1. Start with a wish - or two
What do you want, I mean what do you really want from your space? Time to be brutally honest and make a wish list of what you want. Entertaining space? Separate kids zone, a quiet place to drink an afternoon tea? Some storage space for out of season stuff. Now is the time to ponder and solve problems. It’s also the time to reconnect with what would make a difference. I find playing with a new pinterest board is brilliant for uncovering secret desires here. Build a dream/vision board of what you like. Don’t overthink this bit just save,save and save. Now don’t look at it, leave it for a few days to stew, now go back to it. What crops up? Colours?, textures, look for themes and commonalities.
2. Pen and paper are mightier than the spade or hammer
Start with a sketch of the space you have. If possible do it to scale, and stick to outlines, boundaries and things that HAVE to stay where they are. Everything else can be pencilled in. Put a note on it where the sun rises and sets, also any space where the sunlight or view looks amazing. Photocopy it, lots, and hide the original somewhere safe. Now start adding your wishlist ideas on the photocopies.
These are the big shapes, and yes think of shapes. Squares and rectangles are more formal and circles and curves have a more informal relaxed feel. Then, how and where do your shapes connect and intersect. These shapes form functional zones, areas, where an activity takes place. These are the bones of your design. Play with them, you can use these to create different feelings for an area. Straight lines allow the eye and body to move with speed and function. Curves take longer to travel, they reveal and force a slower pace and therefore more interaction with the space.
This is where you add some meat on the bones. Check that you are making the most of that sunlight or those views. Look up and around and remember to have some perspective, literally. Use focus points to draw your eye and move them around the space. Limit them though or it will be too busy.
5. Knocking some sense into your design
Eyes - think in terms of opposite pairs, you need harmony and balance to move your eyes around the space. But you also need full stops, focal points or visual disruptors. Restrain yourself to no more than three colours for hard landscaping and repeat to allow a flow.
Ears - design out annoying sounds and allow nature to create a soundscape. Sounds of wind rustling through leaves or water falling - but not wind chimes (I hate wind chimes) Encourage wildlife in and you will be able to enjoy the most wonderful symphony.
Smell - For the garden but also for inside, planting honeysuckle next to an open window will give you joy for weeks. On the other end of the scale. Bins get left near the house for convenience- but who wants to smell bin juice? Move them back to where they are collected, park them on something solid that can be swept and hosed down then make a path to them to keep shoes clean.
Taste - I have always had a herb garden planted next to the outside door nearest the kitchen. The path to it is always well worn. Herbs also work well near a cooking/eating area.
Touch - adding texture to design is always worthwhile. As light moves across a textured surface it changes and is always interesting, like watching an open fire or rain move down a window pane. Again limit yourself on textures they can be overwhelming if too many are used.