Whether you have an existing patio, deck or courtyard or a completely blank canvas to work with, creating the perfect outdoor space can completely transform your home, adding both dollar value and increasing the liveability.
The most vital component to consider when making your perfect outdoor space is making sure it provides enough shade and shelter, particularly when dealing with the (often harsh) Australian climate. Shade in particular is essential and can be created in a permanent or flexible way, and depending on your need for weather protection, can be part of your roofing solution, or provided in other ways such as exterior blinds and awnings or planting vegetation such as vines or creepers.
In warmer regions
In tropical and subtropical areas, having an all-year-round outdoor space is feasible as winters are mild and it’s not too cold to be outside if you’re able to add some heating options. However, because tropical weather generally means rain in summer, having weather protection is essential when you’re entertaining and living outdoors. You also need to think about storm proofing as much as possible – for example buying exterior blinds in flimsy material might do more harm than good in cyclonic situations. And, ensure there’s adequate cooling in summer which is about making sure you can capture all available breeze, and make your own by installing a fan.
In cooler regions
In cooler areas, it may not be as necessary to achieve this level of weather protection but you will need more defence from the cold. It really comes down to how you think you’ll use the space – as an alternative dining and living area, for entertaining or a seasonal space you access only at certain times of the year. If you want to use the area year-round think about adding a fireplace, pizza oven, adding heating lamps to the wall or creating a conservatory type environment (with exterior blinds to protect large windows) as opposed to a more open deck or patio.
Part of the enjoyment of relaxing in an outdoor space is in feeling protected and enjoying some privacy while still able to enjoy being outdoors. This means not being overlooked by neighbours or viewed from the street. Counteract any views neighbours might have of your home from above with well-placed outdoor blinds, screens or landscaping. Clumping bamboo or other types of hedging plants are great for this but do be careful as these plants can spread and become a nuisance if not properly maintained.
Improve your privacy
If you’re on a budget or don’t want to block out too much light consider the level at which the onlooking occurs, and your intended use of the space. Usually, for the majority of the time at least, you’ll be sitting down in your outdoor area, so privacy may only be required to that height, and not all the way up.
Bring the outside indoors
It is also vital to create an easy transition, or flow, between inside and outside. For some, the outdoor deck or outdoor room is the only outdoor area, and for others, it may be part of the garden. Maximising your connection with outside – with space, light, breezes and views, will expand the quality and environment of your home. So think about how your deck or outdoor room can enhance your everyday lifestyle and connect you to the outdoors with indoor comfort.
Some Creative Tips
There are lots of creative ideas to pick and choose from:
If you’re going to add a table setting think about what size table you want to have and make sure there is sufficient space to walk around it, at least 1m circulation space to either end and side. If your space is constrained, then just think about how you’ll furnish it. You may need to pick a smaller table, or some built in seating, or other devices to increase the sense of space. If you want a round table, think about adding a lazy susan, for example.
It’s nice to have options for where you sit and hang out on a deck or in an outdoor room. So, there might be a chair at a table. There might also be a built-in bench. There could be an outdoor lounge chair, an egg chair, bean bags…whatever you like.
You could build a low deck which sits just 400 to 500mm above your garden. This means that the edge is a comfy height to sit on, and put your feet on the grass of the garden.
Make it as personal as possible. If you’re into yoga, make sure there’s space for your outdoor practice. If you’re a sports fan, angle the outdoor space so you can see the TV. If you’re a reader, add a recliner with decent arm rests.
Choose the right materials
Remember whatever you decide, ideally you want to enjoy the space, not spend all your time cleaning and maintaining it. And finally, make sure you pick the right materials. Being outdoors, your outdoor area will also see a lot of heat and weather (and cold in some areas) that can test its longevity. So, ensure you choose materials for durability and low maintenance requirements. If you’re choosing timber, you’ll need to keep up a finish on it – it’s inevitable. If you’re paving or tiling, just make sure you specify a finish that meets slip-resistance requirements, and won’t get too hot under foot if exposed to sun, or cause too much glare with reflective light.