As we are heading into summer in Australia our outdoor spaces become even more important to our homes. Being a country known for the outdoor lifestyle it’s no surprise that Australians do anything they can to make the most of the weather, even when they are relaxing at home. Therefore the indoor to outdoor flow in every Australian home is important. There is just as much emphasis put on the design of smaller outdoor balcony spaces as there is for the larger gardens in the suburbs, for most these areas are as important as the indoor living spaces.
With the way that many Australians use their outdoor areas you could be mistaken for thinking that these areas are an extension of the indoors, often designed using indoor design principles. Many homes have a second cooking area outdoors, fully equipped with gas cooking appliances, food and drink preparation areas, and refrigeration. The flow to these spaces is so open there is no boundary between the two effectively merging into one living space. Design trends from Australia include the use of natural timbers, bamboo, and sustainable materials all of which are really popular for use in furniture and decking. Depending on the region, large and indigenous tropical plants can also be a feature, again displayed using interior design principles but a very different sense of scale.
This season fabulous bright fabrics that stand the test of time under the strength of the Australian sun are being applied to luxurious loungers and sofa’s, outdoor dining sets, and smaller pieces such as scatter cushions and chair seat cushions. These are a great ways to add colour and pattern that contrasts beautifully with the colours of nature. Bright yellows, kelly greens, and sea blues are all colours of the season, the brighter the better. My personal favourite collection is the Bondi range from Warwick Fabric. Stand out colours in stripes, geometrics and bright block colours really do evoke feeling of summer energy for the outdoors.
A strong trend this season also includes the use of external lighting with a Moroccan twist in the form of chrome lanterns. These are used either hanging from a balcony or stakes in the ground, to a cluster simply placed on a dining table. These lanterns can offer a wonderful ambience when dining out at night.
To achieve a fabulous indoor to outdoor flow there are a few design principles that will assist you:
- Use as much glass as your home and budget will allow. Whether this be in the form of bi-fold doors that allow you to open up to the outdoors completely, or for a more budget friendly option install sliding doors. Just as long as you achieve as much open access as possible you can’t go wrong.
- Leave your doors and windows treatment free. By not using blinds or curtains you will have a constant connection with the outdoors. If privacy is an issue use options that are fairly hidden when open such as roller blinds or sliding panel blinds.
- Using a floor treatment that flows well between the two areas will give instant connection. Floor boards that flow to timber decking is the easiest way to achieve this.
- Think about your interiors connection to the outdoors too. Use colours and materials found in nature in you interior design, with plenty of indoor plants, timbers, and decorative items that echo natural colours you will instantly feel the energy flow both ways.
- Think about protection from the elements, with roof extensions, awnings and sun shields. It’s not just about the rain as we all need to be sun smart.
Planting is also key to a good outdoor design. Wall gardens are proving popular for those that have limited external space. Using native planting and hardy succulents vertically gives a similar effect as a larger garden without giving up much needed space for seating. Asian style gardens are also still very much on trend, with a nod to Feng Shui rules creating balance and symmetry through planting, sculptural placement and water features.
Finally artwork isn’t restricted to interior design only, external wall art and sculptures are never more popular. There are many artists in Australia that offer ideas for pieces that can be hung externally and stand the test of time in terms of the weather – think less cherubs and more like Banksy. From colourful abstract pieces painted onto hard wearing acrylic to brass sculptures that weather and change over time to add more depth of interest. One such artist is Mary Rafter – www.mrartanddesign.com. Mary produces the most wonderful original artworks to buy for outdoor spaces. You can choose one of her ready painted pieces or commission her by providing her with a colour palette or just a meaningful piece of inspiration and she will create something original.
So don’t forget your outdoor spaces, there could be an opportunity here to increase your living space by creating a welcoming entertaining area right in your back garden. Not to mention the value you can add to your property, especially in warmer climates.
If you have a garden or balcony that you are proud of please write in and tell us your story.