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Creating a Stylish and Functional Outdoor Space for Summer Entertaining

by Carlene Duffy
Posted: January 18, 2016

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It isn’t just a stereotype. Being Australian means we are fortunate to benefit from a generally beautiful climate almost year round, magnificent natural scenery, rich vivid colours, and plenty of space.

The beauty of this means we can and should make the most of indoor outdoor living, especially for the sake of home entertaining. Naturally, we are inclined to do most of our home entertaining during the warmer months to take advantage of the weather and to celebrate those summer events, Christmas, New Years, Australia Day etc. so read on to get some tips on creating the ultimate outdoor entertaining space.

1. Go Green

The easiest and most effective way to inject some personality into your patio or deck is to be generous with the plants. Plants create lushness and softness that can be otherwise difficult to achieve in an area with a lot of hard surfaces. Group potted plants together in staggered sizes, and of different kinds, for visual interest. Hanging plants, as well as being on trend, are an ideal means of creating varying levels in the space. Just be sure to consider the type of plant you are buying in relation to the conditions in which you are positioning it. You want your plants to live a long and happy life.

2. Tend to your Upholstery

Add some interest and colour to your patio or terrace through your outdoor upholstery. Stick strictly to the outdoor fabric ranges, as these have been tested to stand up to the elements. It is also good advice to have a zip fitted with your upholstery so that you can machine wash it if it becomes particularly dirty. Invest time into choosing your pattern and colour wisely and get multiple upholstery quotes, as upholstery can be costly and quotes tend to vary wildly. And don’t be afraid to mix patterns and colour.

3. Lay it Down

Create another layer of softness and homeliness by laying an outdoor rug under your outdoor dining setting or outdoor lounge suite. You have likely seen the rugs made out of recycled plastic that are commonly used outdoors but there is a fairly recent addition to the the market that despite being 100% recycled plastic, feels just like cotton. They are soft underfoot, can take a weather beating, and can simply be hosed down when dirty. Perfect!

4. Paint and Oil

On the not so fun side or decorating, you may also need to bite the bullet and give that timber deck and balustrade the lick of oil it desperately needs and deserves. Alternatively, you may want to mix it up and paint your timber a new, fresh colour but be sure to consider the colour of the house in this process unless you have plans to tackle the whole house exterior, which depending on the age of your home, may certainly be warranted.

5. Creative Seating

While dining chairs around your dining table are a no-brainer and an outdoor lounge setting is an obvious choice on your patio, also think about other ways to incorporate seating in your outdoor space to create alternate and flexible seating options. Install a wicker hanging chair, a good old fashioned hammock or even some outdoor beanbags for serious lounging.

6. Make it Permanent

Depending on your needs and how much you utilize your patio or hope to utilise it, it might be time to make things more permanent outside. This might mean going all out and building in your BBQ and possibly even including a sink and wine fridge. You might also consider building some bench seating with some stylish custom upholstery. While this does require spending some cash on materials and ideally, a carpenter it is something a handy friend, father or uncle could certainly take on with relative ease.

7. Fake it

If you concerned that tending to your grass and garden is not your strength or simply not a priority, you might consider swapping out your perishing Sir Walter Buffalo lawn for good quality astro turf. While astro turf was once dirty word, advancements in the product mean it is a very respectable substitute for the real thing. It can be difficult to guarantee adequate sun and water for your grass and astro turf means your grass will always be green and with zero maintenance.

8. Be Shady

While your outdoor area should be pretty, first and foremost, it needs to be functional and that means providing adequate shade for you, your family and guests. Your celebratory function can quickly fizzle if your guests are melting under the intense heat of the sun and fighting for two square metres of shade, or for shelter from unpredicted rain. While you may need to construct a roof, striped awnings have never been hotter and may be all you require. Black and white, Navy and white, or yellow and white are my go-to colours for a hint of St Tropez.

9. Control the climate

Allow for the unpredictability of the weather by providing sufficient heating and cooling. It is easy enough to have an electrician install outdoor heating bars or you otherwise may simply require a few braziers. To cool things down, ceiling fans are generally enough to do the job, if you have that option. They are also the most nonintrusive option from an aesthetic perspective.

10. Light it up

Because many of us use our outdoor spaces largely in the evening for entertaining, it is wise to consider how your outdoor space looks and feels when the sun goes down and assess your lighting situation. Stringing up festoon lights across the ceiling of your desk or patio creates atmosphere and a sense of warmth. Similarly, fairy lights wrapping tree trunks in your yard creates instant cheerfulness and a sense of fun and whimsy. Why wait till Christmas to get festive?

We certainly do enjoy some of the best weather in the world which is easy to take for granted when you enjoy it everyday. Do yourself a favour and make the most of your outdoor space to create the ultimate entertaining space for you and your guests.


Carlene Duffy

Carlene is best known as one half of Michael and Carlene Duffy; the down to earth Gold Coast couple who shared their highs and lows with Australia on 9’s series The Block ‘Glasshouse’. The dynamic duo also featured in Renovation Rumble, and have together established their business ‘Cedar & Suede’.

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