Things to Consider When Designing Your Alfresco Dining Area
You’re planning a new outdoor dining area – lucky you! An alfresco area extends your living space by utilising your back or side yard. An ideal entertaining space increases your property value while enhancing your life.
When planning any home extension or renovation it’s important to ask lots of questions. Are you planning to eat in your outdoor alfresco area all year round? Are you wanting it for family life or dinner parties?
Will the space be an extension on your living area and therefore require living room comforts such as sofas and a TV?
Will beverages be a big part of your alfresco area? What space do you have to work with? Does your alfresco area need to freely connect with the house to encourage people outdoors? Is there privacy, shade, path access?
When it comes to alfresco areas there’s no one size fits all approach to where it should be located and how it should be laid out. Asking yourself these questions will help find what’s right for you and your home.
Sketch it out
Creating an outdoor living space conceptually requires thought and time. To get started, sketch out any ideas you have and list some key points that you’d like to include in your design. Remember to include any existing paths, flower beds, fences, deck areas etc. Take a tour of your garden if you need to, making a note of what you want to keep and what you want to remove. Also take note of the amount of sun and shade in your garden and where you gain the best view.
Once you have an idea of what you would like, consult a landscape designer. With their expert advice you can transform your vision and sketch into a real life oasis. Armstone has a select few landscape companies they can recommend depending on your preferences in style and cost
Not sure where to start with your sketch and inclusions? Consult Google, Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration. Also browse landscape design posts, speak to friends and family, or pay a visit to the Armstone showroom in Glebe and one of our expert staff can help you.
Plan for all weather
Providing a good spread of shade and protection from the rain and wind will ensure you can use your alfresco area whenever you like. There are many ways to do this, from tiled roofs to pergolas, shade sails, umbrellas and screens. A fully constructed roof can be expensive and will probably need council approval but it’s a great asset for the space. An economical material such as polycarbonate roofing will allow for both sunlight and weather protection. An even cheaper option could be to incorporate plants or some well-positioned trees.
What about warmth? Would a fireplace or pizza oven provide needed warmth in winter?
Vital services will need to be added to your scale plan, services such as electricity, gas, outdoor speakers, water and lighting. Talk to a qualified electrician about installing general purpose outlets (GPOs) in strategic spots and consider connecting your gas barbecue to the mains so you’re not forever refilling gas bottles. Any cables or plumbing that needs installing, be it for lights, music, a sink or a water feature, should be installed before the pavers are laid.
If planning a new alfresco area from scratch it’s nice to treat yourself to a new barbecue. Decide on your barbecue early on and include it in your plans. A barbecue is often a place where people congregate to chat so position it where it has its own enclave, slightly separated from the main entertainment area. This allows barbecue conversations to be kept separate from table chatter.
If you’re considering a fridge outside, you should also add this to your plans early.
Reflect your style
The materials you choose for your outdoor alfresco area should ultimately reflect your style and the style of your home. Don’t just choose materials you can afford, choose materials that work well together to create an effective, long-lasting and safe outdoor area. Consider the inside of your home and make note of the elements you’d like to bring outside. Think about how your outdoors and indoors can work together to complement each other.
Also consider the space itself. If it’s windy, a lightweight aluminium dining table could be dangerous and easily blown around. You might like to consider something that’s a little more on trend and heavier like a purpose built concrete, stone or wood table.
Contrast is the secret ingredient that creates memorable spaces. Contrast creates visual interest and personality and the effect can be subtle or stimulating depending on the mixture and medium. An alfresco area laid primarily in rectangular-cut flagstones can seem a little less formal with smaller pieces of contrasting stone placed here and there or grouped in a border. A dark brick alfresco area edged with white crushed stone appears crisp and tailored.
Contrasting colour and texture brings natural stone to life in an awe-inspiring way. Too much colour, however, will create a busy space that feels cluttered an uneasy. Keep it simple such as picking up the mint and mango colours in our Himalayan Sandstone Pavers.
Considering the environment and climate conditions in which you live is important for choosing plants and flowers for your space. Consider plants for architectural character, for cook’s supplies (herbs, chillies etc) or pot a lemon tree with a base of mint for all those refreshing cocktails you’re going to make. Think about fragrance and what it will do for your space, choosing from fragrant favourites such as: daylilies, frangipani, lavender and mock orange.
While the size of your space largely comes down to what you want to put in it, a minimum width of 3.5m is a good start. Any smaller and you won’t have much room to move around your table and chairs. Lengthwise, think about the size table you want – a 4-seater, 6-seater, 8-seater, 10-seater, and then add at least 1m circulation space to each end.
Found the space you need and ready to start creating your dream outdoor space? Talk to the design experts at Armstone and choose your natural stone or porcelain pavers. Our large selection of marble, granite, limestone, travertine, bluestone and sandstone means we have strong, beautiful and durable pavers to suit whatever design you dream up!