Prioritise. Think what the main use for your outdoor zone will be – entertaining friends, or a cosy retreat just for two, and plan your furniture purchases accordingly.
Avoid bulky pieces. Rattan and open-weave fabrics have a diaphanous effect, giving them less visual bulk than solid timber and so creating the illusion of space. If wind is an issue for lightweight pieces, consider wrought iron, such as a French-style café table and chairs.
Shade is essential, but can be as easily delivered with a beautiful tree or vine-covered gazebo as it can with an umbrella, giving you more green bang for your buck.
Use the height; a green wall or pots hanging on the fence or from the roof give you extra planting space. Look for easy care plants such as succulents for potted plants, as they need more water than those planted in the ground.
Use interior tricks. Outdoor mirrors, for example, can visually double the space, as well as reflecting greenery and making the zone appear more lush. However make sure they’re placed in such a way as to reflect something beautiful.
Screen out the world to create an urban oasis or block a less-than-lovely view. Timber or rattan has a soft, rustic look, but equally there are laser-cut steel and plastic patterned ones that have a neat, modern edge, perfect for city chic.
Mass plantings can help trick the eye into making the space appear larger; with no obvious delineation between plants, the look is more cohesive.
Paint background walls a dark colour to help them recede; deep shades such as charcoal also help greenery pop.