When defining the boundaries of your outdoor room, there’s a multitude of walling and screening options to choose from
Words: Rachel Belshaw
If your outdoor area lacks pri vacy or you simply want to define the area of the space and create a more intimate setting, a screen or wall may just be the solution you’re looking for. No matter your budget or style requirements, you’re bound to find something to suit. As Grant Clement from Designed Gardens Australia explains, when it comes to walls and screens, “The options are limitless.”
As with all design elements, there are decisions to be made. Are you looking for a screen or wall to create an atmosphere, to be a focal point in your outdoor area — or does it need to serve a practical purpose? Walls are great for creating barriers and segregating one area from another. They can be used as a practical addition to an outdoor room — playing host to a fireplace, for example — or they can be purely aesthetic.
Screening, on the other hand, can be used to add ambience or to hide an outdoor room from neighbours’ view and can even keep noise in and out of an outdoor entertaining area.
According to Grant, the material used to create it will be determined largely by the screen or wall’s purpose: “For example, do you want to create a free-flowing atmosphere or a harsher addition?” For an earthy, soft look, opt for natural materials such as stone, timber or even travertine tiles. For a harder look, consider raw metal, laser-cut metals or stainless steel.
Whether you are building the wall yourself or hiring a landscape designer or builder to get the job done for you, it’s important you check with your local council for approval before you start — this will save you a lot of time, and money. And, while the material choices for outdoor walls are virtually endless, you need to weigh up the options and make an informed decision based on what the wall will be used for.
“You should also choose your walling material based on your site access — if you have good access, you have unlimited options,” says Grant. “Timber, stone, glass and metals are just a few.” If you’d prefer an eco-friendly option, Grant suggests looking to clay-packed tyres.
Walling can also be used as a buffer against the hustle and bustle of the outside world. If you’re seeking something to keep noise in or out, it’s important to research the acoustic properties of the materials you want to use in your outdoor room to find out whether they will offer any soundproof qualities. This is especially handy if you are considering adding a weatherproof television and sound system to your outdoor room.
When choosing a material for your wall, try to keep as much in style with the current home and garden as possible. For example, if you have a tropical, resort-style garden, you might opt for a timber, stone or other natural material to keep the design coordinated. The link between the interior of your home and your outdoor room is the key to a successful overall backyard design. This, coupled with your choice of materials and plants throughout your backyard, creates a seamless transition between living areas.
Speaking of aesthetics, why not add a piece of art to your new wall? A simple canvas or banner or an extravagant mosaic artwork can all make a striking statement in an outdoor room.
“There are some interesting mosaic artworks emerging now for the upper market,” says Grant. “These are made from computer-generated images and can be as simple as a butterfly or as intricate as you want — they have a lot of potential.”
You can also use your new wall as a vertical garden, hanging baskets of plants in a Mediterranean style or choosing a creeping species to create a feature wall.
Lighting can also play a big role here, creating ambience while accenting the wall’s material. Or why not combine both artwork and lighting with the in-vogue back-lit metal artworks?
Your newly added wall could also be a fantastic place to mount a television. What better way to unwind than relaxing outside with friends watching the weekend sport or a movie?
“Creative ways to introduce a wall into your backyard include adding niches and corners to the wall, adding a fireplace, or turning a retaining wall into a seating area or a bar,” says Grant. “Retaining walls can also become features simply by the way the materials and lighting are used.”
While the material choices for walling are unlimited, it’s not quite the same story for screening. According to Grant, you need to think about how you want your screening to perform. Also, screening can encompass a wide range of natural elements in the outdoors, so try to think outside the box.
For example, a water feature is a great way to screen noise coming in from outside. A high fence can also be used as a noise buffer. “Adding glass and lighting are also great ways to influence moods,” says Grant.
If you’re trying to keep out prying eyes or create an intimate setting but don’t want hard elements such as stone or glass, consider using plants alone as a screening element. Grant explains bamboo is a popular choice for natural screening for a number of reasons.
“Bamboo is particularly good if you add a feature wall and lighting,” he says. “The silhouette bamboo creates is amazing, and the way bamboo sways can be quite calming.” Grant also recommends hedging plants as great screens. “Conifers are good for dense screening,” he says.
For quick screening, some native Australian plants work well. A plant that is popular at the moment is the quondong. “This very nice Australian native is a reasonably quick-growing evergreen tree with beautiful pink flowers,” says Grant.
And remember, you don’t need to spend a fortune to create a little privacy in your backyard. Fabric can be a cost-effective way to quickly incorporate screening into your outdoor room and will create a soft, flowing, resort-style look to a daybed or gazebo.