Whether relaxing or entertaining, here’s how to get your outdoor environment just right
Your outdoor area is as much a part of your home as the rooms inside. A beautifully crafted outdoor space can add value to your home as well as making your lifestyle easier and more enjoyable. Think dinner parties at sunset in summer, lazy afternoon barbecues with friends, Sunday morning coffee and newspaper sessions, pool parties for the kids, or a roaring flame to cosy around in colder months. A multi-functional space that melds with your lifestyle can be easy to create and can be done cost-effectively, too, with a little careful planning. Here are some of our top tips to help you create an outdoor oasis.
First things first
Put down the credit card and put on the thinking cap. Before making any purchases, start the process with some careful planning. Begin by taking a good look at what is already there to work with. Some questions to ask are: how big is the space? What can be recycled? To make the most of an outdoor area, it’s important to know your lifestyle and what you are most likely to use the area for. It’s of little use creating a beautiful dining setting if you never host dinner parties. Likewise, if you spend all your time eating outdoors it makes no sense to have 10 sunloungers but nowhere to sit and eat.
If you live in a city apartment with a small balcony, space is likely at a premium and adjusting your outdoor furniture selections to fit in the space is important. Great items for balconies include foldaway pieces or slim products that provide sitting space, but don’t overwhelm the area. Larger backyards require a different thought process. Do you want to maintain a sense of space here or fill it with permanent fixtures? For example, having a lawn on which to play games with the kids could be obstructed by a large dining table (fold-away items are useful here too). If the outdoor space is best used as an extension of the living area, it could be an opportunity to create a dining setting that you don’t have space for inside. Things to think about here include ensuring it’s covered, sheltered and warm in the cooler months to ensure all-year round use.
Selecting outdoor furniture
If furniture has a lot of soft cushioning and your entertaining area is not under cover, the furniture frames will not look as nice when the cushions are being stored away for protection during the winter months. If exposed to the elements all year round, furniture covered entirely with water-safe materials will be the best option and will look great all year. How much time are you willing to put into your furniture maintenance? Teak is a beautiful product but will require some protection and upkeep once or twice a year. Low-maintenance materials such as powder-coated aluminium, glass, ceramic, granite and sling chairs will be a much better alternative for furniture that will not be cleaned for the majority of the year.
Always consider what suits your lifestyle best before furnishing an outdoor entertaining space. What you enjoy doing the most, and how large your space is will be the defining factors in deciding what goes into it. If you love cooking and dining outdoors during the summer months, an outdoor kitchen or barbecue is always the best way to create a great atmosphere when entertaining, and a dining setting would be the way to go. If you have limited space and would prefer a spot where you can laze around and read a book or watch the kids in the pool, lounge furniture would be a better option.
The most essential element needed for great outdoor entertaining is comfortable and practical furniture. Make sure you always go into stores and sit, touch and feel the furniture to make sure you are comfortable. The furniture is what will be used most outside and it should emulate the style, quality and comfort featured inside your home, blurring the line between indoors and out. Team your furniture with the same basics we love and enjoy inside, such as a kitchen or barbecue, lighting including outdoor fires for ambience, outdoor rugs and fun colour accents in deco cushions that will bring your area to life.
Materials really do matter and while selecting them based on what is aesthetically pleasing is important, make sure to consider what materials are suitable to your conditions. Possibly the most important things to consider are climate and weather. In areas of extreme sun or rain, some materials will buckle easier than others. Timber, while absolutely beautiful when fresh and new, will need a lot of care over time. It will need treating and cleaning annually. That said, in a shaded and sheltered position, timber may require less work and will look beautiful for longer.
Steel and aluminium have a colder aesthetic when compared with timber, however they can be much easier to maintain, requiring very little work. As metals they can rust, however a touch-up of paint can easily solve this problem. Plastics are a popular choice as they are easy to clean and offer a very low-maintenance option. Plastic is a great choice for wet environments, such as rainy climes or poolside spaces. Finally wicker and rattan offer an alternative option, too. They provide a totally original look, however don’t work well against the elements so they need a fairly sheltered environment. To keep wicker or rattan looking fresh, they also need to be cleaned often. Paired with cushions, they offer a super-comfy look.
When planning an outdoor area, carefully consider how much time and effort you want to put into the maintenance. Certain outdoor items require a lot of attention while others are easier to look after. An avid gardener may get a lot of satisfaction out of maintaining the space, whereas someone who is time-poor is more likely to want a fuss-free zone that can be left to its own devices.
Expert tip:“Colours for outdoor furniture have moved to a far more sophisticated palette, away from the bright, poppy colours of previous seasons to more neutral and earthy tones. It makes sense to choose your furniture in neutral hues then introduce colours using fabrics and accessories, which can be easily updated when you wish to refresh. We are loving some of the textured weaves from Mokum and Maharam (outdoor fabric houses) in navy, charcoal and orange matched with off-white or matte black powder-coated frames — all of which are available as a finish to Tait products. You can soften by adding scatter cushions, throws and planters to style as you would in a lounge room, so much so you won’t want to go inside” — director of Tait, Susan Tait.
Written by Alexandra Longstaff
Originally in Backyard Volume 15 Issue 1
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