Creating the perfect Outdoor Space - 7 point checklist
Updated: Sep 2, 2021
As Australians, we all love having a space outside to relax or entertain. Now that warmer weather is coming, spending time outdoors in these spaces is key to maintaining our sanity with the advent of a pandemic and scenarios where we are working from home en-mass. Do you have a large backyard and are unsure how to landscape it?
1. Develop a sense of enclosure
As humans, we need to feel secure and protected. Is Your verandah exposed to the street? Are you unable to use your outdoor space due to neighbourly overlooking?
Building half-height or low walls with pillars, even if there is no roof, creates a sense of enclosure to the orientation we are facing to make a space that we will want to use. Building walls can be used to advantage with textured or coloured finishes. Create walls that can form the back of storage spaces, pergolas with vegetation, vegetable beds or other planting areas.
Overlooking issues on the verandah can be solved with perforated metal panels widely used for screening. An important concept is to soften the hard surfaces with planting.
Another important consideration is to make sure the screen openings are complex shapes, horizontal slats are rigid and don’t create enough interest. Diagonal spaces, circles and hexagons are more interesting. and make sure the holes are large enough to allow any creepers as well as light to pass through.
2. Create Views
Some of us are able to have a SPACE oriented towards a view of landscape or seascape. Many won’t be able to have this naturally occurring, so we have to create one.
If you have a verandah or back yard, make the most of the northern orientation and ensure shielding structures for wind and rain are placed to the south and west of the space.
Without being too strict about this, work out where north or east are and face your furniture and plants towards these faces.
Furniture, walls, and planting windbreaks should be placed protecting the courtyard from the western and southern aspects.
Create variety with plants and ornaments- more on this below.
3. Putting the space together.
If you’re creating walls in a courtyard or have them ready-made, decorating walls and screens with attached ponds, relief ceramics or semi-circular plants and water baths are important to add interest for the eye.
Connecting things visually in stages is important to layer a space, so think in terms of plants or features which jump in height.
Use changes in level if you have the space or stagger the height of your plants in a smaller area to create a sense of layering. Again, external shelving, water features, (Mini or large) statues and built-in chimineas, fireplaces all contribute to creating interest.
The key is to get the scale of your introduced features proportionate to the size of the space you are working with.
4. Textures Surfaces
Textured surfaces are really important. Texture influences the way light falls on a surface and creates many variations in shade and colour that create warmth, to which we gravitate. There is a wonderful array of re-cycled bricks available at building companies and recycling centres that serve this purpose well. Consider glazed tiling or mosaics, unevenly sized stone pavers and building blocks.
Changing textures between soft, green surfaces with endless variety and hard surfaces like brick and timber is important in creating visual interest. Leave smooth steel surfaces to structure and panelling that will be embellished with planting.
It’s worth adding texture to smooth compressed sheet walls with render or bagging which you can get in a variety of colours.
The patio below has plenty of views, colours and texture but is very exposed without weather protection or a sense of enclosure. It could be improved with low brick walls at the edge of the pergola area and some sails over the pergola for shade.
5. Weather Protection
Shade is more important than water protection since our heat is so strong. Not every outdoor space needs a roof. Often a portion of roofing shelter can work for rainy weather.
Sometimes a simple shade structure extension to an awning or exterior grade umbrellas will be sufficient.
If you’re working with a largely western orientation because that’s where the sun is, vertical baffles are much more effective than large horizontal overhangs in shielding the afternoon sun.
Even if it’s raining, in many parts of Australia, the temperature can be mild, allowing pleasant lounging and eating if there is a breeze and you have the area to construct sufficient wet weather protection with a hard roof.
Creating a ceiling below the roof is a way to increase insulation which will need ventilated roof lights and fans if you're renovating or building from scratch.
6. Adequate ventilation creates breezes
& reduce cooking smells
When building an alfresco area consider the importance of roof ventilation or installing fans. Many alfresco areas are built under large overhangs with associated pillars. It’s important to maintain that transition space feel between inside and outside.
Don’t enclose it too much, with solid walls and glass doors because it won’t feel any different from other rooms in the house.
We need to maintain a sense of pleasant cold or heat, as different to being totally enclosed inside. I recommend a flexible approach with patio curtains that are adjusted according to the weather.
Natural ventilation with open sides adjacent to BBQ areas relieves the need for mechanical ventilation.
It’s fine to have a total enclosure on 2 sides, leaving 2 sides exposed to elements. Layer the exposed sides with planter walls, screens and vegetation or patio curtains if more protection is needed and there is a view beyond.
Consider the look, is it rustic and textured? In this case timber, rush or cane furnishings work well. Remember if you choose beautiful organic surfaces, they will need maintenance and care like oiling or painting.
Many companies carry furniture from made synthetic loom which looks like natural fibres and has superior weathering abilities. Be careful to choose furniture which suits the scale of your space. Some of this furniture can be very bulky so that you must have the room to spread out or you will end up feeling cramped and compromised in your carefully constructed space.
Adopt metal furniture with removable outdoor cushions for smaller spaces in outdoor fabrics. Cane or metal areas with lots of terracotta or brick for that aged, classic European look.
With summer just about upon us, we hope these ideas have helped inspire creativity for any outdoor space you may have. Our changed emphasis on keeping closer to home means it's more important than ever to make the most of your outdoor areas. Quality, well furnished outdoor spaces contribute to a more considered way of living, creating opportunities for great connections with family and friends.
We'd love to hear your comments about this blog post and if you've put any of these tips into action.
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