Create an outdoor room that extends your living space while maintaining the interior style
Extending the home into the garden is proving to be a popular renovating trend
A purpose-built outdoor living area is one of the most requested additions in domestic architecture. Extending the home into the garden or enclosing a balcony is particularly well-suited to our relaxed Aussie lifestyle.
In the past it was as simple as throwing a couple of weathered chairs and a token pot plant out on the patio. These days it’s about keeping cool and looking stylish with all the comforts of being indoors.
Before jumping into a renovation or redesign, decide exactly what you want from your outdoor oasis. It might be a lively entertaining area, an extension of the kitchen, a dedicated quiet zone or a kids' space.
Interior stylist Tina Hutton says people can easily make mistakes in the planning, then wonder why the result never feels quite right.
‘It’s really important to be clear about how the area is going to be used,’ says Tina.
‘Thinking a space can be all things is usually a bad idea. That’s not to say it can’t be zoned to suit different purposes, but that in itself has to be a decision rather than an accident.’
Create your own style
‘There’s a bit of a design myth about continuing the style of the home outdoors. Instead of matching, look to complement but be creative,’ says Tina.
‘An outdoor room is a wonderful opportunity to bring in elements you wouldn’t use inside, like concrete, stone, wicker, even modern plastics.’
Tina says stick with what you know, as experimenting with looks dramatically different to your usual style may bring results you won’t like. Slavishly following trends can also catch you out down the track, so learn how to incorporate them instead.
‘Cushions are the easiest way to bring in a new design trend. Pick up the accent colour in accessories and you’ll have a space that looks cohesive and sophisticated.’
Keep the outdoor room cool
Capitalise on cooling breezes without creating a wind tunnel by installing screening and fans suitable for outdoor use.
Transparent pool fencing can be used to enclose a balcony or verandah and bamboo panels provide an economical and attractive privacy screen.
‘This is one area I like to bring in a feature usually found indoors,’ says Tina.
‘Curtains are great and a few sheer muslin panels add instant sophistication as well as cutting direct sunlight and reducing glare.
‘But you need to rig up a system on which they can be easily hung and taken down as they can’t stay outdoors.’
Choose the furniture
‘People don’t spend enough time trying out the big things like sofas and chairs,’ says Tina.
‘Unless it works in the way you want it to and meets your comfort requirements, it will ruin the atmosphere you are trying to create.’
It’s also crucial to choose pieces that have been specifically made for outdoor use. ‘Look for easy-care, robust materials and soft furnishings with removable covers.’
When the large pieces are in place, add the smaller decorating elements that make the area appealing.
‘Work with your space in mind. If room is tight, keep extras minimal because having to navigate around things or risk knocking objects over doesn’t make anyone feel comfortable.’
TIP One large plant is always good. Consider a potted fruit tree, which is practical as well as attractive.
Outdoor areas geared toward entertaining need to have easy-care flooring and plenty of unobtrusive seating for an informal crowd. Go for built-in bench seats or broad deck steps that can do double duty as seating. Install outdoor fans for comfort, low tables for glasses and snacks, and a bar with plenty of room for eskies.
If you want an outdoor area centred on cooking and eating consider a built-in barbecue with plenty of bench space and a generous table that can seat a large group. If meals are long in your household make sure to add comfy chairs and cushions.
Kids play areas need to be inviting for adults and fun for children. Install a built-in sandpit, paint a chalkboard wall and buy outdoor rugs to protect delicate little knees. Make sure the area is well shaded and add lightweight tables and chairs for the mums and dads.
Create a place to relax and unwind by furnishing an outdoor room with a hammock, cushions and comfy chairs. Include a softly tinkling fountain or water feature and potted palms for atmosphere, adding bamboo screens or softly floating curtains for privacy and protection from the sun.