In the current Irish housing market, many people are adding extensions to their homes rather than moving to add value to their properties, add more space etc. I’m in that bracket myself with my kids becoming teenagers, suddenly the house seems much smaller than it did a few years ago. But retired couples may also want to make space for visitors and give themselves the nice large, sitting room that they have always dreamed about.
The architects design concepts often involve nice views to the garden with floor to ceiling windows, so it is important that the garden looks well, too.
Since the extension is usually out the back into the garden space this obviously has an impact of their existing garden layout and presents an opportunity for a garden overhaul/makeover (call it what you will) to be undertaken at the same time or immediately following the work to the house.
In many cases, adding the extension involves losing the existing patio or recreational space at the back of the house resulting in a need to redesign this area to suit the new circumstances.
In some cases, this is a boon, as wooden decks may be rotting and impractical and previously laid paving may be in poor condition either because it was put down badly in the first place or because it is hard to maintain under Irish wet weather conditions. This is particularly a problem for imported soft sandstones that were installed in the early 00s, sometimes by unscrupulous landscapers.
New designs should include the selection of better suited materials, such as, good quality composite deck (not all of these products are great in my view, but some are) in the case of replacing a wooden deck and the use of more durable, impervious natural stone in the case of paving. Selecting an Irish stone is good for the Irish economy and will often have a lower carbon footprint than an imported stone, however, the cost may, sometimes but not always, be greater.
Funky new designs can be created to complement the extension and new features can be added to create a special outdoor space. These include traditional elements such as seating, water features, bbqs and pergolas alongside new elements such as living walls and even firepits. However, I would advise that all these items should be carefully considered as part of the overall design and not just lashed in for the sake of it or because they are seen as the latest “must-have” items…that would just be repeating the mistakes of the past. Interest should, in the first place, be created by good layout and integration between the house and the garden. Then interesting elements and finishes can be added to truly make a special design. How much “gardening” you would like to do should also be considered but this should not be off putting either.
Often people will choose to overhaul other parts of the garden as well, using this upheaval to create the garden of their dreams…basically getting everything done once and for all so that they can relax and enjoy their homes long into the future. This is a great idea and allows the designer to stretch their design wings, as it were. Things that have bothered you for a while, such as, how to deal with the annoying slope in the garden, the heavy shade or conversely lack of shade, the overlooking neighbour, the lack of storage space, the poor quality lawn, the rubbish builders soil that does not count as topsoil. All these elements can be addressed by a single cohesive garden design plan.
I am planning my own house extension this year and I will also try to address aspects of my garden that have been irritating me for a while. If I can get the whole lot sorted, we hope to be there for a while yet. As with many architect’s house plans the extension includes lovely, large windows looking out into the garden. There is little point in having these if I am not satisfied with what I am looking at!