Like many gardeners, I rarely sit down outside. Perhaps with a cup of coffee while contemplating the jobs that still need to be done, or for the occasional lunch when the weather is passable. Charlotte Hedeman Guéniau is very different. For her, the garden is a true extension to the house and her latest book, Happy Home Outside: Everyday Magic for Outdoor Life, shows how to use it to the full.
The idea of the garden as an ‘outdoor room’ is nothing new; designers have long encouraged us to move outside with dining areas and corners for sitting. For many that rarely gets beyond a table and chairs and the odd sunbed. Yet this book shows us that we could do so much more.
Hedeman Guéniau, founder of the Danish ethical homeware company RICE, starts with the premise that being outside is good for us: “a bit of fresh air does wonders for the brain and the mental state”. From there it is an easy step to moving life outdoors.
The key, she believes, is making it easy – “No one wants it to be a huge project to enjoy a few hours in the sun.” – and she suggests keeping all you need in easily accessible containers with big baskets her preferred option.
The photo-heavy book covers all styles of outdoor living: summer rooms that blend with the garden; al fresco kitchens; outdoor rooms such as a converted greenhouse; treehouses; moveable rooms in caravans and camper vans.
And there are ideas on how to use the space, including outdoor film nights, DIY pizza parties, book club meetings, jam-making sessions and children’s parties.
There’s plenty of practical advice from putting down plastic carpet and mats to stop dirt being trod indoors to using pretty melamine for children’s parties. There are also lots of make-it-yourself projects, including cushions out of tea towels, turning drawers into tables, painting bottles to use as flower vases and even recipes.
Indeed, lots of her ideas can be done cheaply: old pallets are painted and used to make day beds and swings; crates and wicker baskets are turned into planting boxes.
Of course, the biggest obstacle to outdoor living in Britain is the weather. The answer, Hedeman Guéniau suggests, is making a canopy and having plenty of blankets.
The most striking thing is her use of colour. This is no pastel world but one full of “bright and cheerful accessories”.
This upbeat mood extends to the writing style which can grate a little if, like me, you read it in one sitting. However, as a book to dip into and a source of inspiration it works. Who knows, perhaps even the keenest gardener may be persuaded to put down the secateurs and just sit.
• Happy Home Outside: Everyday Magic for Outdoor Life by Charlotte Hedeman Guéniau is published by Jacqui Small, priced £25 RRP. Buy now. (If you buy via the link, I receive a small payment. The price you pay is not affected.)
• Review copy supplied by Jacqui Small.
• For more book reviews, see here