We’re blessed with temperate weather year round here in Queensland, and though many of us will argue that our winters actually *do* get cold, it’s definitely possible to enjoy the outdoors even in the cooler months.
The key is being prepared – but how do you adapt your outdoor living space for year round entertainment? For help, we asked the design experts at Big River Group.
“An increasing demand to enjoy outdoor living at home has turned the humble backyard into an al fresco lifestyle dream,” says general manager John Lorente. “Homeowners investing in this multi-functional space are finding it offers a variety of benefits that provide a long-term contribution to their property investment and, more importantly, their lifestyle.”
With a bit of creativity, your outdoor area can provide an additional entertainment space as well as a fun environment for kids to play safely.
“Marrying the indoors and out with clever decking, whether it be a smaller side deck, pool decking or a big, classic back verandah, provides a seamless transition between these two spaces,” says John. “If you plan it right, this new space will become the favourite area for family and friends to reconnect.”
Before you start, check if you need approval
As with most home improvements, it’s a good idea to investigate whether or not you’ll need council approval.
Lay the foundations
“Think of your outdoor space as a blank canvas,” says John. “Installing a timber deck will allow the area to be used in most weather conditions, but you should consider your deck’s purpose in order to decide its size. How many people will it need to accommodate, and will you be adding a barbecue, furniture, and some pots?”
Look for materials that are designed for exterior use, remembering, the better quality, the greater the longevity of your deck.
“There are two choices when selecting the best timber for a deck: softwood or hardwood,” says John. “The decision is dependent on budget, required lifespan and quality of finish – Spotted Gum and Merbau are the most common hardwood decking options in Australia and, with regular maintenance, should last 20 plus years. Treated pine is the preferred softwood option and offers good value and versatility, as it’s able to be painted with ease.”
If your home is located in a bushfire-prone area, consider Merbau and Spotted Gum timber which are both bushfire resistant and suitable for use in many bushfire prone areas up to BAL 29, as set out under Australian Standard AS3959.
Design for style and comfort
“Consider the location of the deck at your home – darker coloured decks will absorb heat from the sun, so if your deck is on the south side of your house, a dark coloured floor can make it very difficult to use the deck during the afternoon and early evening in summer,” says John. “A covered deck is a way to create some shade and prevent your deck’s surface from overheating during the summer.”
Muddy footprints and stains from kids and pets are another thing to think about when choosing your deck. Mud, dirt, and stains are easier to see on lighter coloured decks, so if you have pets, young children or both, a darker coloured deck may be a better option.
Maximise space and add value
From a relaxing sanctuary to a pool area, utilising outdoor rooms as an extension of your interior spaces increases the amount of enjoyment you’ll likely get from your place. However, not all backyards are created equal in terms of available space.
“The key to unlocking the potential of your yard is creative thinking,” says John. “If your yard is sloped and you aren’t using every available square metre, you’re sitting on valuable wasted space. Creating terrace areas or installing timber garden beds can bring a lively element into what would be otherwise dead space.”
One of John’s top tips is to create comfort by selecting the right outdoor furniture and accessories. The key criteria? Using products that are made for the outdoors, creating connection between the pieces that stimulate conversation and togetherness and selecting settings that are the right size for your space.
“A great option for entertaining is blending formal tables and chairs with informal seating like garden walls with benches on top – it creates extra spaces and allows you to adjust your entertaining for the occasion,” says John. “Add finishing touches such as outdoor rugs and cushions that can easily be changed each year to keep the space looking fresh.”
The best part is, outdoor renovations don’t just make sense from a daily living standpoint – they’re also a great way to add value to your home. An outdoor living area that leads off the indoor entertaining area can make a big difference to value, with the Cost Vs. Value Report estimating a 75% return on investment.
At the very least, it will give you somewhere to sit back, vino in hand, all year round. What’s not to love about that?