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Work with the elements

8 October 2019
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When creating your dream outdoor area, there are at least five elements that should not be overlooked. Words Gaynor Stanley.

AIR

Gathering around a barbie on the deck is a national summer pastime but, with the trend to outdoor rooms fast gaining traction, maybe it’s time to consider upping your game this season. Taking the inside outside is what outdoor living is all about in 2019. Essentially, an outdoor room extends
your living area outside for extra space to relax or entertain in. The best designs are a natural extension from indoor living areas that flow seamlessly to the garden. What distinguishes outdoor rooms from patios gone by is their feeling of enclosure, delivered by a ‘ceiling’ or ‘walls’ that frame a space which remains open to the elements. It’s also important to aim for a level of decoration and comfort akin to your indoor living areas.

Your outdoor room needs to be functional in all seasons and offer adjustable protection from the sun, wind or rain. It also needs to look good, and attractive, operable roof and wall louvres in timber, metal or glass
are now abundantly available from local specialists like Outdoor Style, Aurae, Stratco and Johnson & Couzins. Fixed or sliding panels or fabric screens are other good options to provide shade, privacy and styling for your easy, breezy outdoor room.

Next comes the fun stuff. Furnish your al fresco living room so it’s ready for you or your guests to sink into a comfy couch at the first hint of a mojito. The newest outdoor designs rival indoor ranges for appealing soft furnishings, while upping the ante for practicality. So forget wooden benches and ditch the cushion box, and instead invest in quality all-weather fabrics that allow you to leave your room ready to receive people 24/7.
Add some ambient lighting, speakers and inconspicuous heating – Goom Landscapes recommends radiant heat strips positioned out of the way on the ceiling or walls, or alternatively try heating from below using heated
pipes in concrete formed sets or outdoor flooring. Focus your outdoor haven around a mesmerising flame or water feature, and accent it with lush plants or perhaps a rug or throws to keep things cosy on cooler nights,
and you may not congregate indoors again until autumn.

FIRE

No self-respecting outdoor room or entertainment area is complete without the element of fire. A flickering flame taps into our primal need to gather, chat and laugh, so plan a freestanding fire or fireplace built into a feature
wall to become your focal social point. If space, or council regulations, are prohibitive, have a look at the options for fire pits and fire tables.

Alternative heat sources, like gas or bioethanol, are increasingly available.
You’ll also want something to cook on, and there are some seriously tempting new options, like the circular OFYR from Queenstown’s Outdoor Concepts. This novel grill from Holland, which comes in concrete, black or Corten steel, functions as both an architectural focus and a cooking hub. Its cone-shaped fire bowl has a wide, flat outer rim that doubles as a high-efficiency grill plate. An open fire at the bowl’s centre uniformly radiates heat to the surrounding hot plate. Think of it like a giant fondue set where all your guests gather round, warmed by the flames, to grill their steak just as they jolly well like it. When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie that’s amore, and you are going to love having an outdoor pizza oven. The challenge with a traditional pizza oven, though, is that they are designed to keep the heat in and not warm the surrounding area. To enjoy both wood-fired dough and warmth, seek out products like Flare Fires’ stainless-steel pizza hood that sits on a frame within its outdoor fireplace.

EARTH

Landscaping your surroundings contributes invaluably to that sense of enclosure and feeling of being in the great outdoors that you want for your outdoor room. You might grow a grape or passion fruit vine up ceiling posts or across fixed louvres or pretty things up with some mini citrus in colourful pots. Frame your outdoor space naturally with plants that double as privacy screening, and think about using potted plants to augment your colour theme. Try sculptural beauties like succulents, cacti or agaves in statement planters, or source vertical garden planters (try Outland Living) for a wall of greenery or herbs. For a less hard-edged look than timber or metal, keep things natural with large rocks artfully arranged to screen and enclose seating areas.

WATER

Set your soundtrack to soothing with a trickling fountain or water feature or captivate with the glistening blue of a swimming pool. Or go for the ultimate in H2O enticement, a swim spa. Christchurch’s Mayfair Park Landscapes is developing a flat-panel water feature that incorporates an outdoor shower as an option for its ‘outdoor living sanctuary’, a bespoke designed space that would typically include a deck, louvre roof, outdoor fire and a water feature.

But why stop at a shower, when you can have an outdoor bath? Wanaka’s cedar hot tub star, Stoked Stainless, has added an electric bath to its range. Generously seating two, the tub nicely straddles the gap between outdoor bath, which must be refilled with hot water prior to each use, and a full-blown spa pool (and comes in at roughly half the price). Return from the beach or mountain biking to a ready-drawn steaming bath, complete with massaging jet. The stainless-steel interior is low maintenance and you can soak chemical-free by using Simple Silver to kill any bugs.

METAL

Weathering steel, most often the brand Corten, is increasingly prominent in residential landscaping. A corrosion-resistant oxide film on the surface of the steel protects it while fostering the development of a beautiful rusted patina as the steel ages. Its attractive red, orange and russet tones are an architectural favourite and increasingly available in planters, fire pits, fireplaces, garden bed edging and screens to add some rugged beauty to the backyard.

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