It’s no doubt that as Australians we have great summer months that are filled with BBQs and backyard parties with good friends and family for company. Just because the weather is about to turn cold in Canberra, we shouldn’t be expected to return inside and become reclusive during winter!

However, unless you have a great outdoor space that is equally as comfortable in winter months, it can be difficult to entertain or enjoy the outdoors when the sun disappears before 6pm and the weather is too cool for comfort.

So how can you create a functional and enjoyable outdoor area that allows you to enjoy your backyard into the winter months too? Here are some guidelines that may help you to create or revamp your existing outdoor space:

Evaluate what you already have, and decide on the function of the space

It goes without saying that you need to know what you want to achieve before you can start working your way towards it, so understanding how you would like to use your outdoor space is one of the most important steps to achieving an outdoor room you’ll love. Will you use your space for large dinners or relaxed finger food and drinks? Will you have monthly dinners for 12 family members, a relaxing glass of red in the evening with your better half or rowdy parties for your toddler’s birthday? This will immediately give you a brief about the size, shape and location of your outdoor room.

Weather protection

If you don’t already have a covered area don’t fret, not all successful outdoor rooms need to be covered completely. Perhaps you could install a retractable roofing system or maybe you might install a demountable shade sail or waterproof sail depending on the requirements of the season. It could be a trellis with plants growing on it to provide shade or perhaps an outdoor umbrella if you only need to keep 2-4 people dry.

Privacy from neighbours/sense of enclosure

To really enjoy your outdoor space you’ll want to feel that people aren’t looking on or listening in, and this is really important when creating a sense of enclosure for your outdoor room. Above I mentioned that you don’t need a roof, but for an outdoor room you will need at least one wall and some other elements to ‘define’ your room.

It’s nice, especially at night and in the winter months, to feel enveloped by the space. There is a sense of security and comfort that comes with this but remember, you don’t want the space to feel claustrophobic so if your outdoor room is close to the outer walls of your house, usually a few screens to ‘define’ the space is enough. Alternatively, if you’re close to a fence line, you could use plants either in the ground or in pots to create some privacy from your neighbours.

A good screening element will do a few great things; provide visual and verbal privacy, provide some wind protection in the winter months as well as provide shade for the summer months, so doing a quick analysis of the wind and sunshine locations are very important at this step.

Choosing the lighting

In the winter months, you’ll be using outdoor lighting more due to the sun setting so early, so getting the lighting conditions right is very important. If you use a warm light (yellow not blue colour) it will provide a warmer ambiance and this can add to the comfort level of the outdoor room. Consideration of lighting is often overlooked outside, but it is one of the most important steps. Depending on the ‘brief’ you established at the beginning of the project, the kind of lighting you use can really set the mood and atmosphere for your space. A pendant over the outdoor dining table could create a real family affair or centred over the top as a focal point. Alternatively you could use some wall mounted up-lighting to create an intimate formal setting, some bollard lights in the garden for a more casual affair, or using recessed ground lights focus on a spectacular tree in your backyard.

Try to avoid spot lights, these are good for when you’re doing work in the backyard but not at setting ambiance.

Use white noise

Who wants to hear traffic or dogs barking in the distance when your outside trying to unwind from a hard day’s work? One of the best ways to drown out these unwanted noises is through creating some white noise; white noise is essentially the creation of a constant sound that helps limit the focus we place on the other noises around us. Some of the best white noise is running water, so consider installing a water feature to create a relaxing atmosphere whenever you step into your outdoor room. It doesn’t need to be big, you’d be surprised at just how effective running water is at blocking out unwanted noises!

Cooking, heating and keeping warm

Heating the outdoor room is important if you want to use the outdoor space in the evenings and there are a number of ways to do this: portable outdoor gas heaters, bio ethanol portable fireplaces or a fire pit. Alternatively, you could combine two functions with a wood fired oven, use it to cook your roast or pizzas and keep your outdoor area warm all winter long.

If all else fails, who doesn’t love curling up with a blanket?! You might have noticed a few cafe locations recently providing blankets to patrons for the cool winter nights in Canberra and you could do the same.

Colour , pattern and texture

Last but certainly not least, you want your outdoor room to be a comfortable and ‘homely’ space where people can relax, so why not use some outdoor rugs, cushions, textured wall panels and patterned blankets? You’ll be amazed at how many products there are that are sun and weather protected so they don’t fade or wear.

Your imagination is your only limit, so start creating your outdoor space now and enjoy it all winter long.

About The Author

Elise Miles Simonovski

Elise is an ACT Registered Architect and Interior Designer with many years experience working on Public Architecture, Commercial Architecture and Primary, Secondary and Tertiary educational projects in Canberra and Sydney. Additionally Elise has 10 years experience as an Interior designer, and has completed numerous Luxury Residential Interiors amidst her extensive Commercial Architecture and Interiors career. Elise contributes to teaching the next generation of design professional’s at Canberra Institute of Technology and has also taught at the University of Canberra. Education is a cause close to her heart as Elise considers this an important influence on the Design and Construction Industry.

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