Design tips & trends

How to design the perfect outdoor living area

Australians have always enjoyed living and entertaining al fresco thanks to our temperate climate, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that indoor/outdoor spaces are one of the most sought-after design features of a new home. 

But where a windswept patio and some faded lawn furniture might have done the trick once upon a time, today’s al fresco areas are part of the footprint of a home and require just as much planning and consideration as you might give a kitchen or bathroom. 

One of the most common misconceptions about indoor/outdoor living is that you need a large block with lots of space to make it work. The key is to create a seamless connection between the two zones through clean sightlines, a considered palette of materials and thoughtful placement of windows and doors so that you can blur the lines between house and garden, bringing the inside out, and the outside in. 



Here’s how to plan and design an outdoor space that feels like another room of the house: 


Create outdoor area zones

Think about how you want to use your outdoor living area. Will it be a place to party or kick back with a book? Where is it positioned in relation to the kitchen? Will you need additional areas for cooking and food preparation? Do the kids need their own area while you’re entertaining? Once you have an idea of how the space will function, divide it up into different zones that each serve a purpose – for example, you might have a covered area for food prep and dining and an open-air deck with a few daybeds for lounging.  


Make it all-weather

Australia might have an enviable climate, but it’s certainly not perfect, so if you want an outdoor space that you can enjoy all year round, then you will need to consider how best to protect it from the elements. This could be something simple like a sail or pergola to provide shade from the sun, a feature wall that doubles as a wind shield, or even a firepit to make exposed areas toasty warm in winter.  



For a true all-weather option, consider extending the internal ceiling beyond the four walls of your house to create a covered 'outdoor room’. These can be fitted with built-in lighting, overhead heating or a fireplace, custom seating and outdoor kitchen equipment to create a space that transcends seasonality to become another room of the house. 


Blur the boundaries with bi-fold doors

Creating that coveted indoor/outdoor vibe with floor-to-ceiling glass doors along one or two walls. Bi-fold doors and large glass sliders are ideal as they can be pushed to one side to create an easy flow from the house to the garden. They’re also great for creating clear sightlines between the spaces and have the bonus of introducing more natural light and leafy outlooks to the interior of your home, even when they are closed. If you can’t do floor-to-ceiling glass, consider a bar window to pass food and drinks from the kitchen. 



Choose outdoor furniture carefully

Outdoor furniture will be a huge factor in the functionality of your al fresco area so it’s important to be guided by how you intend to use the space before you hit the shops. If space is at a premium and you’re more likely to host a casual barbecue than a sit-down meal, do away with the dining setting and opt for comfortable lounges and daybeds with a couple of side tables and ottomans that can double as storage. Equally, if you’re planning on serving most of your meals outside during the warmer months, a quality table with enough room for the whole family is a must, and a food preparation zone with benches and storage will reduce foot traffic back into the house. Stackable lounges and chairs are also a great option for those who want to change the configuration of the space to suit the occasion.  

Stick with easy-care materials for areas that are exposed to the elements, unless you want to spend all that time outdoors maintaining the furniture rather than enjoying your living space. Most metal, teak, cedar, and all-weather wicker pieces can handle whatever the weather throws their way and will only need a wipe-down every now and then.  


Keep styling beyond the back door

Decorate the outdoors as you would your interior, applying similar colour schemes and textures through furnishings, décor and lighting. Some bright cushions and slipcovers will add a pop of colour that you can update with ease, and a weather-resistant rug will make your al fresco area feel cosy and more intimate. Again, common sense should prevail when it comes to styling uncovered areas – opt for fabrics that can withstand a bit of wear and tear. Fill some statement pots with lush greenery, string up some festoon lighting and settle in for the summer. 

For more inspiration and advice on how to style your outdoor living area, visit our design blog or call 1300 223 345 to chat with one of our expert consultants. 

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