Articles - Interior Design

7 things to consider when designing your alfresco area

15th February 2017

The most popular space in Australian home isn’t actually in the house, it’s in the backyard.

We’re lucky to live in a country where many areas enjoy a warmer climate all year around than some other parts of the world. Hanging out in our alfresco areas, with a feel-good gathering of family, friends and beautiful food is one of our favourite past times. To help you make the most of the outdoor space at your place, here are the top 7 things to think about when designing your alfresco area.

1. Connecting the outdoors with the indoors of your home

When building an alfresco area, it’s important to think about whether there’s a practical opportunity to connect the inside of your home with the alfresco area. It’s an option well worth considering, because the experience of your home can be greatly improved by bringing the outdoors inside. One of the main benefits will come from installing large sliding or folding glass doors that open onto your alfresco area. This design feature will increase the sense of space, making your home feel larger. And, in addition to adding a few square metres to your home, you’ll also benefit from the increased light, views and breezes that an alfresco area brings.

2. The size and purpose of the alfresco area

Don’t jump the gun with regards to the size of your alfresco area and start building your alfresco area without pondering the purpose of the project. Do you simply intend to use the space for reading the morning paper over breakfast? If so, you might just need a small area for a table and two chairs. Or are you a social butterfly who loves having friends and family around for BBQs? In this case, you’re going to need a bigger space. You’ll have to include enough room for a BBQ or outdoor kitchen, a dining table and maybe even an outdoor lounge. Whatever you need to turn on the entertaining, you’ll want the people who enjoy your outdoor space to feel comfortable and not squished when they move around.

3. Options for controlling the climate

While the warm weather is enjoyable in moderation, when the sun starts turning up the heat between December and February, cooling down in the shade is an attractive option for you and the people using your outdoor area. If your alfresco area is attached to your house, you may have a plasterboard ceiling that provides solid protection from the weather, in which case you’re well covered. Other solutions include a pergola, or motorised shutters or awnings that can be opened or closed depending on the weather. During the colder months, a fireplace or outdoor heaters are fantastic for keeping the chill at bay.

4. Outdoor kitchen, BBQ or wood fired pizza oven

Because alfresco areas are an increasingly popular addition to the modern Australian home, they are often constructed as a complete extra room, rather than an afterthought. If your alfresco area is a significantly important part of your home and you plan to entertain guests regularly, you’ll definitely want to consider including a kitchen, BBQ or wood fired pizza oven in the design of your alfresco area. The cooking area option that suits you best will depend on your lifestyle and entertaining style.

5. Styling and decorating your alfresco area

Your alfresco area is an extension of your home, and as such, the styling and decoration choices you make should complement the rest of your home. Quality and stylish seating go a long way to improve the comfort of your guests and the general presentation of the alfresco area. Using similar materials, colours and textures for furniture and flooring can help blend the outdoor area with the indoors. And you can also add extra pizzaz by accessorising with cushions, vases, pots or other artistic objects.

6. Landscaping for improved presentation and privacy

When done right, landscaping can really improve the presentation and private enjoyment of your alfresco area. You’ll do yourself a favour by choosing low maintenance plants that make the tasks of planting, watering, fertilizing and pruning an easy routine. Some popular low maintenance choices include cacti, aloe, decorative grass, sacred or heavenly bamboo (a type of shrub, not a bamboo) and ferns. Adding foliage to your alfresco area can help to brighten the space, and with the right choice and placement of your plants, increase intimacy and help create privacy from the neighbours.

7. Some popular options for lighting up an alfresco area

When it comes to lighting, you can be both practical and creative in the types of lighting you choose. If you have an outdoor kitchen or BBQ area, you’ll want to make sure the food preparation area is well lit with downlights or something similar. Up/down wall lights are perfect for creating ambient lighting. For decorative lighting that brings a positive party feel, fairy lights are a popular choice. And when considering how to shed the best light on your landscape design and alfresco, spotlights are an attractive way to light things up.