COSY UP YOUR OUTDOOR SPACE
Winter-proof your outdoor entertaining areas and keep the party going all year round.
Make a winter wonderland in your garden with these clever ideas.
WARM UP First of all, turn up the heat. There’s only a few degrees between “crisp and invigorating” and “cold and miserable” – and your guests won’t linger if they can’t feel their feet.
Gas is the go-to option for heating verandahs, patios and outdoor dining areas. High-mounted strip heaters create an even heat zone over a long table and are particularly effective in a covered area, or fixed beneath eaves. Tall cafe heaters work better in an open courtyard space, as their hoods help spread the heat. Electric heaters will also do the job, but for ambience you can’t beat the flicker of flames.
Fire pits are perfect for an open or semi-enclosed area. If you have small children, you might want to avoid a low-set open bowl and go for something built-in and guarded.
Size is simple: the bigger the area, the bigger the pit. Chimineas are a great alternative for small or awkward spaces – they sit in the corner and radiate heat like a pot-belly stove.
Fabrics and soft furnishings bring colour, warmth and comfort to the scene. Cushions, blankets and throws help push back the chill and retain heat from the fire. Texture plays a big role: look for rich, tactile fabrics, such as velvets, chunky yarns and soft, fluffy faux fur, to create a luxe look that is accessible right now and affordable.
Waterproof materials are the sensible outdoor option, but they can’t provide the warmth of fabric and wool. Protect non-waterproof items outdoors with easy and practical storage like a lidded plastic tub or zip-up waterproof bag tucked inside a bench seat. Knitted pieces are best stored indoors.
Increase the winter wonderland look by stringing fairy lights around the perimeter. Warm metals, such as brass, copper and bronze, add depth and lustre, conjuring up an enchanted garden in the flicker and gleam of lanterns and candles. Keep the atmosphere intimate by avoiding spotlights. Instead, use a combination of uplights, garden stake lights, fairy lights and hurricane lamps to create a strong but diffused light. Always make sure there’s enough light for guests to see their food and easily move around the area. Use stair, stake and ground lights to clearly mark edges and obstacles.
Bare tree branches stark against the winter sky have a gaunt beauty all of their own. You can soften their edges with winter flowering plants. Hellebores, snowdrops and lavender add an elegant flourish and have fragrant seasonal blooms. Winter is also citrus season – dwarf and ornamental varieties grown in large pots add structure and definition to the space. You can also use trees, pot plants, screens, shutters and blinds to initiate a very simple form of climate control by blocking cold draughts and trapping pockets of warmth around your fire pit or heater. Bamboo blinds and shutters work best to enclose patios and verandahs, while screens and vertical plant walls are your friend in the garden proper.
Natural warmth Wood-burning fire pits can give the ambience of a real campfire setting. Warm up summer rattan furniture with soft cushions and throws. A table-style fire pit provides a handy ledge for your drinks. Even if you don’t usually have a sitting area, why not create a cosy corner just for winter? Give your guests a chunky knit blanket to wrap up in.
Winter shopping See page 94 for the best buys in outdoor heaters and fire pits. LED string lights in Grey, $8 for 10, from Bunnings. Faux fur cushion cover, $24.99, from H&M. Archie Geo throw, $39, from Ezibuy. Primus lantern, from $11.99, from Anaconda.
Northcote Pottery Glow Vivo fire pit in Rust, $59, from Bunnings. Ombre Home floor rug, 133cm x 180cm, $29.99, from Spotlight.