Lifestyle

A guide to alfresco living

By Liam Nash

Summer. It comes in hot and fast, hanging onto spring’s coattails as it exits centre stage. The breeze dances deftly and the sky strips back to a crisp blue, making it the ideal season for entertaining guests outside.

And in this day and age, the outdoor entertainment area has become a blank canvas longing for stylised strokes from your inner décor Dali.

Gone are the times where a Weber-Q out the back made for patio perfection, with pizza ovens, crafty shade-cloths and seating for the ages dominating today’s market.

And while it can seem overwhelming gawking over Pinterest’s countless combinations of triangle heaters, LED planters and kooky cabanas, Our Home has strung together a list of must-haves to revamp your plain-Jane outdoor domain.

Appliances

Having the right appliances readily available in an alfresco area mean less time indoors and more time enjoying guests’ company.

Our Home spoke to the experts at Harvey Norman about what to add to increase the appeal in an entertainment area.

“In terms of cooling there are lots of options, you have got to consider whether you want semi-enclosed or standalone — the main thing is to make sure the fridge is suitable to your specific area,” electrical 2IC Richard Smith said.

“Some don’t work as well as others in certain temperatures, one fridge might only be built to last in temperatures up to 38 degrees, while others can continue to work up to 43 degrees.”

Aside from refrigeration, furniture proprietor Becc Fischer mentioned customers were becoming increasingly curious about the options available for cooking as people look to get the most out of their backyard during summer.

“People are looking at different barbecue and oven options to create a nice alfresco setting, and we can sell these as a lifestyle rather than a product,” she said.

While extravagant built-in systems can be eye-catching, there are plenty of economical alternatives that can save thousands of dollars when arranging an outdoor set-up.

Smokers and pizza ovens are great for avoiding slaving over charcoal to prepare a feast, and they offer unique flavours that differ from the standard barbecue taste.

Lighting and fans

Comfort is a commodity that simply can’t be sacrificed when it comes to entertaining guests, especially in an outdoor setting.

The elements can often overpower one’s ability to relax during the warmer months but utilising proper ventilation can alleviate any heat-induced headaches.

“The ceiling fan is a must have — it keeps the insects away, it circulates air and provides a degree of cooling,” Mark Librio from Lights Plus said.

“Industrial-sized fans are becoming popular; people are going big for a look and the bigger the fan, the bigger the air movement.”

Away from air circulation, recent technological advancements have been made in lighting to tastefully illuminate open areas, meaning there are now ways to stretch out the span of any social soiree.

“The biggest jump in technology has been the smart lighting/control,” Mark said.

“You can pretty much do anything with Google Chromecast and Alexa, where you can alter things such as dimming all through voice control.”

Making use of the right lighting and cooling fixtures can take any space from seasonal to perennial and can help keep the elements at bay.

“Ambient lighting can be used to create a different effect or setting when you turn off the main lighting, while garden lighting can also be used for dramatic effect,” Mark said.

Kitchens

Rather than slaving away in the kitchen in the heat of mid-summer’s dog days, relieve the unnecessary stress of cooking within a confined space and barbecue without boundaries.

KitchenWise director Mark Boldiston touched on the rise in popularity of expansive outdoor kitchen areas and addressed the main variables to consider when putting together a suitable culinary space.

“It depends on the area; if it is an open plan with ventilation then any barbecue will suit, but if it is an enclosed area then there are certain gas regulations to adhere to,” Mark said.

“In terms of materials, it really depends if it can get wet. If the kitchen space is undercover then any general materials can be used, but if there is any chance of being rained on then you have to go with alfresco materials.”

Alfresco materials include weatherproof metals such as aluminium, which are used for kitchens in exposed spaces to avoid the risk of warping and rust.

Mark also advises to be thorough when choosing bench materials, as most stone tops are not sold with warranties for outdoor use.

And with trends suggesting buyers are leaving more room in their budgets for creating the ideal outdoor cooking experience, the variation in options available for customisation are almost that of any indoor kitchen.

“The features available for outdoor kitchens are almost the same as indoor ones nowadays,” Mark said.

“You can incorporate fridges, hot and cold water units, rubbish bins, even dishwashers can also be implemented; it all comes down to what sort of entertaining you are looking to provide.”

Blinds

Extra space is a valued asset in any home regardless of the size or span.

The opportunity to add style and functionality to an outdoor entertainment area in an affordable manner is priceless, and using blinds to cordon-off a space can provide protection from the weather as well as creating privacy from neighbours.

Teena Hicks from Dollar Curtains + Blinds provided some hot tips on how to get the most out of your home using strategically placed blinds.

“You can add a whole other room in your house by using blinds effectively, while still being outdoors,” Teena said.

“You have to take into consideration the direction your house is facing in relation to the sun and wind direction.

“If used correctly, the sun hits the blinds first which knocks the temperature off the room, as it soaks up most of the heat.”

Blind fabric is tensioned to keep wind and rain out as well as serving as insulation, and the different styles can be operated through motorisation or manually.

Teena said side retention blinds had become the most practical optional when looking to enclose an area.

“Those probably have the most benefits; they provide protection from the sun and wind and can be fully enclosed to stop the bugs getting in, meaning you aren’t bothered by the elements.”