From balcony solutions to al fresco cooking: How to make the most of outdoor living in winter

Whether you live in a sprawling villa or a high-rise apartment, these tips and tricks will create a space perfect for soaking up that vitamin D

Twinkly lights lend an outdoor space a warm and cosy feel. Photo Lights4fun
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As we move into the cooler months, it's time to stop hiding in the air-conditioned indoors and instead head outside to enjoy a bit of fresh air. Being in nature is proven to boost our well-being and sunlight helps our bodies produce vitamin D, which is important for the bones, immune system and ­mental health.

So whether you live in a villa or an apartment, have massive grounds or a modest balcony, make sure you're investing as much time and energy into ­creating a beautiful outdoor space as you do on those within. Here are some trends and tips that will help you enjoy outdoor life.

Go faux with plants

If you're not much of a gardener, don't condemn yourself to living in a concrete jungle. Plastic plants are getting more and more sophisticated these days, so much so that it can be hard to ­distinguish them from the real thing. Faux flowers won't wilt in the heat and they'll last a lot ­longer than fresh ones, ­especially if you're a bit forgetful about watering plants. The only ­maintenance they'll need is the occasional wiping down to stop them from looking dusty. You could even go so far as getting false turf laid, which will get rid of the need for mowing the lawn, too.

Tabletop trends

A table is essential for any outdoor space, whether you need a spot to pop a cup of tea down, a place to rest your laptop while you do a bit of work, or a full-sized dining table for a foodie gathering. If entertaining is something you do a lot, think about how you can dress your table to impress guests – use fabrics, flowers or simple foliage such as eucalyptus, which also smells beautiful.

Let there be light

Twinkly lights lend an outdoor space a warm and cosy feel. Photo: Lights4fun
Twinkly lights lend an outdoor space a warm and cosy feel. Photo: Lights4fun

You can still enjoy your outdoor space once the sun goes down thanks to an array of outdoor light options. Strings of twinkly fairy lights give a garden a magical feel, whether you hang them along a fence panel, wrap them around a tree trunk or thread them through its branches. Clusters of candles make effective and functional centrepieces on outdoor tables and citronella scents will keep the bugs at bay, too. Don't let a lack of plugs stop you from using electric lights, though – there are some great battery and solar-­powered options available these days.

Real life rooms

If you’ve got the space, you can convert a part of your garden into an actual outdoor room. Invest in a gazebo with white linen curtains where you can luxuriate out of the direct sunlight on a comfy day bed with plenty of cushions, a good book and a glass of iced tea. For a less formal structure, create a sense of enclosure by carefully positioning planters around the perimeter of your “room”, using an outdoor rug to pull together any pieces of furniture you might want to include.

Raise a glass

Staying hydrated is especially important if you're outdoors in warm weather, so make sure you always have something cold and refreshing to hand. Glasses are prone to getting knocked over and broken – especially if there are children about – so opt for paper cups instead. From a pitcher of water with a few slices of citrus fruits to exotic smoothies to give a festive occasion a pop, the right serving items can elevate a drink into a real little luxury.

Next generation fabrics

Use slim scatter cushions as a padding on dining chairs and benches. Photo: Hock, Hock
Use slim scatter cushions as a padding on dining chairs and benches. Photo: Hock, Hock

Traditionally, fabrics haven't done all that well outside. They get dirty, wet and can fade. Thankfully, technology has improved in the past few years and now there are loads of futuristic fabrics that are shower and fade-proof, and great for using outdoors. If you've got a bench or outdoor sofa, you'll need a few scatter cushions, plus slimmer ones to provide ­padding on ­dining chairs. There's a trend for outdoor rugs at the moment, too, which are great for pulling together your outdoor space and giving it a touch of luxe.

Let’s get cooking

Al fresco feasts are such a joy, but what about the poor cook who gets stuck indoors at the kitchen stove, missing out on the fun? The answer is an outdoor cooking space, which might be as ­simple as a mobile barbecue or you can build a more ­sophisticated kitchen area. Pizza lovers could even have an oven fitted. All offer easy catering options for friends and family, and you can keep it healthy with grilled fish and meat and simple, fresh salads.

Save space on balconies

If you're an apartment dweller and you're thinking: "Well that's all very well if you've got the space – but what about me?" – don't despair. There are many ways you can turn even the smallest balcony into a fully functioning outdoor space. Choose a small expanding table and foldaway chairs that you can put away when not in use. Some can even be hung on hooks against the wall so you don't need to find a spare cupboard to store them in. Or opt for built-in seating with storage inside to give you some extra room. Floor pillows are another great option, and are very flexible and space-saving.

Inject some personality

Finally, remember this is your home and, just as you express your style through your ­interior decor, so your garden should be a reflection of who you are. Whether you like bright colours, minimalist lines or loads of room to display your treasures, keep this in mind when planning your outdoor space. Trends are a great way to get inspiration and get you started, but ultimately follow your heart to create an outdoor space that brings you real joy.