1. Take it outside

“To extend the family home to the outdoors, bi-fold doors are ideal, ” said Sandy Harvey, of Veranda in Claremont. Essential alfresco elements included a dining table with comfortable cane tub chairs to allow relaxed dining and a plush lounge to enjoy drinks and nibbles.

2. Raising the bar

The bar cart revival has also spread to outdoor areas, according to Emma McCarthy, from Table Culture in Subiaco. “Buy one on castors, so it can transition indoor to outdoor easily.”

3. Serve like a pro

“In terms of food and presentation, there has been a shift towards offering shared platters, ” said Justine Murphy, of Kitchen Warehouse. “People are also keen to choose presentation pieces that make a statement. Wooden boards and chopping boards have been really big in the last year.”

4. Back to nature

“The pleasure of having an outdoor retreat is enjoying all the comforts and luxury it offers, while being connected to nature, ” said Caroline Mazza, from Wandilla garden centre in Wattle Grove. “Plan your garden room so that it can be enjoyed through the changing seasons.”

5. Make a splash

“A water feature can be a fabulous addition, ” said Anna Stafford, of Watergarden Warehouse in Osborne Park. “Lit at night, they can create mesmerising light shows and provide a calming soundtrack for visitors.”

6. Instant alfresco area

“Create an outdoor room in the garden by positioning on a rug a sofa, two armchairs and a coffee table, and run power to a lamp either side of the sofa, ” suggested stylist Jane Fordham, of Queen of Theme. “Put a curtain up on the clothes line as a backdrop.”

7. Punch drunk

Refreshing, delicious and easy to prepare in advance, punch is making a comeback, according to Ms McCarthy. “Punch looks great served in large belly jugs if you don’t have a punchbowl. Serve a signature cocktail or punch and write (the) recipe on a blackboard next to a drink station.”

8. Alfresco essential

“For comfort and luxury and to encourage relaxation, use cushions freely, ” Ms Mazza said. “Strew couches, chairs and day beds with richly coloured cushions.”

9. Fresh decorations

“Now that the warmer weather is here and we’re eating outside, think about stimulating all senses for a truly sumptuous feast, ” said Eco Outdoor’s Rachel Tarlinton. “Garden flowers and fragrant herbs make perfect aromatic table decorations.”

10. Floor show

“For an exotic feel, try using richly coloured rugs to soften hard surfaces, ” Ms Mazza suggested.

11. Get glowing

Ms Stafford said glowing LED cubes or spheres created an instant talking point for outdoor entertaining, whether used for seating or side tables or placed in the garden or in the pool as a feature.

12. Make scents

“Place scented plants in pots close to your eating area, ” suggested Ceri Wagnell, of exterior stylists Empire Lane. “Gardenia has such a beautiful fragrance and it will reward you with masses of white blooms at this time of year.”

13. Less is more

“With smaller homes being built on smaller blocks and an increase in apartment living, clever use of outdoor space allows for extra living area, ” Ms Sonder-Sorensen said. “Even balconies can look incredible with some clever pieces and a few hardy plants.”

14. Plants in pots

“Potted colour either in pots or in the ground can be your best friend at this time of year, ” Ms Wagnell said. “Inexpensive annual plants can provide a big impact of colour that is hard to achieve in your trees and hedges.”

15. Slush fund

“The most popular item I have come across to definitely make your party a hit is a slushy machine, ” said Troy Franse, from outdoor kitchen specialists Infresco.

16. On tap

“Glass drink dispensers have been a great feature for outdoor entertaining as they present nicely and allow guests to help themselves, ” Ms Murphy said.

17. Short on seating?

“Having folding chairs available can make outdoor entertaining easy when extra guests pop in unexpectedly, ” Ikea’s Lene Sonder-Sorensen said.

18. Flame proof

“Portable, sexy, mood enhancing — even warm nights can benefit from a tabletop fire or fire pit, ” Ms Stafford said.

19. Choosing furniture

“Allow the outdoor space to be a natural extension of your home’s interior design, ” said Lillie Bull, from Contempo in Osborne Park.

20. Fake it

“Faux potted trees and plants throughout the area have become a popular addition as they are so lifelike but you don’t have to look after them and they don’t leave any mess, ” Ms Harvey said.

21. Simple seating

“Add capping to raised flowerbeds to provide additional seating, ” Ms Wagnell said.

22. Screening

“Use plants or trees to screen out neighbours’ roofs, ” Ms Wagnell said. “Sometimes it is best to plant the tree closer to your entertainment area to provide the most privacy.”

23. Esky update

“Make a feature of your esky or polystyrene box — simply cover it with some fabric with pins or wrap lots of ivy from the garden around it (and) place it up on the table with glasses alongside, ” Ms Fordham suggested.

24. Fabulous fabrics

“There are some great new outdoor fabrics available to make cushions out of, ” Ms Wagnell said. She also suggested using inexpensive cotton sheer curtains to hang in your alfresco area or pergolas.

25. Birds and bees

“Invite butterflies and birds to visit your outdoor room by planting nectar-rich flowering plants like buddleias and grevilleas, ” Ms Mazza suggested. “Add a decorative birdbath or bird house.”

Treat an outdoor celebration the same as indoors. It shouldn’t be the place for using old glasses and plates “in case they get damaged”. It’s a place for getting excited about being outdoors — and can be treated as a real extension of your indoor space. — Angus Whyte, Freedom


Image: Harvey bar cart, Calypso charger plates, and Le Marias coasters, from Bowerhouse; glass drink dispenser, acacia tray, oil bottle, and aqua bowl, from Wheel & Barrow; terracotta pot (used as cutlery holder), and citronella candles, from Bunnings; Rhubarb dinner plates, and Source Hida bowl, from Table Culture; Ecology jug, goblets, tumblers, bamboo salad servers, utensil holder, and Harley cutlery, from Kitchen Warehouse; tea towels, from The Front Door Home & Gift Gallery; replica Tolix stools, from designdirect; cushion (on bar cart) from Spotlight; other props, stylist’s own. Picture: Iain Gillespie  Styling: Meghan Plowman


© The West Australian

More Home and Garden at thewest/lifestyle/home


First published in The West Australian January 25, 2013.