Outdoor space by the coast is at a premium, so here’s how to ‘interior design’ your garden, advises interiors writer CAROL BURNS.

May is the month we dip our toes into going outside, so the deck (and the patio) are the perfect places to get our feet wet on outside living as the sun begins to shine and summer gets fully underway. Few sunsets feel as good as those that are watched from a snug spot on your deck, cocktail in hand.

It has often been said that for many of us, our garden is probably the biggest room we own, yet it is rarely properly designed as one. Instead, we add ad-hoc accessories, leftover bits of mismatched tattered furniture and the occasional inflatable hot tub (don’t knock it until you’ve sat in one on a summer’s evening).

So how do you ‘interior design’ your outdoor room? When planning your deck or patio, you must consider what you use the space for. Is it a dining space, a lounge space or both? Do you want to socialise or get away from it all? Do you want to use it during the day, at night, and is it a garden space for all seasons?  See – your deck is starting to feel like a room already!

Flooring – you already have patio slabs or wooden deck planks (or tiles), but you can still add something to your floor. Outdoor weatherproof rugs are a great addition for softening a lounging space and can keep bare feet from burning on slabs on hot days.

Dining room – some complex and extremely pricey outdoor dining options can make your indoor dining room look shabby. Consider how much space you have, how many people you need to seat and those optional extras such as parasols that reduce sun glare. And unless you want to be running in and out of the patio doors to gather up your cushions every time it rains, make sure any cushions or textiles come with a weatherproof guarantee.

Lighting – decks are the perfect place to indulge in the latest solar lighting. Consider if you are lighting the outdoors to use it or to view it from indoors. Along the UK coastline, when the sun goes down, the temperature drops and most of us head indoors, so you might only want lighting that adds atmosphere rather than to see where you put your drink.  Storm lamps, strings of fairy lights and wired-in deck floor spotlights (that change colour) will add plenty of atmosphere.

When it comes to heating, you can’t beat a few well-chosen throws to sling around shoulders and draping over legs as the sunsets. A word of warning – keep patio heaters and fire pits away from wooden decks…

Lounging – the most important job of any deck or patio, the comfy seating is where the party is always happening. Forget that plastic all-year wicker-look furniture that leaves painful indents on bare legs and arms. Cushion seats have gotten weatherproof and wicker replaced with treated hardwoods guaranteed to last a decade.

Ideally, your lounge will feature a few different types of seating for different types of seaters. A love seat, hammock, classic loungers and a couple of all-weather bean bags make for a perfect family-friendly collection. Make sure your furniture is easily moveable – so you can follow the sun through the day or rearrange your seating to suit the group.

Like any room, you need to work out space versus how many people it needs to accommodate.  You don’t want family members or guests crouching on the floor (unless you are trying to give them a hint)…

Once you’ve got your deck and patio looking the part, it’s time to tackle the rest of the garden…but more on that next month!

Looking for more coastal inspiration for interior design? Check out our article here.