A recent study by The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) showed that the average new family home had less than 100 square metres of floor space while it had 75 square metres of rear garden. As homes are getting smaller and gardens represent a significant proportion of our living space, homeowners are thinking carefully about how to get the best use from their outside space.

Enjoy the great outdoors - whatever the weatherThere will always be room for gardens that look good; aesthetically pleasing spaces that complement and enhance a property and its surrounding. In fact good design is a vital part of achieving this as optimisation of space becomes more and more important.

Homeowners are demanding more of their gardens, which, given that even a modest garden is probably the biggest living space they have, makes its design even more important. The challenge is to create a usable and practical outdoor space while keeping it versatile, easy to maintain and affordable to begin with.

The biggest single issue we all have to think about when it comes to gardens in the UK, is the weather. Outdoor dining on long hot summer days might be easy to plan for, but you can still enjoy your garden and use the space it provides you with on cooler, wetter days.

If 2015 follows the same pattern as recent years, we will see more homeowners building garden rooms, offices and summerhouses so they can enjoy their garden all year round and in any weather. We’ll also see more covered pergolas, loggias and outdoor kitchens to enjoy the sun, shade and even occasional showers, while features such as pools, streams, lawns and even veg beds can still be enjoyed in all weathers.

Outdoor lighting is becoming more important as we look to extend the time we can spend in the garden, as are innovative seating areas to allow us to appreciate the new evolving space.

With more and more demands being made on household budgets, the important thing is to prioritise. A recent Which report in 2014 said that the average cost to re-fit a kitchen was £8,000 and a new bathroom was £4,500. Together these rooms are unlikely to account for even a third of the space that your garden represents and the amount of time you and your family spend in them could be significantly less than the time spent outside – even when the sun isn’t shining.

So, as more and more people are seeing the value of investing in their outside space to enjoy today, as well as a way to add value to their property, where is the best place to start? Like all successful projects, proper planning will make all the difference to the end result. Choose a garden designer with practical experience of hard landscaping and ground works as well as horticultural qualifications and creative ideas. The prettiest design may not always be the most practical to build, or to enjoy in years to come. Choose the best quality landscaping materials you can afford to get the greatest return from your investment. Natural stone and hardwood have already stood the test of time before getting to your garden, so they should ideally be your first choice. Finally, choose a designer you feel you can trust based on their track record and recommendations from customers as well as your ‘gut feel’. Go on – enjoy the great outdoors!

Want to enjoy the great outdoors? Click here to see more photos and get some ideas of what you could do in your garden.