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Summer living.

Byline: By Andrew Durham

Ditch the garden shed and go Med, says Andrew Durham

Our European neighbours treat their outdoor space like an extra room of their home ( spending long balmy nights eating, drinking and socialising with friends and family in the open air.

Here in good old blighty, though, we can't quite rely on the weather in the same way they can, so when the clouds do part and the sun shines, it's important to make the most of it.

If you're lucky enough to have some outdoor space ( whether it be a small balcony, roof terrace, patio or lawn ( why not create your very own Mediterranean-inspired garden in which to entertain friends and family?

If this sounds good to you (and let's face it ( why wouldn't it?) turn your thoughts to France, Greece, Italy and Spain for inspiration. The Mediterranean is full of rich and diverse colours surrounded by natural materials, which makes it a very appropriate theme for a summer garden.

People in the Mediterranean have a much more relaxed way of living than we do. Think back to those holidays you've spent in Greece and Spain and remember how everything seemed to move at slower pace ( days full of sunshine, leisurely lunches and siestas.

To recreate this feeling at home, turn your garden into the ultimate al fresco dining location. Choose tables and chairs in materials such as cane, wood and wicker for a relaxed, informal feel. This furniture would also look great indoors, in a kitchen or conservatory (just a back-up plan in case it rains all summer!)

Go for colours such as azure blue, emerald green, hot pinks and sunny yellows when choosing accessories. Checked tablecloths, colourful cushions and simple but funky tableware are the order of the day.

For the more adventurous among you, look at creating a covered area such as a pergola for those cooler nights. Turn it into another `room' with smaller tables and comfy chairs and decorate the space with lanterns and tea lights. Hang garlands of plastic butterflies and flowers from every available point.

In the Mediterranean, life often focuses around a village courtyard where the local people congregate in order to socialise. Follow their example and create a courtyard in your garden to provide somewhere for your guests to gather.

You can get this effect by painting a garden wall in terracotta and paving an area in brick or stone. Arrange terracotta planters to display colourful displays of flowers such as geraniums and petunias. Keep your house walls clean and vibrant in white. In other places such as garden gates and back doors you can afford be a bit bolder with your choice of colour.

If you're feeling particularly inspired, you could provide your garden with a great focal point by adding a water feature. If you're no Charlie Dimmock, I suggest visiting your local garden centre and asking for their advice before you start digging holes and wiring up the electricity.

Once you have created the perfect Mediterranean inspired garden you can while away the summer nights enjoying some outdoor living ( let's just hope Mother Nature provides the weather.
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Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jun 2, 2005
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