The Art Of Alfresco Living

The Art Of Alfresco Living

by Lisa De Silva

Learn to live alfresco with our guide to creating the perfect outdoor space where you can while away those lazy crazy hazy days of summer.

As the sun shines and grey skies turn to blue, a sure way to lift the spirits is to spend some time alfresco. It’s a well known fact that spending time in nature can improve our mood and sense of wellbeing, so why not give your outside space a makeover this year to really reap the benefits of outdoor living.

In this two part series we help you make the most of your outside space. Part one considers all the structural elements that can transform your space to suit your needs as an individual, couple or family, while part two gives you lots of ideas and inspiration for styling the space with furniture, accessories and temporary structures, such as gazebos and tents.

GET INTO THE ZONE

To create a garden that the whole family can enjoy, try thinking of the space in terms of how you will use it and divide it up into zones. You might want a zone for relaxing, one for entertaining and cooking, one for the children to play in and even one to work in.

These zones can be defined using fencing, architectural planting schemes, trees and hard landscaping in the form of paths and low walls. Small wooden arches and trellis can also be used to map out ‘rooms.’ You could even use the colours and perfumes of different plants to match each area. For example, you might only want to have white blooms in your relaxation area, or lavender plants, which give off a soothing scent during the warm summer months.

Most gardens have some sort of patio area which acts as a transitional space between the inside and outside of the house. This place is the obvious area for entertaining, cooking or just relaxing with a cup of tea and a book. To add interest to this zone, you might want to consider having some raised terrace areas, or incorporating some curved shapes. Adding a pergola or roof will also have the added advantage of providing shade and extending the amount of time the space can be used throughout the year. Even if you don’t want a complete revamp of the area, weeding and cleaning the patio will make a big difference, giving the space a new lease of life.

For those with only a small garden, think about having built in seating and planters so you can maximise the space. Even a balcony can become a relaxing chill out zone with a beautiful array of plants and a small lounger or bean bag.

SPREADING THE LIGHT

Outdoor lighting extends the time you can spend outside and can make a real difference to the mood of your garden, so think about the type of atmosphere you want to create. Down-lighters affixed high on a fence or trellis, complemented by up-lighters fixed under foliage will not only balance the light, but also create a sense of theatre and drama. If you have any water in your garden, such as a pool or a pond, it can be a magical surface to light, as it reflects rippling patterns and shadows onto the surrounding areas.

Mains powered lighting needs specialist installation, or use low voltage lights that plug directly into an outdoor socket. These use a transformer to reduce the voltage and increase the safety. Another alternative is solar powered lights which need no wiring at all and are a great option for outdoor lanterns and fairy lights, which can be used to create an enchanting evening glow. And if you’re on a really tight budget, nothing beats candles. Whether you use tea lights in jam jars, or floating candles in decorative bowls of water, we all look better in the soft glow of candlelight!

KEEPING WARM & TOASTY

There are many ways to ward off the chill once the sun has set, with a wide range of outdoor heating products to keep you warm and cosy long into the night.

Electric heaters offer instantaneous warmth at the flick of a switch and come in various sizes designed for the floor, table top or as wall mounted features. Look for heaters that use short wave lamps as these produce a type of infrared heat that warms the body and not the air, increasing their efficiency on breezy evenings.

Freestanding gas patio heaters have also upped their game, with contemporary pyramid styling and real flames.

Firepits have become a real favourite as well. They can be built into the garden to act as a central feature and double up as a table, or can be purchased as portable units. Again, the styling options are numerous and they work like an open fireplace running on wood, or charcoal BBQ, allowing you to put a grill over the flames for cooking, or toasting marshmallows.

In fact, most outdoor stoves have the advantage of combining heat with the facility to cook. Chimeneas are a traditional form of outdoor heater originating from Mexico and can be made of clay or metal. They usually have a round lower body and a vertical smoke stack. Fuel is added into the open front, before lighting the fire and some models come with a cooking grill for BBQing.

GARDEN BUILDINGS

To add further style and function to your garden, a contemporary garden room can accommodate extra living space, a home office, playroom, teenage den, gym, workshop, in fact anything your imagination can conjure up. So, if you have any underused outside space, but are feeling squeezed on the inside, a garden room might be the answer to your prayers.

Again, the styling can be as varied as their usage, but the most popular are constructed of lightweight timber and can be erected within days, complete with full electrical and heating installations.