With a little bit of planning and the right accessories, you can enjoy your outdoor living areas all year round. Here is how.
For many of us enjoying the open air is about relaxing, on the deck or around the pool, with family and friends.
Increasingly homeowners are looking at ways to stretch the seasons by creating outdoor spaces that are liveable for more than just a few months over summer.
We're also looking at ways to stretch our living areas, says Michelle Bevin from Gorgeous Homes Interior Design. "Many newer homes are not big, so if you can utilise a semi closed-in space, and do it well, it can be a real asset."
You first need to consider how and when the space will be used says Nigel Cameron. "What are the requirements, shade, privacy, seating, heating and so on? What's the budget? Given that, and the square metres, how best can you meet those requirements?"
Professional advice is important. We may be a nation of DIYers, but unless you're an experienced renovator, creating an outdoor space can wind up costing more than you anticipate.
A professional will provide alternative solutions that can save money, says Nigel. "I'm constantly talking clients out of timber decks and into coloured concrete."
With even the most basic timber deck costing more than concrete, it's worth considering, he says. "Another big advantage with concrete is the year-round radiant heat it produces. The only down side is it's perhaps too hot on a blazing summer's day but that's easily countered."
A growing range of products are available to manage the sun and contain warmth. Demand for louvred roofs is increasing, says Chris Duke, architectural specifier at Louvretec.
'Opening roofs' - a brand name that's become almost generic - are their most popular line and can be installed on any type of home.
"We're now also selling drop-down clear or mesh PVC blinds which are proving to be a winning combination with the Opening Roofs." Another option is louvred shutters, available fixed, sliding or bi-folding.
Archgola MD Andrew Turner is also reporting "strong interest in products that improve quality of day-to-day living (outdoors) without taking on huge amounts of household debt."
An outdoor shelter is basically a big sail, says Andrew, so choose one that's designed for the wind zone of your property.
"Ensure the components will work in your climate. Does the shelter come with both a manufacturers and an installation warranty? And check whether or not a permit's required and what size can be built without a permit."
Effectively heating an outdoor space is important in extending use of the area. At Firebox, manager Rikki Hunia reports a huge increase in the use of traditional wood-fired heating methods.
"Cast iron chimineas provide intense heat which can be felt around the full 360 degrees and open fire pits, which give the feeling of a campfire, are great to sit around. You can't beat the ambience of a real wood fire, and it makes a fantastic centre-piece. Just keep in mind what's above a chiminea or pizza oven when you're installing it. Check the proximity of trees and make sure it's not too close to a wall. If it's on a deck we recommend putting a couple of pavers underneath to protect the deck."
With a growing number of outdoor living areas incorporating a pool, choosing compatible fencing can be a challenge for homeowners. Noel Priestley, GM at Provista Balustrade Systems says a key trend they're seeing is fencing that provides an unobstructed look which keeps the flow, from indoors to out, as open as possible.
"Fencing an entire outdoor living space is dependant largely on the layout and design of the area, along with other security and access requirements. We work closely with both local authorities and homeowners to provide an attractive and affordable solution."
Use of privacy fencing is another trend they're seeing, and not just in back-yard situations, but on apartment balconies, says Noel. "We developed the Euro Slat product to have the strength and durability attributes required for a compliant barrier."
And with safety a priority, a new pool gate safety hardware range from Schlage is already attracting interest from homeowners. Craig Patterson, marketing manager, Ltd, says the innovative range of gate latches and self-closing hinges is perfect for keeping youngsters out of dangerous zones such as pools and other water hazards.
"The top pull latch has been designed with a contemporary edge to complement today's swimming pool fencing styles. There's a range of options and they're compliant with pool safety regulations," he says.
Planting is another element to consider. Everyone wants low maintenance these days, says landscape designer, Jeremy Cole.
"But it's important to understand how something grows and how big it grows. Plants in a garden centre look amazing but will they look like that year round? What sort of maintenance is involved? Will they shed leaves into a pool or will they be too close to an outdoor fire?"
As the size of the average backyard shrinks and becomes an integral part of the outdoor living space, the 'grass' underfoot is undergoing a revolution with artificial turf replacing the green stuff we grew up with. "Why own a lawnmower to tend 25 square metres of grass that doesn't want to grow under the trampoline or down the side of the house?" ask Jared Schofield, managing director at Urban Turf.
Today's artificial turf is a far cry from that early tough green stuff. "It has the natural appearance and softness of real grass - without any need for mowing, watering or fertilising. You've got a lush, manicured lawn all year round. Our products are also pet and child friendly and reduce allergy triggers."
Design trends come and go but Michelle says they're still seeing an emphasis on neutral colours for the big purchases such as furniture, with brightly coloured accessories adding excitement. But choose that furniture carefully, if it needs to be stored indoors over winter it can be a problem.
Stretching the time available to enjoy an outdoor space puts the focus on lighting and heating through the use of firepits and gas fires, she says. "Specially designed lighting's really big but it can be as simple as candle holders and coloured lanterns - even fairy lights - to create a special atmosphere."
Then there's music to enhance the atmosphere. These days there are two popular options, says audio visual installation specialist Vaughan Armstrong.
"You can hard-wire speakers, which involves running a cable, but what's becoming more popular are Bluetooth or wireless options - streaming music wirelessly from your phone through a battery powered speaker that can go anywhere." Just remember to keep the noise level under control.
There's an enormous range of options available when creating an exciting, user-friendly, outdoor space that adds months more enjoyment.
Have a plan that ensures a cohesive indoor-outdoor flow. And don't get too carried away, warns Nigel Cameron. "I've lost track of the number of times I've been asked to include a spa, a water feature, an outdoor fireplace and a pergola. Less is more."
This article featured on page 78 of Issue 010 of Renovate Magazine. Renovate Magazine is an easy to use resource providing fresh inspiration and motivation at every turn of the page.
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