Outdoor living essentials
Signature 4-burner barbecue from Beefeater in outdoor kitchen; www.beefeaterbbq.com Photo: Joel Barbitta
Whether you're planning a garden party or just want to set up a spot to relax in the sun, there are some must-have items that will make outdoor living and dining extra enjoyable.
When entertaining outdoors, nothing is more convenient than having a place to cook and clean just steps away from the dining table. Incorporating a functional kitchen into an outside entertaining area feels like an extension of a home's interior.
These whizz-bang kitchens can be built-in or positioned as mobile units, and are usually equipped with sinks, stovetops, fridges and plenty of benchtop space for preparing meals.
Mix up the menu
There are plenty of conventional barbecues, but a specialist grill or cooking attachment will allow for varied menu options when cooking outdoors.
Built-in stone hearths or wood-fired pizza ovens are becoming particularly popular, but there are also other, less permanent, solutions, such as pizza grills that sit on the hotplate of a standard barbecue or portable Mexican clay pot chimineas that rest on iron stands. Plus, there are pack-and-go charcoal grillers, spit roasters and steamers.
Be a gadget geek
To cater to the desire to cook outdoors, there is an ever-increasing number of small appliances and gadgetry designed specifically for this purpose.
Take a chance this summer and invest in a gadget that has piqued your interest – you may end up wondering how you ever lived without it.
A gas safety gauge is a handy gadget that attaches to a gas cylinder to monitor gas usage. Large furniture and homewares stores have a number of great ideas for the barbecue, including a wireless remote thermometer, mini smoker box, barbecue chef press for burgers and grill baskets designed specifically for meat, fish or vegetables. And if you haven't got a set yet, choose any brand of boxed tool kit for the barbecue.
Add charm to your outdoor party with some fireside appeal. Everyone enjoys gathering around the "camp fire" no matter whether it's a built-in brick fireplace or a simple iron fire pit.
The crackle of a fire, of wood burning and flames dancing, particularly at night is a delightful focus in an outdoor area, as well as being a practical way to keep away the chill of the night air and ward off any insects buzzing nearby.
Go for glow
Set the mood and keep your soiree swinging after sundown with decorative lighting. In addition to the necessary garden and house lights to illuminate paths and cooking areas, you can easily add romance and whimsy by draping fairy lights in a tree, floating votive candles in bowls, placing hurricane-style lamps around the garden or by stringing up oriental paper lanterns along a fence or balcony.
In the shade
A large sun-shade canopy is one of the most important investments you can make in preparing your outdoor living space for the summer.
Large hardware retailers are often the best places to go for elegant awnings, sleek shadecloths, funky gazebos or decorative tents. Or make a statement with a colourful designer umbrella.
Whatever you acquire, make sure it is made from high-density polyester, which blocks out harmful UV rays.
Make your entertaining area the most lived-in room outside the house by furnishing it as you would your inside living room. Outdoor seating can be made more comfortable with lots of plump cushions and a large outdoor rug, either woven from natural or man-made fibres. For extra soft seating, add some canvas beanbags; padded hanging chairs look great, too. But nothing is better suited to lazing about outdoors than a hand-woven hammock made for one.
Privacy screens and decorative trellises are a stylish way to delineate sections of the garden or, depending on how close you are, keep you visually separated from your neighbours. Vertical wall gardens, colourful laser-cut screens, bamboo stands are all elegant devices to block views from surrounding homes. Plus, they make a cool design statement and can add a theatrical atmosphere.
Flora and fauna
The best part about outdoor living is that Mother Nature does most of the decorating.
Make a vertical garden full of edible treats, add rows of colour-coded pots or hedge the borders to make the area feel more intimate.
Welcome some native birds or sugar gliders into the garden by planting native species, then erect little wooden box birdhouses designed to exclude predators. Lastly, ensure your evenings are insect-free by burning some aromatic incense or citronella-infused candles.