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 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 created easily and 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 outdoor space, think about your lifestyle and what you want to use the area for. It’s of little use creating a beautiful dining setting if you never host dinner parties. Likewise, if you love 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. So 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? Kids love playing on large lawns, and having large dining tables that fold away give you flexibility of space for multiple uses.
If the outdoor space is an extension of the living area, why not create a dining setting outside? Make sure to consider things like cover, shelter and warmth in the cooler months to ensure all-year round use.
Selecting outdoor furniture
Cushioned furniture can be an outdoor setting dream, but without cover on your entertaining area, it’s going to ruin, fast. 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, i.e. powder-coated aluminium, glass, ceramic, granite and sling chairs, won’t need be cleaned for most 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. This is, after all, what you will be using the most in the outdoor space! 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 require very little work and are easier to maintain compared with timber. They can have a cold look though. 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. For wet environments, like raining climes or poolside spaces, consider plastic. 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. Clean wicker or rattan often to keep it looking fresh. 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. Are you an avid gardener? Higher maintenance areas can provide more satisfaction to your lifestyle. That being said, a fuss-free zone that can be left to its own devices will probably suit those who are more time-poor!
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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