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The outdoor living room: Investing in your lifestyle and property

By Geoff Smith

Transforming outdoor areas into all-season living spaces has become a major trend in the past few years. It makes perfect sense – we are blessed with relatively mild, often sunny winters, so why wouldn’t we extend the time we can spend entertaining, cooking and relaxing al fresco with friends and family all year round?

Here’s a look at the essential elements for outdoor living rooms that not only enhance your lifestyle but will boost the value of your home.

Design the space

When creating your ideal outdoor living space, remember to keep its primary purpose in mind. Whether you’ll be using it mainly for relaxing or for hosting lively gatherings, your outdoor area should harmonise with your lifestyle and flow effortlessly from your home’s interior.

How much of the area you will want covered will depend on the site; you or your architect also need to take into account your outdoor space’s orientation, the direction and hours of sunlight in all seasons for optimum shaded and sunny spots, and general wind patterns – there’s no point sitting a firepit and open seating in a potential wind tunnel.

The layout is just as important as inside your home, in terms of functionality and aesthetics; for example, you’ll want the dining area close to the outdoor kitchen, and maybe a separate, peaceful area by the pool or for lounging on sunbeds. Accessibility to services such as power and water is key, while plants, trees, natural screens and pergolas all have a role to play in the overall design and look of your outdoor living space. Lighting is another element that can make a big difference when you’re entertaining outside in the evenings.

The outdoor kitchen

Outdoor kitchens can be just as sophisticated as indoor kitchens these days, but the main differences are that the equipment and cabinetry need to be manufactured from durable, weatherproof materials that are specifically designed for outdoor use.

While you’re in the planning stage, check out Superdraft’s website, which provides some inspiring design ideas and a wealth of practical information about layout, workflow, materials, landscaping and more.

Several Sydney companies specialise in designing and installing outdoor kitchens. Kastell Kitchens has a showroom in Castle Hill, an hour’s drive from Mosman, so you can see models and designs in situ. inLusso is an Australian company that provides high-quality cabinets, benchtops, bar fridges, sinks and barbecues you can order online.

However, it’s always a good idea to consult a reputable local architect or draftsperson for expert advice.


Whether or not you install the full outdoor kitchen, a firepit has become the latest must-have feature for gardens and courtyards. Firepits come in all shapes and sizes and when surrounded by built-in, decked or portable outdoor seating, they become another attractive outdoor entertaining zone.

There are a few practical things to consider before buying or building a firepit, however.

  • As mentioned earlier, choose a sheltered spot so smoke doesn’t get in everyone’s eyes.
  • To protect decking or pavers below firepits from staining – and for safety purposes – use a purpose-made mat, which you can buy at hardware stores such as Bunnings and BCF.
  • According to the NSW Environment Protection Authority, fire pits and barbecues must only use dry seasoned wood, liquid petroleum gas (LPG), natural gas or preparatory barbecue fuel (including a small quantity of fire starter). Anything else that causes excessive smoke is not allowed.
  • While live flames create a wonderful ambience, some people prefer gas-fired firepits because they burn cleanly, can be turned on and off at the touch of a button, and they are generally portable.
  • Check out Manly-based company Outdoorium for a huge selection of firepit styles and prices.
Furniture and furnishings

A lot of contemporary outdoor furniture is good enough to use indoors. However, as with outdoor kitchen equipment, it has to be able to withstand rain, humidity and harsh sunlight.

When buying any sort of furniture, check that the main components are durable and easy to maintain as well as comfortable and stylish. For tables, dining chairs and frames for sofas and upholstered chairs, you can’t really go wrong with stainless-steel, aluminium, wrought-iron and resin wicker.

Wooden furniture does require some maintenance, even if it’s just a yearly application of oil, so make sure you know what’s required. Teak is generally considered the best all-round wood because it doesn’t warp or crack and is highly resistant to rot, insects and decay because of its high natural oil content. Shorea, eucalyptus and white oak are other hardwoods commonly used in high-quality wooden furniture.

Fabrics for soft furnishings and outdoor floor rugs should be hard-wearing, fade-resistant and easy to clean. The best-known man-made fabrics for outdoor use are solution-dyed acrylics by Sunbrella, but there are alternatives such as olefin, which has slightly different properties.

As for furniture designs, there’s almost endless choice. Osier Belle in Neutral Bay produces a beautiful range of collections. The company’s designers offer personal consultations and furniture can be individually customised for a truly bespoke look. Or you might want to mix and match one or two focal pieces with furniture from stores such as Ikea and Freedom.

If you’d like to discuss how to update your home to achieve its best price, please get in touch.

Geoff Smith, Director
Ray White Lower North Shore Group
0418 643 923

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