As the distinction between indoor and outdoor living becomes blurred, homeowners and designers are placing more emphasis on creating outdoor entertainment and relaxation spaces that deliver the same levels of comfort and quality as their interior counterparts.
Manufacturers, in turn, are responding to this growing trend by offering increased levels of product quality and range to a discerning and informed market.
For South Africans, especially those whose lives revolve around the outdoors in summer, spaces that are functional as well as aesthetically pleasing have become an essential element of modern home design or renovations.
Lifestyle tastes have evolved from flimsy garden furniture and makeshift braais that used to represent the extent of outdoor entertainment, to sophisticated and practical living areas. From fire pits and water features to state-of-the-art culinary stations and high-end furniture, the options for outdoor entertainment spaces are now endless and design principles are in line with those for the home’s interior.
When creating outdoor spaces, interior designer Liam Mooney likes to employ the same rules or guidelines he uses indoors – to make each feel like an extension of the other through the continued use of styles and colours. “We have such great weather, it would be silly not to give as much attention to outdoor spaces,” says Mooney.
“Most important I think, is an outside dining area, for alfresco meals. I also really like to use as many potted plants as possible… even better if they’re filled with herbs you can use in your cooking.”
Interior designer Andre Kleynhans has always been a fan of sound advice, and especially so when it comes to design.
“Somewhere along the line I once read a quote that great design has ‘a sense of place’ and this is always a point of departure for me whatever space we approach design wise,” he says.
“Outdoor spaces are no different from indoor spaces. The same sensibilities apply with a few additional ones – these spaces are often exposed to the weather and this requires additional considerations.”
Beginning with how it is anticipated the space will be used, what times (of day and/or night) and by how many people, Kleynhans progresses from there. “A welcoming space is one that is inviting and easily accessed, and the placement of key furniture pieces is our point of departure,” he says.
The sense of place has several applications in an outdoor area, says Kleynhans. Which side of the house is it situated? Is the furniture placed to accommodate good flow and to take advantage of the view? Does the area get wind sometimes?
“Maybe consider outside blinds or shutters,” he suggests, but never plastic. “However sensible that may seem at the outset, it always ends up feeling like a student pub.”
This definition and management of the area is vital, and is where Plantation Shutters® enters the fray, allowing one to stylishly enclose any space, ultimately extending the home and creating comfortable spaces where good times are shared and memories are made.
In addition to the functional and aesthetic benefits of these shutters, it also increases overall property value and offers all round security and privacy. They also insulate against heat and cold for a comfortable temperate environment despite the season, and assist in protecting external furniture. The unlimited colour choices give you freedom to create your ideal aesthetic.
“Weather consideration in the choice of furnishings is critical,” says Kleynhans.
His advice is to choose durable materials and designs that reflect the style of the adjacent interiors. Suitable fabrics which are weather- and often pool chemical- and mildew-resistant fabrics are much more readily available than they used to be, making it easy to capture the indoor spirit outside. Take it easy on the scatter cushions, he says. One or two is plenty for a sofa.
“I try to incorporate outdoor electrical outlets for lamps, ceiling mounted down lights on dimmer switches, and an outdoor ceiling fan – a luxurious touch in any outdoor space.” Consider candles in glass containers, but keep them neat.
Outdoor rugs are becoming more available and not only provide a softer feel underfoot, but anchor seating areas in larger spaces. “If the space allows, choose a braai for the outdoor area that can double up as a fireplace.”
Bold plants in big pots always add something special to an outdoor space, while smaller plants in interesting pots make for great outdoor accessories. “A well stocked weather proof drinks trolley in an outdoor space is the ultimate luxury,” says Kleynhans.
Comfortable seating, and a shady area are most important for making your time outdoors as comfortable as possible, adds Mooney.
“Where possible, use thick trees and shrubs, potted or not, to screen yourself from the wind. I’ve also used creeper lined trellises before to great effect.”
Mooney encourages his clients to change their outdoor spaces with the seasons.
“Perhaps a portable fire pit for winter, and maybe a cool umbrella for summer,” he says. “This makes your outdoor space a bit more dynamic and interesting all year around. Once again, potted plants are so versatile; you can move them around as often as you like thereby changing the look of your outdoor space. Having a cool outdoor space, does not need to be a major investment at all.”