Creating a true urban outdoor retreat needn’t mean ending up elbow deep in mud. With a few key design pieces, you’ll ensure you never want to head back indoors (at least until June…)

With the blistering heat of the summer still a few months off, now is the perfect time to make the most of your outside space. Whether you have a huge garden or a bijou balcony, there’s nothing quite like outdoor living for lifting the spirits, especially if you have gone to the effort of making the space as inviting as the rest of your home. Of course, the sun and humidity can be hard on outdoor furnishings, but the correct choice of materials will ensure that they are durable as well as stylish.

Specialist garden furniture can be a significant financial investment, but durable materials such as powder-coated aluminium, teak and concrete are great choices for furniture that can endure our high temperatures and transform your garden or balcony in to an extra living space. The traditional approach to outdoor furniture was to buy matching sets, but the current trend for eclectic interiors is extending its reach beyond a home’s four walls. Mixing and matching different styles of furniture as well as the materials they are made from will ultimately give a more interesting and individual look. Natural elements such as wicker and wood will help soften tough looking materials like metal, concrete and stone.

Considering both the size of the space and what you will actually use it for will help you decide what type of furniture to pick. Sun loungers look luxurious, but if you never sunbathe then perhaps a dining set would be more suited to your lifestyle. If you do enjoy lounging, but prefer to hide from the sun, a cosy, circular daybed such as the one pictured from Ambar furniture will provide shade, comfort and style.

To really make the most of your outside space, you’ll have to reconcile yourself with the climate and begin to treat it as an extension of your home (albeit a dusty one). Thanks to innovative new fabrics, an ever-increasing range of accessories are now being designed specifically to be used outside. Affordable outdoor rugs are available in a number of stores, including IKEA, Crate & Barrel and Home Centre. These synthetic rugs are soft underfoot, but also hardwearing and easy to clean, and are a great way of adding some interior styling to the great outdoors. Including baskets with throws and blankets will further soften the space and allow you to stay warm on chilly evenings.

Other soft furnishings, such as cushions and beanbags, can also be made from specialist outdoor materials which are mould-resistant, and which won’t fade following exposure to UV rays. You can afford to be a bit more experimental with the palette of your garden accessories – after all, you don’t have to live with them all the time – so if you’ve ever fancied trying some stronger shades or mixing different patterns then here’s your chance. The same principle applies to outdoor tableware. Eating outside automatically feels more relaxed so you can get away with brighter colours and quirkier themes than you would choose for your inside crockery. Styling your table with coordinating place mats, runners, flowers and candles will finish the look off.

As it is inside your home, thoughtful lighting is also an important element outside. Layered lighting allows for maximum functionality of space and means that different moods can be set. Fairy lights can be used to dress your trees and accent lights can be used to illuminate flower beds or garden steps. A well-lit barbecue area will allow cooking to continue long after the sun goes down, while hurricane lanterns or tiki lights cast a soft, flickering glow. If you’re really committed to outdoor living then The Dome, pictured, from The Loungerie, does double duty as a combined light and heater, allowing your garden or balcony to be used day or night, all year round. Or, at the very least, until June…