I t's that time of year. The weather is warmer, the beer is colder and few things are better than having friends around on a weekend to share a drink, watch the cricket, have a dip in the pool or just to catch up.
But what do you do when your house just isn't big enough or when you don't have an adequate outdoors area?
■ Open up the connection between inside and outside.
Most houses have a back door and a couple of small windows in the wall that separates inside and outside. This is the biggest problem.
Consider opening up the wall with large sliding, hinged or retractable doors. Add some full height windows to the new doorway. You will bring a lot more natural light and ventilation into the house.
Once you have opened up the wall with the large glazed opening you can now see and move from inside to outside and you'll have the opportunity to create one large living space rather than two disconnected spaces.
■ Connect the spaces.
If you are building a deck or terrace to create your outdoor space, look at using materials that are the same as, or at least similar to, the materials inside the house to maintain continuity. For instance, if you have timber floors inside, then continue with timber outside on the deck. You may consider continuing a wall from inside the house to outside. If you can create that connection then it is more likely that you will use both spaces together.
■ Make sure that your outdoor entertaining area is flat and level.
There is nothing more uncomfortable than sitting in a chair which is unbalanced or having a table with a wobble.
■ Cope with the slope.
It can be difficult to create usable outdoor areas when the house may be a whole floor level above the rear yard. Our approach is to create a terracing of the decks, stepping down the site, each with their own identity. This gives you a number of interconnected spaces from the house to the back of the property.
■ Use elements like a water feature or distinctive planting at the back of your entertaining area. This will draw your eye all the way through your house from inside to outside, making your usable space feel much larger.
■ Consider giving the outdoor space a particular purpose that suits your family.
You may want an eating area, a sitting area or a recreational space for the kids. Keep flexibility in mind so you are able to alter the layout for a party, but make the space work for your lifestyle. If the space suits your lifestyle, then you will use the space on a regular basis.
■ Make the space more comfortable.
Connect the stereo system to your outdoor entertaining space so you can have your favourite tunes wafting through the conversation. You can even look at installing a television in a weather protected area so that no one misses a minute of the test match. By bringing our internal entertainment elements outside, it enhances the experience outside and extends your entertaining area.