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How to create the ultimate outdoor entertaining area

By Mikaela Fowler

Create an outdoor room your friends and family will love spending time in this summer.

Whether you’re working with a sprawling backyard or pocket-sized inner-city courtyard, creating a functional and beautiful outdoor entertaining area is more than achievable. With the right planning, your home can be the perfect setting for late afternoon barbecues in summer, lazy morning family brunches and year-round meals with friends.
To help get you started, we’ve asked James Hardie from HardieDeck™* to create a list of things to consider that will help you design the outdoor entertaining space of your dreams.

Approach your outdoor area as you would an indoor/outdoor room and dedicate time to planning your space. How do you plan on using your outdoor area and what does it need to contain? If you’re hoping to host large groups, you’ll need to ensure there’s enough space for a large dining table. Do you want to cook outdoors? Barbecues and outdoor kitchens could be other potential considerations.

If you’re working with a large area try creating different zones, each having its own purpose. This will be much easier than working with one huge and overwhelming garden area. Try and incorporate a focal point, whether it be a dining space or vertical garden. It will help to draw guests into the garden from the inside — water features are a smart way to provide background ambience.

Not only is lighting an essential when it comes to night-time entertaining, it’s also an easy way to create some atmosphere. Solar garden lights are a cost-effective and non-obtrusive way to light your space. Showing off garden features, place lights below feature trees and alongside plants.

If your outdoor area features a dining space, make sure there is soft yet adequate lighting—no one wants to dine with harsh lights glaring in their face or be sitting in the dark while trying to guess what they’re eating. Permanent fittings are a great solution for undercover patio areas, where indoor-style overhead lights can be mimicked, adding a formal touch. If you’re area doesn’t feature any ceiling space, opt for wall-mounted light styles instead.

If you’re looking to hang decorative-style lights (string fairy lights, for example), factor this into your planning process to ensure you have enough power point sockets situated around your garden. Running cords through windows is not only ugly, but dangerous, too. Candle lanterns are another way to populate the space, adding character as well as light. Position them in safe areas around the pool and beside stairs for full effect.


Outdoor areas have been a main feature of Australian homes since day dot and advances in materials mean outdoor and indoor spaces can now work more cohesively, giving the overall home a more contemporary feel, and low-maintenance option. Choosing the right timber decking will save you loads of time and money on repairs and updates further down the track, and so it’s a worthwhile investment.

A great outdoor area will respond to its surroundings. Use your home’s surrounds as a starting point for your garden inspiration. The goal is to create a space people enjoy spending time in, and easy-to-grow foliage is a simple way to boost your area’s tranquility factor.

Work to your conditions: If your space receives little to no sunlight, make sure you’re picking plants that can grow in the shade — think Haworthia Fasciata Zebra plants or Maidenhair Ferns. Establish your home’s microclimate by keeping an eye on weather patterns and average expected rainfall. By selecting plants that work with your environment it will make gardening so much easier than trying to fight nature.

When it comes to styling, start simple. An over-cluttered outdoor area will look chaotic and cluttered. When working with potted plants, start by allocating one area and group them together, making sure there’s a variety of plant size and shape. A clever way to continue your interior style and to help fuse the indoor and outdoor space is to feature pots in the same colour scheme. Visitors will find the outdoor area inviting, and it will make your home feel larger overall.


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