Australians love the great outdoors, but it’s all too easy to neglect our outdoor spaces when we think about rejuvenating the design of our home. We tell ourselves, it’s too big a job, no one sees the backyard anyway, and besides, it’s too expensive.
But an outdoor renovation can breathe new life into your home like nothing else, so we talked to Steve Jovcevski, property expert at financial comparison site Mozo.com.au, to get some top tips on refreshing your outdoor spaces – without sending you broke. Here’s what he had to say:
Assign the space a purpose
If you’re working to a budget, the first thing to do is sit down and think through what you want to achieve with your outdoor space. Will you be hosting big groups of people? Relaxing on your own? There’s no point spending a bundle on beautiful lawn furniture that you have to pack away every time family comes over because the kids want to play backyard cricket.
Choosing a centre piece for your outdoor area – say a classic BBQ – and then working out from that is a good way to create a cohesive, useful space. Decide what you want to use the space for, then make sure all your effort – and money – is going toward that purpose.
Keep up with maintenance
Another easy thing that will give your outdoor areas an immediate boost is making sure you keep everything – from lawn, to garden beds, through to outdoor furniture or decks – well maintained. A nice neat lawn that’s mowed and watered regularly looks a thousand times better than one that’s been neglected, and old patio furniture can often be rejuvenated with a good scrub down and a bit of elbow grease.
Make an escape from the weather
One key way to make your outdoor space more useful and versatile is by putting up some kind of cover to keep it safe from the weather. This doesn’t have to be a full-blown pergola – a fabric sail can work just as well to keep the hot Aussie sun off and transform your backyard into an oasis.
It’s important to make sure your design elements all compliment each other and unify the space, and getting this major element right can help you with the design and tone of the rest of your outdoor entertaining area.
Light up your life
When it comes to fairy lights, I find people either love them or hate them, but there’s a reason they’ve been a hot trend lately – if you often entertain at night, stringing fairy lights above an outdoor seating area is a quick, relatively cheap way to add a touch of magic to your backyard.
It’s a good idea to plan out where you’ll place the lights before you start, and as you do, keep in mind that the more lights you have, the more expensive it will be to buy and then run them. And remember – if you’re leaving them up permanently, make sure they’re not too exposed to the elements. Stringing them up under a pergola is a good way to keep lights dry.
Get creative with outdoor furniture
Outdoor furniture is one aspect of home design that I think you can really afford to get creative with. So instead of heading out to IKEA with a shopping list, think about DIY options, like repurposing old cinder blocks, tree stumps, or barrels as seating and tables.
The beauty of using these objects – aside from giving new life to what might have otherwise ended up as rubbish – is that you really get the chance to put your own style into it. It can be as rustic or luxurious, colourful or elegant, eclectic or streamlined as you want to make it.
Opt for remnant stone
Hardscaping – putting in features like retaining walls, walkways and edging – can be one of the most expensive parts of sprucing up your outdoor areas. If you like the quaint, cottage-y look, one way to refresh your hardscaping while keeping a handle on your budget is to use stone leftovers that you can get cheap at building supply auctions.
This look isn’t for everyone though – so before you go ahead, make sure remnant stone will suit the overall look of the space. If the rest of your exterior design is ultra-sleek and modern, it’s going to look pretty out of place. A nice, modern alternative that might suit your look better is a green wall.
The design of a great outdoor space often starts at the bottom. Choosing the right paving material can make a big difference to both the look of your space and your budget. Generally, crushed rock or gravel is a less expensive option than traditional pavers, and with the right styling, can look just as good – just don’t forget to lay weed mat first. Polished concrete is another good, low-cost and low-maintenance option that I personally favour.
If you prefer traditional pavers, think about interspersing them with grassy areas to cut back on the amount of expensive material you’ll need.
Steve is Mozo’s property investment and lending expert. With an extensive knowledge of home loan products and property trends, Steve is full of practical tips to help first homebuyers, refinancers or investors build and get the most out of their property portfolio.