As Australians, I think we can all agree when it comes to outdoor living and entertainment no one does it better.
It has become an essential part of the Australian way of life — nothing beats a Sunday arvo barbeque with a couple of coldies with friends and family.
That is until the rainy season starts to settle in with heavy storms putting a halt to our beloved celebrations. However, this has not deterred most Australians. Instead, we have adapted and adopted a new way of outdoor living and entertainment.
Rain, hail or shine, the indoor-outdoor alfresco area has changed the way we live, providing a multipurpose entertainment area that can be used all year round.
Whether you’re building a new home or looking to renovate your current patio, we tell you how to plan and design a great alfresco area from start to finish.
Start with a plan
Have you ever gone grocery shopping without a shopping list? It spells disaster. You end up overspending on goods that you don’t necessarily need with the majority of it either expiring or sitting in the cupboard for 6months.
Get a piece of paper and start writing down all of your ideas. This will give you a broad idea of what your dream alfresco will look like. From here you’ll be able to organise and prioritise what you really want and cross off things that don’t fit in with your vision.
This will make the design and plan phase a lot easier when you show your finalised list to your builder and designer.
Here’s a brief list of considerations, feel free to add your own.
- What will your alfresco be used for?
- Who will be using your alfresco?
- What will it look like on the outside and the inside? Think about privacy.
- What is going inside it?
- Will there be an outdoor kitchen?
- Should secure and easy access to food prep areas or indoor kitchen?
- Who are you cooking for?
- How many people will be using it/entertain? Size and Seating.
- How often will you be using it?
- Do you need water and/or gas access?
- Are you planning to use it all year round? Will it be sheltered?
- What is your budget?
- What is your timetable/schedule?
- What materials will you be using? Consider maintenance
- How will your alfresco area fit with the rest of your garden? Have you considered creating zones?
Purpose — What will your alfresco primarily be used for?
Deciding what your alfresco area will be used for is the first step to planning and designing your dream alfresco.
This will determine what appliances and furnishings are needed, if it will require shelter and weather protection, and ultimately affect the overall cost of your project.
With this in mind, let’s begin the process.
Size and seating — How many people are you entertaining for?
Size and seating will heavily depend on how many people you plan to be entertaining for, which should be clear once you’ve decided on the purpose of your alfresco area.
What is a good size deck for entertaining? We find a minimum width of 3.5m is a good starting point, which provides ample space for an outdoor dining table, chairs, and walking room without feeling cramped.
A comfortable sized alfresco area that can incorporate a family or entertain a few guests (seat 4-8) is around 3.5 x 5m.
The size of your alfresco will have a large impact on the decorating and styling of the space so keep this in mind for when you start to choose furnishings such as chairs, tables, lounges, heaters, fans, plants, or outdoor kitchen necessities.
Shade and shelter — Are you planning to use it all year round?
As Australians, we have been blessed with all four seasons, with beautiful sunshine in summer to thundering storms in winter. This also means you’ll need to cater for all four seasons with your new alfresco area.
Being comfortable outdoors is heavily dependent on providing sufficient shade and ventilation during the hotter months whilst keeping you protected, snug and warm during the colder months.
Using your existing patio or roof will be the best solution for when it comes to shelter and shade. If you’re starting from scratch, economical roofing materials such as polycarbonate roofing is a perfect solution that will allow for sunlight and provide weather protection.
As for the surrounding area, we recommend investing in some zip screens or cafe blinds that can be lifted in summer and closed during winter.
The lighting you choose will be an important factor for when it comes to setting the tone and mood of your alfresco area. Here are some lights to consider for various sections:
- Feature lights for general illumination
- Motion sensor lights for added security
- Solar-powered lights placed in the garden or near pathways
- Hanging lights
- Wall lights
- Step lights on steps for safety
- Poles for lighting larger areas
- In-build deck lighting
You will then need to consider the placement of switches, energy-efficient bulbs, light timers, and wiring.
Outdoor kitchen — Will you be cooking outside?
