“It’s not a new phenomenon, but Australians really did pioneer the outdoor room,” says The Block judge and Love It or List It host Neale Whitaker. He puts it down to our lifestyle and fabulous weather. And with the open-plan interior trend having dominated for over a decade now, it’s natural that it would would eventually extend to the outdoors.
“In recent years, people have become aware of how an outdoor room can enhance their lifestyle while adding value to a home,” says Neale, who sees the backyard (or even deck) as no longer just home to a BBQ and a couple of sun loungers, but a legitimate additional ‘room’ all of its own.
“I used to live in an apartment in Sydney’s Alexandria and the deck was almost the same size as the indoor part of the home,” says Neale who, through clever design, was able to use the space for much of the year. “I designed the deck just as I had the indoors. I put a sofa out there, coffee table and art on the wall,” says Neale who found it was a wonderful way to increase the footprint of the home.
But ensuring a seamless result, from the inside of a home to the outdoors, hasn’t always been easy; in large part due to a lack of available outdoor products. For example, once upon a time, if you favoured a Scandi aesthetic there was no way that look could continue through to your home’s outdoor area, but now it can.
“Outdoor furniture was once pretty generic. It all felt the same. There was a lot of that woven plastic furniture from the Philippines which didn’t wear very well,” says Neale, who is an ambassador for King Living. He explains that not only are outdoor furniture designs better than ever, but the outdoor fabric technologies are too. “Given that amazing strides have been made on this front, you can now replicate the style you have inside, on the outside too.”
So with summer on our doorstep, what are Neale’s top tips for creating a fabulous outdoor room?
Assess the space
First up you need to really look at the space; what are its dimensions and what sort of light and shade do you have? “An outdoor room is a wonderful idea but if you have no sun protection you will need to think about how you can live in the space,” says Neale, who suggests installing a sail cloth as a great initial step.
How do you live?
Next up, you need to think about how you are going to live in the space. “I would give the same advice to someone renovating their kitchen or bathroom. You should think about what you really need and don’t overspend on unnecessary items,” says Neale who cites the outdoor BBQ as a great example of an often-underutilised item. “Depending on how close your kitchen is, you may not need to invest in an elaborate and expensive BBQ,” says Neale.
Furniture and accessories
“Stop thinking of the backyard as a backyard and think of it as a logical extension of a living space and apply the same rules to create it. Think of it as a room without walls,” says Neale who believes that getting the furniture right is fundamental.
“Obviously everyone has to work to a budget but if you can, I think it’s worth investing in a quality big ticket item such as a comfortable and stylish sofa,” says Neale. Then pair it with a couple of stylish outdoor chairs, an outdoor rug, coffee table and even lamps if you’re adventurous. “If you’re going to use the space at night you do need to consider your light sources,” says Neale, who loves finishing off an outdoor space with an array of gorgeous pots and plants.