Kicking back in your own backyard oasis has never been so easy and appealing. We uncover the latest design ideas and trends for your outdoor room, as well as some of the best outdoor lighting, furniture, flooring, pool and spa products on the market.
Define the function of an outdoor room.
The outdoor room is now part of the extended living area of the home; it’s the place the family meets, sits and entertains. It drives the social interaction of the home as it is away from TVs, PCs and distractions. The outside room has now become the central hub for family and social interaction and is very much treated as part of the home. The backyard bench is now being dressed with designer fabrics that are UV-tolerant and easy to maintain, ideal for outdoor application.
From 20 years ago, the humble Australian backyard has evolved and is now being dubbed the hub of the house. What do you think has encouraged this shift?
Most parts of Australia are ideal for outdoor living for two reasons: our relaxed lifestyle and warm climate. The emphasis on outdoor rooms has grown from the time we treasured the humble Hills Hoist and homemade brick barbecue. Since then we have built the room to be an extension of the house. Spacious decks, paving and grass areas, as well as pergolas, roofing from core gated fibreglass to UV-rated sun turf are just some of the things we like to incorporate into our backyard designs. Now fully lined ceilings and outdoor lighting are all part of the outside room, creating visual appeal and comfort.
How does the outdoor room now add value to the rest of the home?
It allows the flow from the back room to outside. When constructed properly, it is the fifth room of the home which instantly adds value. It no longer houses the junk furniture, but is instead considered an important element of the home that has now become the focus.
From an interior perspective, Fabio Fanuli of Fanuli Furniture talks fabrics, floor coverings, furniture and contemporary and classic trends that inspire our outdoor rooms
As Australia’s warm climate lends itself to outdoor living, people are decorating their external living areas with enthusiasm. It seems only natural as we spend a lot of time outside, so why not make your outdoor areas more comfortable and functional? Outdoor areas require furniture to make them comfortable and inviting. The style of furniture should work with the style of the outdoor area. Smaller areas need clean lines to give a feeling of space. Large areas can have more generous proportions to create a balance with the area.
The Australian environment is harsh so those materials must be durable, especially if the area outside is unprotected. The use of materials such as aluminium, laminates and synthetic fibres such as sunweave do not require oiling or upkeep. Clients are influenced by the practicality of these easy-care materials. They also look great and make the outdoor area more inviting. Comfortable dining chairs and sofas allow you to relax and enjoy the company of family and friends.
The new acrylic fabrics have some beautiful designs and patterns. There are great selections from neutrals to pastels and bright feature colours. There are also beautiful co-ordinates from top fabric houses that have fabric collections not seen before in outdoor fabrics. These fabrics illustrate that the outdoor area has become just as important to us and should be decorated with the same flair as we would use with our interior.
Tiles that flow from the inside of a living space to the outside open up the home to family and guests. The use of bi-fold doors is emerging and allows you to fold the doors back and enjoy the extra space and convenience with the continuation of the same flooring surface. Natural tiles can be sealed to make them maintenancefree. Natural colour tiles also give a neutral background for the furniture and greenery.
The use of weather-resistant materials such as aluminium and alucompact (multilayered laminate with aluminium) in dining tables has seen minimal designs with beautiful aesthetics made to suit modern homes and apartments. The alucompact tops do not require maintenance and are easy to wipe clean. An example is the Sushi collection from Kristalia, designed by Carlo Bartoli. Dining chairs also made from aluminium and polyurethane give a sleek line and make them strong and durable. Moulding technology with reinforced glass has also resulted in beautiful shapes, such as the Plana chair. Chairs are also maintenance-free, stackable and weather-resistant. In terms of colours, white tops for dining tables and black chairs represent a modern, sophisticated style. Some trends emerging include the use of chairs in a citrus green for colour or neutral bone for timeless elegance.
Sunweave has the look and feel of natural rattan but is a synthetic fibre that is not affected by the sun or rain. The Sunweave is still woven over an aluminium frame and has the beauty of the South Seas. Available for sofas, tables, chairs and chaises. These timeless pieces allow the outside areas to be as comfortable as the indoors. Examples are the Greenfield collection from design house Roberti.
John Storch from A Total Concept Landscape Architects & Swimming Pool Designers reveals some clever tips for the outdoor room
• Keep it simple. Clean simple lines and a minimalist approach to design in outdoor rooms are better than a “busy” appearance. Less is more.
• Less is best. Several large pots or planter boxes will look less cluttered than numerous small ones.
• Flexibility of use is important. The outdoor room should be able to be used for family Christmas and birthday gatherings, and also for an intimate romantic dinner setting.
• Integrate and unify the outdoor room as an extension of the home, bring the outdoors in and allow light to carry through to adjacent rooms. Create a thematic link between the indoor and outdoor areas to make the total appear larger and avoid disjointed spaces. Use similar colours on walls, similar paving or decking materials, similar decorations both inside and out and large concertina doors from the home.
• Light colours in the paving, planting and on the outdoor room walls will create an impression of greater space. A brightly coloured wall, plantings or sculptures will help draw the eye to a feature but may shrink the outdoor room. • Consider the usable outdoor room space. If a table or feature were positioned in the centre of the space, it would decrease the usable space for sitting or entertaining. The perimeter and corners of the outdoor room become the places where the soft landscaping may be incorporated.
• Don’t overdo the garden art. One sculpture or water feature is more than enough for a typical outdoor room. Try to select one timeless quality piece rather than a faddish Balinese urn that will look dated next year (unless of course you intend to update regularly).
• Paving patterns and decking timber laid in certain directions can change the focus of an outdoor room. A circular pattern may focus the paving inwards, diagonal lines may be used to extend the outdoor room outwards and increase the apparent size.
• Ask yourself this: is maintenance an issue? When designing a garden, make sure you have considered how much time and water needs to be invested. Then think about whether native, tropical or formal plantings are the best option for you.
• Select both tall and low-growing plants to create interest. Bamboos can be kept very narrow to maximise the visual space of the outdoor room and can grow tall to provide screening, shade or a green vista from inside.
• Be aware that strong-coloured flowers such as red and orange tend to “advance” towards you, thus shrinking an outdoor room. Soft-coloured blue, purple and grey flowers “recede”.
• Styling your outdoor room space is what sets it apart from the rest. It’s the right combination of features, homewares, furniture and soft furnishing accessories that have the ability to bring the outdoor room to life. For more information, contact A Total Concept on 02 9957 5122 or visit www.atotalconcept.com.au