With comfortable outdoor living on everyone's wish list, the landscaping, materials and fittings just keep getting better. Here, designers share their ideas. Be bold with colour "Outdoor furniture is taking a colourful turn and becoming more comfortable, too. At my place, we enjoy sitting on Marine Bean outdoor beanbags from Coast. These add vibrant colour to the garden and are easily stored away when you're not using them. Also look out for polyethylene stools, chairs, lounges and tables, for colour, lightness and a sense of fun. Outdoor steel fire bowls and furnaces are popular at this time of year, too, as they take the chill off and are an easy way to add atmosphere to any outdoor entertaining area." Peter Fudge, Director, Peter Fudge Gardens. Decorate your estate "I've noticed a trend from Europe for homes that have layers of interest. Homes that look lived-in and loved, with old furniture and collections of all sorts of things. Translated to the outdoors, this means pieces such as a classic butterfly chair (covered in outdoor fabric) or an antique French carriage lamp. Country gardens now include simple, shady spaces for playing boules or petanque. Galvanised-steel water tanks are seen as architectural features in their own right. Modern urban architecture is being teamed with simple, native plants. All over, sustainable gardens are becoming more popular, featuring plants chosen with respect to location and water availability, as well as edible plants for home-grown organic food. Decorative elements include original sculpture, wood-fired ovens, water features and ponds, outdoor fireplaces and fire pits. As for materials, stone walls and stone paving are popular, while gravel or decomposed granite is replacing lawn." Michael Cooke, Principal, Michael Cooke Garden Design.michaelcooke.com.au Go natural "Natural stones such as granite and bluestone are popular, with slate making a comeback. Timber is a favourite for decking, built-in furniture and privacy screens. While teak is considerably more expensive than other hardwoods, it's very popular and easy to maintain. It ages beautifully to take on a soft, light grey with a slightly pink hue, and looks great in coastal or modern gardens. Soft furnishings also make an appearance, ensuring that a space feels comfortable and looks good. Co-ordinated cushions, blinds and fabric awnings play a vital role in this." Matt Cantwell, Managing Director, Secret Gardens of Sydney. Get comfortable "Outdoor furniture is no longer just a table and chairs but a whole range of day beds, sofas, lounge chairs and beanbags (a large range is available from Eco Outdoor). It's all about comfort now. With excellent quality foam and weatherproof fabrics, mattresses and cushions can now remain outside and cope with exterior conditions. With a more extensive range of fabrics in the marketplace, we're seeing much more colour, pattern and texture within the outdoor space. Outdoor fabric curtains are being used for soft screening and dividing spaces. Bright colours are painted on walls and high-quality exterior artwork installed. Handmade terracotta is back, as are handmade bricks for flooring. It's all about the distressed or aged look. Small modules in natural stone are popular, such as porphyry cobbles from Italy. Lights in rusty fencing wire and barbed wire are beautiful. We're using old wire for chandeliers and also as half-baskets, for plantings on walls." Rick Eckersley, Creative Director, Eckersley Garden Architecture. Mix it up "Don't be afraid to mix styles. I often combine timber tables with polypropylene chairs. My favourite is the Jasper Morrison Air chair for Magis, which is well priced, stackable and available in many colours. Outdoor lounge seating is also becoming popular, to avoid doubling up on dining areas. If your indoor dining area or kitchen opens out to a terrace or deck on the outside, for example, don't feel you must have another dining setting. Instead, go for outdoor lounge furniture, which makes a great place for a drink before dinner inside. This furniture is usually lower, too, so if you have a great view it won't be blocked by chair backs. Great new outdoor fabrics allow you to personalise even the most basic outdoor settings." William Dangar, Design Director, Dangar Group.