It's time you considered your outdoor spaces

The plan plus the pieces that will allow you to live outside all summer


By Charl Edwards and Inge Prins

They say it's what's inside that counts, but a handsome outdoors space will make you reconsider... As South Africans we're blessed with one of the most hospitable climates in the world, and so you should look at creating the type of outdoor space where you'll be able to relax and unwind as comfortably as you would in your living room. 

Whether you're working with a terrace, balcony, patio, deck, garden or sprawling acres of land, the message remains the same – aim to create a serene and secluded sanctuary and you'll invariably spend more time here basking in the sun, enjoying seasonal alfresco meals and clinking glasses with the family and friends who'll always RSVP 'yes' to every opportunity they get to share your home with you.

Here's our tips on creating the ultimate outdoors retreat, a space that will make you, and everyone else, want to linger longer.

design better outdoor spaces

The lay of the land

In the same way that your lounge is probably built around the TV and your dining room is all about the table in the middle of it, a well-designed outdoor space needs a focal point, too. If you have a view, this is what you want to arrange your furniture around. Otherwise start with, say, a sofa, adding the rest around this. And while large pieces of furniture send out a clear message as to what the area will be used for, you can also use rugs and plants to add colour and texture to your space while establishing preferred traffic patterns and the different zones within your outdoors space. 

Small space solve

If your space is small you'll want furniture that doubles up as storage (check out our best storage solutions for hiding in plain sight). Not only will this save you from clutter, you'll protect soft furnishings from the elements, too. 

Take several seats

 You want to have as many different seating options as your space can afford without it feeling cluttered. This allows guests to break away from formal arrangements for more intimate chats; the extra chairs, stools or benches come in handy when a big meal requires a few more settings.

design better outdoor spaces

Blur indoors with outdoors

Outdoor living spaces that seamlessly connect to indoor rooms allow the most ease of use and offer refuge when the weather turns inclement. Create a sense of the outdoors in rooms where you wouldn't otherwise expect it using stacking doors and windows that open up the space completely, while open air showers and self-contained private courtyards are luxe sanctuaries that pour fresh air and sunlight into your living spaces. 

Value-added updates

If you regularly maintain your big ticket items (seasonal sanding and varnishing is the key here) you'll be able to keep your outdoor furniture forever. You won't be as lucky with your soft furnishings though, which will invariably wear out. This is not a problem, as trends change and new accent pillows, refreshed slipcovers and fresh towels are some of the easiest and cheapest way to update your space.

design better outdoor spaces

In your element…

Whether you have an affinity towards fire, water, wind or earth, you should bring in elements of each in order to create balance in your outdoor spaces. It doesn't matter if you have fire in the form of an outdoor kitchen, fire pit or portable braai, as long as there's a flame to watch and something for guests to gather around, you're good. Water can be the sea-view from your patio, a swimming pool, or even the trickle of a water feature. Introduce the concept of air with a wind-chime, potted plants on your patio that convert the city's carbon dioxide into oxygen, the striking impact of an air-brick feature wall or the pure joy of a meal enjoyed al fresco. Get down to earth and connect with your garden. Scientifically proven to have positive effects on our health, both mentally and physically, gardeners and florists are often much happier than people in more prestigious and better paid jobs. Gardening's therapeutic effects connect us to nature, awaken the senses and create feelings of peace and wellness.

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