Summer is just about here and our thoughts turn to lazy weekends on the deck, sundowners at sunset and days by the pool. If you live in Australia, particularly in the warmer climes, an outdoor entertaining space is a must and, given the amount of time you spend there, is almost like an extra room.
But before you start spending on building or renovating an outdoor entertainment area, some careful planning is required. For example, where does the morning and afternoon sun fall? Where will you access this area from? Do you require some shading? Do you have kids or pets? Start with a plan and you'll have the perfect space created by summer!
Courtyards and Backyards
While many consider decks to be the ultimate in outdoor entertaining spaces, there is definitely a swing back to good old fashioned courtyards and back yards - but not as we knew it 20 years ago! Whereas decks are more structurally based, an existing outdoor space can easily be adapted and improved without any building work.
Creativity in working with the type of space you have is important. For example, if your backyard is steep you could consider a stepped and elevated retaining wall garden, using grasses, cacti and succulents to create a sense of drama and visual interest. But if it's level, with a swimming pool, as the central focus, you could choose tropical palms and rainforest plants.
Water gardens, fountains and custom lighting are easy and quick to install and can create many different feels, from the Zen-like feel of a Japanese garden to English country cottage.
If your courtyard is largely paved or concreted the clever use of plants and foliage will help break up all the right angles and flat planes, softening the space and creating a lush and inviting area. Add pots of colour, 'green' walls and interesting sculptures or old artefacts and you won't even notice the concrete!
Semi-enclosed spaces are great, especially if you live in colder climes. If there is cover from the rain you can add comfy couches, rugs and heaters for a cosy, intimate outdoor area. Adding some sort of heater works wonders, too. And fire pits can be a great addition to an open space.
Creating indoor/outdoor living
One of the best ways to integrate your interior and exterior spaces is by opening a whole wall of a room onto your outdoor area. Thanks to amazing breakthroughs in glazing there are now several ways of doing this, such as sliding doors, bi-folds and overhead folding doors.
Bi-fold windows and doors are a popular way of linking indoors and out, with bi-fold windows making a useful servery or bar, as well as helping with air flow. But if bi-folds won't work for your building there are many different types of sliding door that can create a beautiful opening to the outdoors. They are also one of the most cost effective in terms of large scale glass doors. Recessing the sliding door track into the floor creates a seamless transition, or the doors can be retracted into a wall cavity to create clean lines.
Pivot doors are another stylish option in today's glass door market, popular with architects for their stylish looks and point of difference. However, if you live in an area where fly screens are a must, consider this option carefully as traditional screens won't work here.
Capturing the view
If you are lucky enough to have a stunning view of rolling hills or mountains, or an enviable ocean vista, you will certainly want to open up your living spaces to take in the scenery. Choose large windows/doors and high ceilings to create plenty of light and an airy space, to magnify and enhance that view.