Unless you are lucky enough to have a garden flat, balcony or a roof terrace, most apartments offer little escape from the indoors. Therefore, to add tangible value to your block of flats or conversion, useable and attractive communal outdoor space is a must!
It is worth considering what your outdoor space is for and who will use it. For example, a block of retirement flats will have very different requirements to a modern block of apartments aimed at young families. Whoever the space is for, there should be a combination of areas or zones to allow it to be used in different ways depending on the weather, season or activity.
Create some shelter
As we are all very much aware, the UK is not blessed with an abundance of clement weather, so sheltered areas are important. The easiest way to create shelter is with a simple pagoda or roofed structure. These can be as plain or elaborate as your taste allows but should be big enough to accommodate a good percentage of the number of occupiers in the block. A solid roof is not entirely necessary as some quick growing climbing plants will give adequate cover in a light shower. Integral seating or a number of benches beneath the structure make the area far more useful.
Think about planting and what can be used to shape and define different areas and zones of the garden. Look for low maintenance plants and shrubs which can add colour and vibrancy to the garden. Things like evergreens can offer all year round colour.
Seating capacity should be carefully considered. Providing individual or double seating throughout your garden is important to enable the occupiers to enjoy the outside but to maintain some element of privacy. Benches, appropriate garden furniture and stone seating structures add interest and character to the space while giving essential functionality for the occupiers. Local garden centres, or online companies offer many opportunities to purchase the right furniture in the right style.
As with any space, inside or out, accessories and decoration will always add individuality. Having a few well-placed statues, or stone features will create the right ambience and make the space more homely. Outside spaces are often used for entertaining friends, family and colleagues and so a little extra extravagance will always be appreciated. When choosing statues, art or exterior installations, go as big as the space and budget will allow. There is nothing worse than a tiny statue dwarfed by an expansive garden.
Let it flow
If statues or art are not your thing, then perhaps a water feature or fountain is something to consider. Like anything in the garden these can be as plain or elaborate as desired but always build something as large as possible. As with statues and art, a tiny fountain looks terrible and will always be a source of disappointment or ridicule. However, do consider the safety aspect associated with standing water and provide enough fencing and grates to prevent accidents. If in doubt, talk to your insurer or managing agent.
If your block is aimed at families, then the occupants will be very grateful if a play area is provided. The regulations for the equipment are very strict so do consult an expert before you buy. Wooden play houses with integral slides, tunnels and climbing frames are not only brilliant fun but also look good. Unlike plastic, wood ages nicely and maintains its look for longer. Trampolines are very popular at present, but there is a huge fear of broken bones and bumped heads. A great solution is to have one at ground level suspended over a hole in the garden. The children can walk on and have no fear of bouncing off.
Maintaining the look
The final consideration is maintenance. Outside communal areas are either the responsibility of the occupiers or the management company. Both will be over the moon with a stylish, functional and – more important – low maintenance space to look after. If possible make paths with gravel or chippings rather than paving slabs. Slabs will need to be pressure hosed regularly to avoid moss growth and may cause slippery accidents in the winter. However, if paving is your choice, then go for natural stone; riven or tumbled and not honed or polished to give adequate grip in wet or icy weather. Choose slow growing grass for lawn areas and evergreen planting to enjoy year round greenery. In a children’s play area consider Astroturf or similar to prevent broken bones and unnecessary accidents.
It is worth considering that when inside, we spend a vast amount of time looking out, and so what we see should be pleasant and appealing. Hope you found this article useful and if you would like to know more about IPM and how we can help manage your building, please contact us