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July 6, 2020 – Published in Design & Decor Summer 2013 issue
Words: Kenneth Tanti – Interior designer
Summer is once again creeping up on us after being exposed to rain, wind and, this time round, sand from the desert. Soon will be the time when outdoor living becomes part of our daily life – be it spending time gardening, eating outdoors, entertaining friends or just relaxing and reading a book.
Outdoor living can involve any space from the smallest Juliet balcony to the largest garden. Houses in Malta have so much potential when it comes to outdoors spaces but all too often it is an opportunity wasted with rooftops, terraces and even courtyards ending up as nothing more than storage for old furniture or just a cemetery for dead plants.
With some decent planning and ideas one can turn these spaces into the most fabulous outdoor areas. This is the time of year when most home-stores are advertising and displaying their outdoor ranges in a market which is continually growing. With Budgets to suit all pockets there are enough styles to last a lifetime along with trends and fashions that tend to come and go from one season to another.
One can not dispute the standard necessity of having a good sized dining table with comfortable chairs that can withstand any climate. Ideally these can stay there outside all year round eliminating the worry of having them packed up in the winter or put away at night to protect them from dew. These tables and chairs nowadays come in every shape and form and are made from a variety of materials ranging from wood to stone or even all-weather, man-made products.
Chairs may also be stackable to get them out of the way when preparing for the winter or when organizing a large party for guests and this highlights a key consideration when planning your outdoor space which is not to over clutter with too much furniture.
The choice has also become endless when it comes in choosing a simple umbrella. These now have diverged into sails, canopies, side opening umbrellas and much more to choose from. What’s important, however, is their practicality. It is useless having something that looks good but does not create enough shade over your dining table. Side opening umbrellas are my personal favourite. You can cover the table, rotate them sideways to cover your seating area or even tilt them at an angle to create privacy from prying neighbours!
For those lucky enough to have larger spaces, the world is your oyster. Designing outdoor areas has become as much fun as designing interior space. With the amount of outdoor furniture and fabric available we sometimes have a hard time making decisions. We almost create outdoor open rooms by having the lounging area, the dining area, the tanning area, the social area and so on.
Grouping pieces of furniture together to create niches where guests can gather and feel cosy is another important aspect. Just last month we completed a garden that included a wonderful fire pit right in the centre of a group of comfortable armchairs making it the perfect area to gather in those slightly chill evenings or even just to have the fire lit as a feature during the summer months. The flames of a fire always add a certain something regardless of the season.
Other areas may include a sofa layout that replicates a living room and may also include armchairs, a coffee table and sometimes even an outdoor TV!
Outdoor fabrics make it possible to have the same comfort you have indoors. Plain tones or bright colour choices are a matter of personal choice and ultimately depend on how adventurous you want to be. The themes are also endless. At home I personally have fused an Asian style with a Mediterranean twist. I love to travel to both places regularly so why not try and bring a piece of your favourite destinations into your own space. It might keep the travel itch at bay for a while.
Don’t forget that any little space may be used. Roof tops in Malta, for example, form wonderful entertainment areas. Invest in a good looking decked floor and practically anything you choose to put on it will look good.
Adopt the habit of outdoor cooking and you will never look back. It also helps in keeping your kitchen spotless. Find that cosy niche on the roof where the wind is not that intense and build an outdoor room or alternatively an awning with a temporary structure to create shade in the summer. These will all help enhance the experience of al fresco cooking.
Plants are another vital role in creating an outdoor space. They are what outdoor living is all about. One does not need to go overboard and create a jungle that will take up most of your time to keep alive, but a few strategically placed plants in large heavy glazed ceramic pots will do the trick and certainly give your outdoor space a heartbeat!