Think of the garden or terrace as an outdoor lounge: just a few well-selected things and welcoming lights are enough, says Clara Bona, architect and journalist

Did you notice it? It's almost spring. If you have a garden or a terrace, it's time to plan a visit to the nursery, put on gloves and spades, and sharpen the pruning shears. And, of course, think about how to decorate the garden. Clara Bona, architect, interior designer and instagrammer.

Furnishing terraces and gardens. Where do we start?

Clara Bona: "I recommend starting from your own taste, from the style of the interior and thinking of the garden or terrace as a real open air room. It must be functional, but also very welcoming. It is a good idea to reflect on how you really want to use the outdoor space. The most spontaneous thought is obviously convivial: dinners on the terrace or in the garden, together with friends or the family.So the first thing to think about is a table, some chairs, perhaps a pergola for shade during the day and protection from gazes in the evening.

For a few years now, open air life has become part of our habits and it is now clear that we want the outdoors to be cared for as much as the space living. In fact, design brands of all levels have launched very complete outdoor collections in recent seasons. It is not difficult to build your own living room en plein air even with a few well-chosen pieces."

What do you neglect when furnishing your outdoor space?

Clara Bona: "We often think little about lighting. Do-it-yourself is taken for granted, as if it were a secondary part of the project. In reality, this is not the case: bad light makes even a bad light unpleasant. evening under the stars. The light design must be calibrated and thought out: the green should be illuminated from below, better many small lamps on the table than one "the only light that risks flattening everything. Rechargeable lamps are ideal for eliminating the problem of the electrical system. There are also potted ones, equipped with small wedges to fix them in the ground: convenient and effective".

What are the intelligent functions to add to the open air space?

Clara Bona: “There are several, starting with the shower. There are many designer ones, well thought out and well designed. On hot days it is a great pleasure, but I recommend also connecting the hot water for impromptu refreshments at less shocking temperatures.

The outdoor kitchen is another highly requested function and actually improves the quality of life in several ways when the terrace or garden is not adjacent to the home kitchen. An equipped corner or a small movable module are a simple solution.

And then there's the barbecue! An obsession with the Italian male gender. But let's face it: it's a lot of fun to cook, chat with friends and eat casually. There are all kinds of solutions for grills too. A version can be designed integrated into the walls, with a tiled surface, perhaps inspired by the colored ceramics of Mediterranean countries.

Another fundamental part: the relaxation area, for reading or sunbathing".

What are the most suitable materials for the outdoors?

Clara Bona: "The choice is endless. From industrial design come synthetic or natural materials with finishes for the outdoors that are resistant to sun and rain. The range is vast, colorful andvery decorative: from tables and chairs to lounge chairs, shady pergolas, real open air lounges.

However, I love natural materials. A table made of walnut wood, which, even if treated in the right way, turns gray over time. Or wrought iron, which is now eternal and is used for slightly retro shapes that recall the beautiful garden chairs of Parisian parks, or the public benches of old cities European".

Are we talking about surfaces instead?

Clara Bona: "This is another topic that is given little thought. A carpet is enough, and there are very beautiful ones in resistant and waterproof synthetic materials, to color and make any terrace as welcoming as a living room Obviously they must be placed on wooden or ceramic surfaces, they are not suitable for lawns".

And the outdoors of collective spaces?

Clara Bona: "Interesting topic.We always need a project, because when it's missing the risk is to standardize the choices on a dangerously banal, if not cheap, scale. And an ugly outdoor area doesn't just ruin the bar, but maybe an entire street. Too bad.

It's a question of culture. In Italy we are learning to live outdoors, particularly in colder cities. In France, or in the Scandinavian countries, the open-air café is tradition. Parisian bars crowded with small tables that are always full. The clubs in Copenhagen, with felt blankets on the chairs to protect themselves from the cold. There is a visual distinctiveness that we have not yet completely finished building here. The solution is always to start from a project: whether it is shabby, romantic or very designed, there must be an overall idea that guides the aesthetic choices".