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OutdoorAlfresco Ideas: 9 Features We're In Love With!

If you’re looking for some functional alfresco ideas to guide you through your backyard reno, you’re in the right spot!

We recently took one family’s tired brick home and transformed it into an absolute haven. And the alfresco area is the star of the show!

In this article, we’re sharing all our secret alfresco ideas that took the outdoor space from drab to (seriously) fab. Learn how we saved, where we splurged and what you need to consider for year-round enjoyment in Australia.

Whether you’re planning the total overhaul of your backyard or just want to improve the patio, these ideas will help you create a functional alfresco zone the whole family will love.

The best idea when planning an alfresco is to stop and think about exactly how you’re going to use it. Your goal is to get the most amount of use out it!”

Nikki from the Making HOME team

An outdoor fireplace

Outdoor fireplace.

An outdoor fireplace is a fantastic alfresco idea because of how much comfort it brings to outdoor living. Whether it’s the middle of winter or the end of summer day, a fireplace is a cosy place to gather the family while still enjoying the outdoors.

Because we extended the rear of the house, we had the opportunity to install a built-in panoramic fireplace. The beauty of this particular fireplace is that it’s flueless and ignites at the touch of a button. So it’s the fuss-free answer to glorious warmth at any stage of the year.

However, if you are working with an existing area and can’t build a fireplace into a wall, there are options. Standalone units are available for most kinds of patios and decks, including customisable smoke-free gas outdoor fireplaces. Fire pits are also booming in the popularity stakes for their affordability. So, if you have the space, consider building a safe backyard fire pit for the family.

Tough, beautiful cladding

Alfresco table and cladding idea.

We’ve been renovating homes for decades and believe that cladding is the most effective way to transform an alfresco area.

The beauty of modern cladding is that it gives you the look and feel of timber without any of the headaches associated with it. This includes resistance to fire, weather and pesky insects.

We used a combination of two cladding products for a truly bespoke finish, and it’s proof that you definitely can clad over bricks! The panels arrived pre-primed and went up in a day, ready for a splash of our favourite outdoor white, Taubmans Cotton Cream.

A feature wall

Feature limestone wall in alfresco area.

We always look to weave lots of different textures into living spaces, and the alfresco is no exception. One way to add visual interest to alfresco spaces is to include a feature wall. We did this around our fireplace by using 3D limestone cladding.

Here are some other feature wall ideas:

  • Vertical gardens
  • Outdoor murals
  • Mozaic walls (although this is quite labour-intensive!)
  • Rows of shelving
  • Stone walls
  • Water features

Weather-proof blinds!

Outdoor blinds in a covered alfresco area.

If you have a covered alfresco area, adding weather-proof blinds is a must! What makes them such an essential element for outdoor living is the versatility they bring to your space.

When it’s raining, close them up and shield the lounge area from water. Or, when it’s hot, block out the heat and sun. They’re also fantastic for keeping pesky mosquitos and other critters out of your good times!

We used a combination of PVC cafe blinds and black patio blinds for our alfresco. Together, they offer premium weather and insect protection without blocking light and views – and they look amazing, too!

Light in all the right places

Antique barn light mounted on an outdoor wall.

One thing is for sure, barn lights are having a big moment in Australian backyards for all styles of homes. As an alfresco idea, we love them for the character and charm they bring to outdoor living zones. They’re also a great way to add a bit of personality, colour and texture.

For a beautiful glow, try antique-style wall lights, and for focused light, go for a gooseneck.

Comfy seating

Alfresco area with outdoor fireplace and armchairs.

Camping chairs have no place in your brand-new alfresco zone! The best idea for maximum comfort in your alfresco is an outdoor sofa or set of gorgeous armchairs.

We went with two low-profile metal-framed armchairs positioned at 90 degrees to each other. We specifically chose really deep seat cushions for a luxurious and inviting aesthetic and topped it off with some decorative feather cushions.

Just the thing for whiling away a few hours by the fire!

Food preparation station

Outdoor cooking area with bench and built-in bbq.

Every great outdoor space needs somewhere to prepare food. We highly recommend adding practical benchtops, a built-in barbecue and — if the budget stretches far enough — a beverage fridge.

By having a dedicated cooking zone within your alfresco area, you eliminate the need to constantly go inside the house. This means convenient cooking and less foot traffic through the house – important if there are wet feet in the equation!

An outdoor cooking zone also creates a fantastic social hub, a place for friends and family to gather and enjoy the outdoors together.

Plenty of natural light

Outdoor skylights in an alfresco area.

If your alfresco area is open, without overhead cover, then natural light is likely to be plentiful already. However, when covering an alfresco, as we did in this renovation, it’s important to avoid making your space dark.

The solution to this is large windows and skylights!

We’re huge fans of skylights in covered outdoor spaces for how much light control they offer. Ours are fitted with solar blinds, so they still let the light pour in but block unwanted heat and sun. Love that.

Remember, you want your alfresco space to feel like you are outdoors, so embrace natural light wherever you can.

Go big with greenery

Potted plants on a paved patio.

There is always room for plenty of greenery in an alfresco area, so when it comes to your favourite plants, don’t hold back.

One of our favourite alfresco ideas is to use pots to create a veggie, fruit or herb garden. Aside from the aesthetic appeal, they smell beautiful, they’re a fab way to encourage little ones to grow their own food and they are a tick for sustainability.

After more inspiration for your home’s outdoor areas? Check out Episode 3: Exterior of our series for how we created a picture-perfect Modern Farmhouse.

What to see the whole series, head over to our YouTube channel!

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