As warmer weather approaches and our thoughts turn to easy-breezy outdoor living, a well-planned outdoor space can transform your home into a resort-style retreat— a place to enjoy endless summer days of alfresco entertaining, drinks and nibbles at dusk, or simply relax in the sunshine.
Whether you decide to go all-out with bigger inclusions such as a pool, fire pit or integrated outdoor kitchen, or you’re just wanting to create a dreamy dining nook, a functional and beautiful garden is not only the perfect lifestyle addition, it will also extend the useable footprint of your home.
Regardless of scale or scope, there are a few key elements to consider for a successful outdoor living space.
- Think about how you’ll be using the area and what inclusions are important: a play area for the kids; plunge pool or outdoor gym; integrated seating, BBQ and food prep areas for fabulous long lunches?
- Assess how sun/rain/wind impact different parts of the garden and locate facilities accordingly: e.g. dining and seating in more protected areas.
- What about maintenance? Pavers and pots will leave time for relaxing; lush lawns and abundant greenery will require more upkeep.
- Traffic flow: find ways to blur the boundary between your indoor and outdoor living areas, and consider how people will access and move through the space as a whole.
If you’re not sure where to begin, think vertical: walls – and even your existing fences – can be used to define the overall look and add structure, flow and dimension to your outdoor living areas. Following are some ideas to get you started.
Set the scene for your outdoor living area
Because of their size, the walls and fences that surround your outdoor living space will typically be a substantial visual feature – so use them to set the scene by layering them with colour, texture and beautiful materials. Depending on budget, you can either work with what you’ve got, or install a new wall in a style that enhances your chosen aesthetic. Create a rustic ambience, for example, by dressing brickwork in decorative wrought iron and a climber-friendly trellis. Paint old breezeblocks white to channel a bit of mid-century modern magic. Wall systems from ModularWalls, which have the solid look and feel of rendered masonry but are completely customisable, are the definitive blank canvas. Painted in a soft ochre, they’ll transform your outdoor living area into a Mediterranean hideaway. Dress them in natural stone cladding or add a laser-cut infill to introduce an organic appeal. Or capture a coastal, resort-style elegance with a traditional capped wall finished in a crisp ivory paint.
Design outdoor living zones
Just as we have separate areas for eating, cooking and relaxing inside, it’s a good idea to break your outdoor living space up into task-oriented ‘zones’. Creating distinct areas for different activities not only makes the outdoor area more functional, but also more inviting, because it adds a bit of visual interest and intrigue.
One of the easiest ways to achieve this is to section off areas with full-height or half-height fences, screens or walls. Create a dining nook or a poolside cabana by enclosing a section on two sides – and perhaps include screening to let light and air flow through while maintaining a cosy, intimate atmosphere. A low wall could double as fire-pit seating while creating separation from a vegie patch or flower bed. In House 13 project, reno queens Three Birds cleverly carved out definition within the outdoor living areas by mounting a pizza oven against a three-metre high blade modular wall. Accessorised with oversize potted greenery and integrated lighting, the wall perfectly frames and anchors the alfresco cooking zone.
If your block is sloped, use retaining walls to create a series of terraces, linked with steps and pathways. Both charming and inviting, a terraced garden naturally lends itself to zoning – entertaining areas closest to the house, with play spaces and pools revealing themselves as you move further up or down. Keep the look cohesive by painting your retaining walls in the same colour as the home’s exterior.
What’s an outdoor living space without greenery? If space is at a premium, look at ways to soften the area by adding greenery to the walls and fences. One of the simplest and most effective methods is to mount a trellis onto your fence, and underplant it with a pretty, fragrant climber such as jasmine or a climbing rose. A more contemporary take on the idea is the ‘green wall’: find a vertical garden kit or mount narrow shelving along the wall which can be filled with masses of potted, trailing foliage.
Integrated planter boxes, fitted flush against the wall, are another great way to introduce greenery to the outdoor living area, especially poolside, without compromising on space. Select plants that enhance the garden’s architectural style: add drama with sculptural yuccas, succulents or cordylines; go lush and tropical with palms; or create a high-end, manicured look with junipers and small shrubs.
Form and function in the outdoor living areas
As well as enhancing the look and structure of an outdoor living area, walls and fences can house a number of functional elements. Lighting is a big one – lanterns, decorative sconces, task lighting, and invisible LEDs can easily be mounted at strategic points along the fenceline or wall for ambience and night-time illumination.
Wall-mounted benches are a space-saving seating option that work particularly well within a pool area. Take this idea one step further and wall-mount hooks for towels and goggles, or include recessed nooks to store sunscreen, glasses and other bits and pieces. In the barbecue area, integrated hooks and shelving will add decorative flair and provide practical storage for cooking tools and crockery.
You can also improve both the serenity and useability of the outdoor living area by looking at ways to reduce sound transfer. Whether your priority is to attenuate external sounds such as traffic noise, or to ensure your outdoor celebrations don’t disturb the neighbours, effective strategies include planting dense shrubbery along the fenceline, taking the walls up to 2.4 metres or higher, or installing a product with sound insulation properties. ModularWalls, for example, are acoustically tested to reduce noise transmission by up to 25dB, to transform any outdoor living area into a quiet, peaceful haven.
Finally – and perhaps most importantly – don’t forget to consider privacy. Adequate fencing is a crucial element in achieving a calm, tranquil sanctuary to escape to at the end of a long day. To block views of your garden from people in the street or adjacent homes, don’t be afraid to install screens or take relevant sections of the fence up to 1.8 or even three metres. If the height feels too overbearing within the space, choose a wall system that allows for screens, trellis or timber infills – this will add more visual appeal and soften the look without compromising your privacy.
For more inspiration, ideas and creative ways to use walls and fences in your outdoor living area this summer, including some fun DIY options, visit www.modularwalls.com.au