positioned next to a collection of container plants

(Image credit: Joanna Henderson)

Sometimes one standalone piece of furniture is all that's needed to give an instant lift to an outdoor space. Next to a group of container plants at varying heights this tranquil and stylish spot is perfect for whiling away the hours with a good book.

Find your perfect outdoor seating in our guide to the best garden furniture

9. Go for laid-back entertaining 

Outdoor tiki bar with colour pop seating

(Image credit: Simon Whitmore)

Love using your garden as a space for entertaining friends and family? An outdoor bar will give your garden a focal point for parties, plus it encourages people to spread out from the seating area, ensuring your garden gatherings have a more open and friendly vibe. If you're good at DIY, creating a simple outdoor bar structure is an inexpensive way to recreate this look, or take a look at ready-made designs such as the Honolulu bar from John Lewis

Head to our outdoor bar ideas feature for more inspiration.

10.  Set the right tone 

A garden patio in a white colour scheme with table and chairs on a summers day

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

Deciding on a colour scheme that ties in your plants and your furniture can be tricky, so opting for a monochrome palette means that you needn't worry about things matching. This all-white scheme is fresh and modern, and really soaks up the sunlight. Picking plants becomes easier too as there are plenty of white blooms available to choose from.  

11. Add interest at eye level 

Built in sunken seating with alliums in raised beds

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

Having multiple levels in a garden can add variety to the space, such as a raised patio dining area which can also give you a better view of the rest of the garden. Raised beds are also a great way of bringing plants up from ground level – having them at eye height in a seating area means you feel more of a connection to the planting. Taller plants like alliums give another extra level too.

12. Keep it low maintenance

A relaxed seating area in a shady garden

(Image credit: James Merrell)

You may not have the resource at the moment to spend time and money with a hard landscaping project, but that doesn't mean you can't still have a beautiful garden. On fair-weather days you can bring indoor furniture outside and appreciate the existing charms of your garden.  Just remember to bring things inside overnight because it's not worth the risk of furniture getting soaked in an unexpected downpour. 

13. Consider an awning for shelter

Contemporary seating area with a clear awning and white wood panels

(Image credit: Joanna Henderson)

If you have a seating area that's next to your house, investing in an awning or veranda will provide protection from both the rain and sun. Choosing a clear material like glass or perspex for the roof material means that light still gets through and you can enjoy views of the sky. If the structural beams are strong enough, you could even consider hanging a chair from one of them for the ultimate outdoor relaxation spot. 

14. Design an indoor-outdoor space

A view to the garden from a dining area with sliding doors

(Image credit: Anna Stathaki)

A lovely outdoor space can be an extension of your home.  Select materials that match, or at least complement, your indoor flooring to create a seamless flow. Floor-to-ceiling doors that open fully really create a feeling of endless space. This is an ideal scenario for a small garden to stop the space feeling cramped and oppressive.

Want to create a similar space in your home. Check out our buyer's guide to the best garden decking.  

15. Include tropical planting

An outdoor seating area with a built in brick outdoor fire and jungle style planitng

(Image credit: Joanna Henderson)

Design a jungle-style canopy by layering trees and taller plants, such as ferns, with smaller-sized plants underneath to get that lush, overgrown vibe. Tree ferns are slow growing and hardy, so are perfect for bringing an exotic and tropical feel. Include some structural elements made from materials that feel as if they’ve always been there – large rocks, distressed woods, old brickwork, bamboo poles and brushwood screening all work well. 

16. Transform a terrace

A small roof terrace with city view and outdoor sofa and armchairs

(Image credit: Rei Moon)

Small roof terraces can also be well designed. Use the colours of your surroundings to help you create your colour scheme. For example grey stone has informed the shade of the decking and the furniture, creating a cool and muted palette. You may not have lots of space on your terrace for an array of plants, but one statement pot will really lift the space.

17. Choose a blank canvas

An outdoor sofa set with bright tropical accents

(Image credit: Simon Whitmore)

If you're someone whose taste changes depending on trends, then you might want to opt for a furniture set that can act as a blank canvas. Something fairly plain and unobtrusive can be styled up with new accessories depending on what look you're trying to create. Adding a new colour pop planter or bold cushion here and there can give it a whole new energy.

18. Use every nook

Rustic bench with cosy outdoor cushions

(Image credit: Dominic Blackmore)

Have a look around your garden and see if there is any dead space that could be put to better use. Is there a patch of wall that's currently bare, that could fit in a compact bench? If so, you've got yourself a new cosy nook! Different seating areas are always handy, whether it's for entertaining or just for your own use, it's nice to take in a different view, or separate dining areas from relaxation spaces. 

19. Lead the way 

Long view of a garden with seating area and outdoor lamp

(Image credit: Rei Moon)

Having pathways that link different areas are not only visually appealing, they are also practical. Without a pathway you'll soon find that you tread an unsightly channel in your lawn. Opt for salvaged paving slabs as a cheap option and smarten them up with a pressure washer before laying them to look brand new. 

Head to our landscaping ideas feature for more advice. 