A big decision to make is if you plan on installing an outdoor kitchen. Not only do you need to carefully consider the size of your space, but also your budget. To put it plainly, outdoor kitchens aren’t cheap and you will quickly find out just how much it costs as you add up each component.
If you do plan on getting an outdoor kitchen, you’ll need to consider the following:
- What are you going to be cooking? This will determine your cooking appliances and materials, whether it be an all inclusive BBQ, fridge, burner, cabinetry, sink, and bench.
- Who are you cooking for? This is in relation to how many people you plan to cook/ entertain.
- How often will you be using your outdoor kitchen? You don’t want to go all out and drop $10,000 on an outdoor kitchen if you only plan to use it once a month.
- Easy access to food prep areas — an indoor/outdoor connection such as the kitchen window.
Decorating and styling
Decorating and styling your alfresco can be an overwhelming experience with many falling victims to conflicting styles with the interior of their home. Choose themes that coordinate with the styling and design of that inside the home to create a flush transition between the two areas.
To create a more calm and relaxed mood:
- Use darker tones
- Experiment with natural materials and textures such as natural stone and timber
- Relaxed furniture such as lounges and large armchairs
Don’t overdo it on personalised items, as this can affect the resale value if you ever made the decision to sell.
Privacy — How to create privacy without blocking your view?
A dilemma often faced when building an alfresco is how do you block out the snooping eyes of your neighbours without obstructing your view.
After all, the whole point of an outdoor entertainment area is to be closer to nature. The best way to overcome this issue is by envisioning yourself seated in your pyjamas enjoying your morning coffee — can your neighbours see you?
It doesn’t really matter so much when you’re standing because if your dining outside you’ll be seated most of the time.
Look to add elements such as vertical gardens, hedges, cafe blinds or mesh zip screens. This way you have the option of creating privacy when needed without cutting off your outdoor connection.
Budget — How much are you going to spend on your Alfresco?
Knowing your budget is the key to building a successful alfresco.
With all that has been planned and designed throughout the process above, if you run out of budget halfway things are going to get messy.
Most of your expenses will depend on the quality of the build, appliances, materials and labour. for this reason, it is impossible to give a cost range.
For example, liquid limestone starting cost per sqm is roughly $60 plus GST, whereas exposed aggregate starting cost per sqm is roughly $85 plus GST
Keep in mind that running water, electricity or gas will require the work of a licensed professional, as it is illegal to conduct any sort of plumbing or electrical work without a license.
A key point to take away is to not max out your budget on the build.
Allow yourself some breathing room for any mishaps along the way, that way you aren’t digging into your savings.
Alfrescos have become an essential part of modern living in Australia. It provides a stylish and contemporary, yet comfortable living space for relaxing, cooking and entertaining.
When designing your alfresco area, it’s important to consider the harshness of the Australian climate and its vast ranges of temperatures including scorching hot summers and week-long deluges in winter.
At Seamless Concrete we have done the hard yards for you by helping you design and install the perfect alfresco flooring in Perth.
- Liquid limestone: extremely low maintenance, slip-resistant and stylish in design.
- Exposed aggregate: create a beautiful and colourful aggregate pattern of your liking to transform your entire landscape.
- https://www.seamlessconcrete.com.au/products/honed-aggregate-perth/Honed aggregate: for practicality, comfortability and visual aesthetic, honed aggregate provides you with a soft to touch surface that’s cool in summer and easy to clean.
- A grind and seal could also be an option, it would bring some shine to your aggregate without being slippery.
- Ceramic tiles will always be a fitting option as well. They can stand the heat and no lack of designs and colours. they do require more maintenance though.
If you do not live in Perth, there are plenty of concreters out there who can lay decorative concrete for your backyard. No matter what the material and colour of your flooring might be, opt for colours and materials that would be similar to what you have indoor and outdoor (eg your front yard, around the pool and so on) so it is more harmonious and zones tie in nicely.
When contacting professionals make sure they also provide a whole range of landscaping services including limestone walls, flower beds, synthetic turf, soak wells, block removal and more so you save time and deal with as few companies as possible.