mylandscapes contemporary garden design & build

outdoor savvy whole lotta seat

contemporary outdoor garden seating

blog / alfresco living

design & words Amir Schlezingeramir schlezinger

Comfortable Hubs

The seating hub in an outdoor space is often formed with an instinctive approach, where we seek to personalise how we rest ourselves amongst the trees and shrubs. Yet, an architectural seat may not be comfortable, while an ergonomic perch isn't necessarily candy for the eye! One of the first questions we ask a new client is where they'd prefer to situate the seating zone, and follow with an appraisal of the site's sun and shade patterns, views and privacy prospects. Many garden design blueprints take direction from their seating hubs, and evolve to enhance these key positions pivotally. Whether formal, casual, built-in or free-standing, outdoor seating epitomises contemporary gardens and their diverse merits.

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1. sofa 2. view 3. bench 4. social 5. shelter 6. lighting 7. planting 8. position 9. lounging 10. seclusion

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1 sofa

river roof terrace

Within our urban environment, we seek the most private seating position possible, where at times, achieving precious seclusion is a tricky proposition, when there are windows everywhere, and extending the boundary's height isn't feasible. Yet, no such conundrum exists in this cinematic roof terrace, 16 floors above the Thames Barrier. The sofas face west to soak up great sunsets and immerse in the capital's most expansive cityscape elevation, where London cable cars traverse O2's iconic silhouette in a highly entertaining, surreal perspective.

2 view

We all agree the view is everything, invariably influencing where we choose to live, and inspiring our favourite holiday destinations. When designing an outdoor space, we discover panoramic potential in each unique site by combining perceptive observation to determine seating orientations. Naturally, there's an inherent polarity between the views in a small Islington garden compared to a city roof terrace, an Italian lake country garden, or a rural mountain view, where each garden is set into a distinct landscape, requiring specific focus in its seating design. The perpetual, dynamic reciprocation of green and blue hues, while sky forms a kaleidoscopic backdrop for gardens' transitional foliage silhouettes, transforms outdoor ambience minute by minute. When we succeed in recreating this natural sanctuary, our seating hubs sustain continual use – enhancing comfort amid well-defined, versatile landscape designs.

3 bench

chelsea roof terrace

Built-in seating delineates personal, functional hubs, when benches attached to planting beds generate distinct focal points, defined by comfort and intimacy within contemporary garden design settings. Soft landscaping infuses this tactile, immersive outdoor experience with delicate textures, while timber imparts warm detail nuances. Designing a void below a bench increases legroom ergonomically, where LED lighting emits a mellow glow – articulating greater sense of space. We often integrate the sitting orientation into an inspiring vista, a spot filled with sunrays or subtle water feature sounds, alongside soothing, textural foliage interlayers.

4 social

roof garden design

The outdoor seating in this expansive Covent Garden rooftop takes varied social forms, maximised to enhance up-close London landmark vistas. The roof garden's epic breadth spans the apartment's entire blueprint, providing plenty of room for a bespoke, central cooking hub. The vivid outdoor kitchen is enveloped by low, cosy sofas, while a dining table facing BT Tower forms a quiet breakfast spot, enfolded in scented Lavenders, herbs and Palm trees. Sun loungers, arranged amid an artificial grass platform opposite the London Eye, absorb captivating city panoramas while nestled within a verdant, urban sanctuary – augmented by a surround sound system.

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5 shelter

pimlico rooftop

High up in Caro Point's 11th floor, gusty wind is a force of nature across its main rooftop garden terrace. Without a tall, evergreen Photinia hedge anchored into paved surfaces, the seating area will inevitably become an underused outdoor space, lacking privacy and vital refuge. The verdant shelter we created adds a touch of green above Chelsea's urban treeline, improving alfresco lounging, while preserving an expansive Wembley Stadium vista. In the proximity of an open-plan kitchen, entertaining guests forms an effortless get-together, where refreshments and surround sound are close by.

6 lighting

modern garden design

In this Clapham Town back garden, outdoor seating is elevated effortlessly all year around, and as both clients are rarely able to enjoy their exuberant outdoor space during daytime, the lighting design and built-in fireplace produce warmth and illumination to form essential garden amenities. The combination of diverse light sources creates a practical dynamic, and enhances ambient lighting, where a multitude of free-standing options with integrated light and heat enables alfresco activities in all types of London weather.

7 planting

Planting a Mulberry tree above a seating area would be somewhat incongruous with its surroundings, where suitable flora is pivotal. Tactility, scent, sound, texture and reflection improve our sense of well-being, and humanise the space, while proportional scale forms soothing comfort and shelter, framing views, and adding shade and silhouettes. We all need invigorating green by our seating zones, yet, practicality is vital, and as much as we love a delicious crop, keeping the area free from falling fruits and spiky foliage is undoubtedly handy. The merits of tropical garden design invariably enhance and revitalise a tranquil, architectural, outdoor seating hub.

8 position

small highbury garden

There's great originality in arranging outdoor seating inline with a home's interior, and in small urban gardens, this distinct concept produces an authentic connection – particularly when clients are furniture savvy. In this North London garden, the outdoor space is equal in size to the kitchen, where sense of depth increases via bi-folding doors which slide fully open to extend the areas into one. While an oversized dining table forms half the kitchen, the garden furniture takes modest scale, conserving precious entertainment space. The clients' Mid-century Modern furniture, selected for both areas, creates cohesive seating aesthetics.

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9 lounging

essex landscape garden

Lounging is surely the ultimate form of chilling out in an outdoor space; we're now in the most desirable place of the home, at the right time, and intently ready to savour it. In our detail designs, we select optimal zones for such alfresco activities, frequently oriented towards soothing sunlight and shelter. Many of our clients love their loungers, and deck designs are ideal for repositioning these seats to follow the sun's arc. At times, we design and build sizeable floating decks or spacious daybeds, forming a contemporary perching lounge. This outdoor social milieu sustains an upbeat, multifunctional seating zone, where the whole family enjoys informal gatherings entertaining guests – it's a whole lotta seat, for a whole lotta breathing space!

10 seclusion

We all seek precious privacy around our seating areas, where the main design goals are defined by detailing tangible screening, while articulating a greater sense of seclusion. In many London urban gardens, boundary construction is height limited and often casts heavy shade, where we achieve viable alternatives by utilising tall foliage plants. When feasible, we'll screen near the seating zone, as sight lines are foreshortened at this ergonomic height, augmented with screening close to the garden's perimeter. We produce integral congruity when linking seating hubs into privacy screens, creating contemporary outdoor space seclusion, while enhancing cosiness, durability, liveability and permanence.

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– coda –

Outdoor Intimacy

Every ledge we perch on, a set of steps we sprawl across, or an old tree log we rest upon, form ergonomic seating hubs. A contemporary garden ought to include these planned and ad hoc breathing spaces to define a connective, individualised setting within an architectural layout. When designing a London urban roof terrace, its views narrate the pinnacle of the seating experience, where river sunsets, amid dazzling heights of metropolitan architecture, present the backdrop for great seating zones – our intimate city hubs.