20. Material matters

Grey chair in tiled patio are with fire pit

(Image credit: Dominick Blackmore)

Patterned floor tiles are a growing trend in outdoor living, and there's plenty of choice available. From cool graphics to ornate Mediterranean patterns, they certainly pack a punch. If you aren't all that green fingered then their patterns can make up for a lack of interest elsewhere and give a much-needed boost to more simplistic planting schemes.

It's important to make sure your choice of paving is suitable for outdoor use to prevent it cracking due to frost, or becoming too slippery when wet. Man-made materials such as porcelain or concrete are hard-wearing choices, or opt for natural stones like sandstone, granite, limestone or slate. 

21. Try your hand at upcycling

Oil drum seats with DIY cushion covers in garden dining area

(Image credit: Chris Everard)

If you want to ensure your space is truly unique, then simple DIY and upcycling projects are the way to go. Sewing skills can be put to good use for seat cushions in pretty prints and of course a lick of outdoor paint in a well chosen shade is something we can all manage to do! These recycled oil drums have been painted and turned into unique outdoor seating. 

22. Put in some steps

Steps leading up to a lawn area with sun loungers

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

Having a garden on different levels can be more visually appealing than everything at one height. Steps can add another dimension to your layout, so think about putting in a raised section at one end of the garden. This is particularly good for sloped gardens too, as you can create a series of levels rather than one continuous slope, which can be impractical for seating areas or as play spaces for kids. 

23. Open up the space 

Metal bench and bright pink patterned outdoor cushions

(Image credit: Olly Gordon)

Every garden would benefit from a mirror! You'd be amazed how much it can open up even the smallest of spaces. Positioning is key, you want it to reflect light from the sun to brighten the area but you don't want it shining in your face while you're trying to enjoy an alfresco lunch. Be wary too of too much light hitting your plants in case this damages the leaves. 

24. Design an area for cooking 

Outdoor kitchen area with barbecue and shelves

(Image credit: Future)

Let's face it, one of the best things about having a garden is being able to fire up the barbecue. If this is the case for you then putting in a designated area for cooking makes good practical sense. It can be as simple as installing some storage to keep everything in one accessible place, from charcoal to condiments. Extra surface space is also handy for outdoor cooking and will save you walking back and forth to the kitchen to fetch what you need.

Head to our guide to creating an outdoor kitchen for more advice. 

25. Keep it sleek

Garden scene with clipped hedges and outdoor dining area

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

If you're planning a house extension project, this can be the perfect time to tackle your garden makeover too, especially if you're going to be removing side access to the rear garden. The last thing you want to do is build a sleek new extension and then have to cart machinery and landscaping materials through your house to complete the garden at a later date. Plan for the work to be completed at the same time to minimise the inevitable upheaval. 

If your extension design is quite modern, it's a good idea to continue the contemporary look and feel in your outside space too for a cohesive look. Pristine clipped hedges are a useful way to zone a seating space, plus they'll soften the look of hard landscaping or the rendered finish of an extension.

26. Introduce a country cottage feel...

Traditional cottage style garden with seating and climbing roses

(Image credit: Polly Eltes)

Robust, traditional materials like timber, stone and brick lend themselves to a more rustic style garden. A pretty pastel outdoor sofa and chairs can set the scene and a climbing rose is classic cottage garden essential. Choose a fragrant climber and train it up a wall for quintessential country garden look. 

Head to our feature on cottage style gardens for more ideas. 

27. ...or keep it modern and chic

Grey outdoor furniture set with string sofa and armchair

(Image credit: Argos Home)

If the traditional country garden look is not for you, keep it clean and contemporary with a modern furniture set and a timeless monochrome palette. Paint fences and walls in similar tones for a smart backdrop to your space. If you only have a small balcony or courtyard with no room for flowerbeds, pack the space with pot plants instead to introduce some much needed greenery to your scheme. 

28. Enjoy the vacation vibes

Garden area with built in outdoor kitchen and seating and area with two recliners

(Image credit: Paul Whicheloe)

Not being able to jet off to other countries as easily has meant that there's been a growing appreciation for our outdoor spaces. Have a relaxation area where you can recline with a book or simply lie there and soak up the sun (remember your SPF). Outdoor heating means that you can enjoy your garden well into the evening and in the cooler months too. 

Want a similar lounging space in your garden? Head to our sun loungers buying guide

29. Choose smart paving

A light stone patio area with dining table

(Image credit: Paul Raeside)

If you're thinking of laying a paved area or decking you might want to consider choosing a light shade to open up the space. Paler colours reflect light, making an area seem more spacious without seeming empty. A good tip is to check what colour it turns to in the rain as you may not like the look of it, and if you live somewhere where weather can be unpredictable it makes sense to consider this.

30. Design a secluded spot

An outdoor seating area with corner sofa set and low table

(Image credit: Home essentials)

How you approach your garden space should be similar to how you would approach designing the layout of a living room inside. Think what the best layout would be, what furniture you'd like and how to accessorise the space. If you're someone who likes to relax outside with a glass of wine then choose a low-maintenance set up with easy-to-grow container plants. If you find yourself forgetting to water plants, then look for what watering technology is available to keep your plants lush and healthy.

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