Small Alfresco Design, Melbourne

The Brief

The Brief for our own Alfresco dining area was to create a semi-enclosed Outdoor room design, that gave us the feeling of a secluded coastal-style resort, and provided much needed extra living space in our small cottage house. Finally after 21 years living in this home, we’re getting it looking the way we’ve always wished for.

We needed an outdoor alfresco design that could be used all year round, for our small family and as an outdoor entertaining area for family gatherings & sit-down meals for up to 16 people. It needed to be an outdoor lounge and an outdoor dining area. It needed to have space for a small BBQ, which we could use even in winter.

We spend most of our summer living in this area, and quite a bit of the winter too.

The Challenges

Every Interior design project has its fair share of challenges, and each is unique to that project. The Lap Pool & Landscaping had been completed 6 years earlier, and at the time there was no plan for the Alfresco area (that was still a far-off dream). Therefore, there had been no planning ahead of the layout, design, ground level heights or materials selection for a way to integrate the home with the backyard.

The total size of the block is 375sqm, and the size of the backyard (from the back of the windows to the fence) is about 10m x 12m wide. We had limited space to work in to get it all right, it was a bit like a jigsaw to make the layout work most efficiently.

One of my ‘must haves’ was for a seamless integration from walking out of the house into the Alfresco dining/lounge area and into the lap pool area. It needed to look as if it had always been planned that way; every part of the design is intentional. (Before photos below)

As I mentioned, the house is 20 years old, and the existing design of the rear of the home has no real features, and finishes are dated, with a patchwork of different building materials, paving finishes & fence types. The whole area benefitted from the new addition to create a relaxed holiday vibe.

The Design

This was my chance to add some of the things I love; I had a big list to tick of of ‘must haves’ and ‘nice to haves’, and I’m pleased to say we managed to fit most in, such as the vertical garden & small vegetable patch (but not the hanging boxing bag or hammock; just can’t have them all).

The Alfresco side wall conceals our neighbour’s unsightly metal verandah & part of their house, and adding lattice to the top of the fence further tidies up the view. Once the hedge trees have grown, we’ll have an almost totally secluded space.

The small veggie patch & Holmans Vertical garden replaced my old larger veggie patch, and provides much needed shelter from driving Northerly wind and rain.

Outdoor blinds are perfect for providing that year-round flexibility that is a must for us. They are the zippering style with pulleys and cords; I love that they sound of the zippering up reminds me of tent camping as a child in the ’70’s. We chose a very dark grey that we can see out during the day, with privacy viewing in during the day.

To refresh the outdated colour scheme, the existing & new timber has been painted Dulux “Luck”, with a feature wall in Haymes Artisan Series, Bloom in Pumice. The old reddish brick-look concrete has been concealed under the new timber look Ekodeck Designer Series in Backbeach (we plan to paint the rest of the concrete near the veggie patch in a dark grey soon.

Painting the feature wall in Haymes Artisan Series, Bloom in Pumice

Good alfresco lighting design is a key to a great finished design; here we added Fat Shack Vintage Oval cage bunker lights to the outside of the Alfresco area – good lighting at night was high on my list of priorities to make the area a space which is easy & enjoyable to be in at any time if day. Solar LED hemp rope style lights add that twinkle & coastal-style living at night. Beacon garden uprights illuminate the planting around the pool.

Fat Shack Vintage Miner suspended ceiling lights give flexibility in the Alfresco dining area; if I want, I can move them to different hooks or change the height to suit the furniture layout. All the lights and fixtures are in black, which works well with the very dark grey painted timber.

The existing home is cooled with evaporative cooling; this means that we can open the windows & door leading to the Alfresco space, essentially blowing cool air into the space. Beacon Lighting Bayside Nautilus Fans give that extra air movement needed in the height of summer. I can also say that this space has kept the main living area of the house cooler in summer; we haven’t needed to use the air-conditioning as much as previous years.

Originally, we planned to add ceiling mounted Alfresco strip heaters. We found the requirements for installation too restrictive, and would have needed to upgrade the power, while the heaters themselves had mixed reviews in terms of effectiveness. Using the BBQ in winter quickly warms up the Alfresco area. We use faux-fur throws and a small fan heater if we really need warmth otherwise. An outdoor rug under the lounge seating prevents cold air rising through the gaps in the decking.

In order to marry the existing Lap Pool & Landscaping area with the Alfresco area (which are at slightly different heights, we introduced a border of natural river pebbles between the existing sandstone paving and the new Ekodeck. The colour of the pebbles was chosen intentionally with a mix of Soilworx Natural Charm sand & grey colour pebbles, which works well with the Ekodeck Designer Series in Backbeach adding to the coastal-style alfresco design.

The project was completed during the 1st Victorian Covid lockdown in 2020, as timber was getting hard to source, and I ended up painting the entire area myself. The Alfresco area provided the extra space we needed for exercise, and to find a quiet personal space to sit when we all felt like we were on top of each other.

Size: 375 square metre block, with a 30 square metre Alfresco space