Scandinavian design is often described as minimalist and functional. With ideas coming from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland the style has earned it’s spot as being modern and chic. This collection of ideas comes from my projects in Iceland where I have practiced landscape design for the past 20 something years. Iceland? You might ask with suspiciously raised eyebrows, is there anything worth looking at from this small windy island in the north Atlantic? Does a population of 350.000 really need landscaped gardens if the summer is only about three months long? After designing patios, decks, driveways and outdoor living space for almost 25 years, I know that Icelanders love their outdoor spaces just as much as people living in warmer climates. That said, I have found it quite challenging to create sheltered spaces and to find the right durable materials to withstand the winter frosts and thaws. But just like anywhere else in the world, contemporary thinking in the design of outdoor space is focused on high utility and low maintenance with an aesthetic appeal. Here are 8 design ideas that you can use to develope your outdoor spaces for a more fun and relaxed lifestyle.

Floating basalt patio

1. Float your patio. By lifting the patio slightly and surrounding it with a sea of carefully chosen gravel the shape and colours are accented. The stone flags are cut from basalt columns referred to as “bluestone” in its native country and the curbing is hewn from a softer basalt known as “greystone”. The decking is stained bankirai, an Indonesien hard wood. The area is east facing and sheltered from winds with a 2 meter high wall.

Lawn and deck connection

2. Connect the deck and lawn. It is easy to think of a deck as an isolated living area connected to the house but screened from the rest or the yard. In this picture that norm is broken and the living areas of the deck and lawn become one whole, divided only by wide but simple steps. The steps are designed with two risers that double as a seat. This is also a perfect place for the youngest to play with cars, dolls and toy animals. The steps also become a perfect bench when the lawn is used for various sporting activities.

Deck with fixed seating

3. Enclose your deck. Enclosing a deck is not nessicarily screening it off with a 2 meter wall. The decks form can also be accented in a minimalistic way. By surrounding a deck, or part of it, with fixed seating, the whole space becomes more functional. The shape of the deck is accented and you will have seating for all of the people you want to invite, and maybe even some you don’t. This deck is constructed of durable hard wood and will be the chosen place for the family to gather for years to come.

Stone bench with lighting

4. Light up your seat. On warm autumn evenings this is the place to hang. The softness of the wood on the bench and the leafy textured shrubs create an illuminating contrast in this front yard space. A hard wood covered bench made from concrete units simulating hewn stone, is the main attraction with soft indirect light coming from underneath the wooden seat. The white berries of the purple sorbus shrub get accented in the lighting. To take this idea even further strips of LED lighting can be used instead which creates an opportunity to adjust the light colour according to the mood.

Gabion and wood in the front yard

5. Be bold with materials. If first impressions are important then the walkway to your front door should be immaculate. Analyse the style of your house and choose materials that either complement it or contrast it tastefully. Here the colours of this modern looking concrete style home is complemented with the paving and the rocks in the gabion walling. To create some contrast, the wall screening the walkway from the driveway is made from roughly sawn boards as well as the wall screening the garden. And for those with an appreciation to detail the house number is on the wood paneled wall.

Scandinavian outdoor cooking

6. Cook outdoors in style. Why not enjoy the same luxury cooking outside as inside? Screw the side boads off your grill and build a kitchen unit with a stone top on both sides. Make sure the area is well shelterd and create a connected seating area. With a setup like this it is amazing how the weather only needs to be slightly fair for a barbeque.

Weather hard wood decking

7. Do not maintain your deck. In countries with challenging weather, staining the deck can be an annual chore. How would you like to skip that yearly chore. Embrace the weathered Scandinavian style and use a hardwood or self preserving wood like larch. In 2-3 years the sunlight will turn the deck a silvery grey which goes really well with white, grey or black.

Sink the deck

8. Lower the deck. By sinking part of the garden you can increase the shelter and create a space with a totally different character from the rest of the yard. Screening walls need not be as high and the enclosed space creates a sense of security.