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Outdoor area decorated with white posts
Turn an outdoor space into an all-year living area by getting the lighting, heating and weather protection just right.

Outdoor living all year round

To create a cosy, all-season outdoor space, there are three essential features: protection from the weather, practical lighting, and a heat source for the coldest months. Nail these elements, and you can create a space to be enjoyed year-round, regardless of what the weather is doing.

1. Gimmie shelter

Good weather protection is the top of the list. For that, you’ll need a semi-permanent fixture or permanent structure. For an existing roofed patio, consider attaching outdoor bistro blinds. These work like temporary walls that can go up and down when needed and provide protection from cold weather elements. For small spaces such as a balcony or courtyard, pick a fixture that can be moved, such as a bamboo screen or planter boxes with dense hedging plants.

Permanent structures offer a more durable solution. The downside is a lack of control over the level of sun they let in or water they keep out. Plus, most permanent structures require approval from your council or a certifier. For maximum protection, try timber or aluminium roofing or a battening system. A louvred structure is also an option, with the benefit of being adjustable to suit the weather.

Outdoor living space featuring a timber bench seat and fire pit

2. Let there be light

Adding light is one of the simplest ways to make an area more inviting in the colder months. “It also increases your home’s safety and security,” says Jason Neophytou, lifestyle expert at HPM. If the space suits, consider hard-wired lights, which are more powerful than solar or battery-operated ones. “However, they need professional installation, so they can be more costly,” adds Jason. You’ll need to make sure your chosen lights are designed for outdoors, so check with an electrician.

In a large backyard, combine lights from a variety of sources. “Up/down wall lights are great for entertaining spaces as they highlight features while drawing the eye away from less desirable areas,” says Jason. “Bollards and bunker lights are ideal for safely illuminating uneven surfaces and creating a path of light for visitors, while floodlights are perfect for entryways and garages.”

Solar lighting is an economical and sustainable option and solar lights come in all shapes and sizes, from spotlights to strings. Solar deck lights can be installed straight into the deck, while solar garden bed spotlights can be used to highlight feature plants or walkways.

Illuminated outdoor dining space

3. Select a heat source

A permanent source of warmth is a must for a space that can be used all year. “A freestanding gas heater is perfect for patios, decks and smaller areas like courtyards and balconies,” says Peter Kamali, Bunnings’ outdoor heating buyer. “They use radiant heat that travels through the air to warm where it’s needed most, up to 17 square metres. The only con is you’ll need to replace the gas bottle.”

Tip: Safety is paramount. “Look for a gas heater with concealed flames, plus a shut-off valve that will cut gas supply to the heating element if it falls over,” says Peter.

A fire pit is an entertainer’s dream on cold nights. It can be integrated into the overall design of an outdoor area, but it must be placed on a heat-resistant surface (not on a deck, for example) and situated a safe distance from the house and furniture.

Tip: Check fire pit plans with local authorities. (For example, an open flame can’t be used on total fire ban days.)  Fire pits should always be kept clear of any combustible materials, while any electrical fittings must be rated for outdoor use and be installed by a licensed electrician.

For a larger area, Peter recommends combining a few heating sources, such as heat strips installed in the ceiling, a gas area heater for the entertaining zone and a fire pit for ambience.

Greenery filled outdoor bench seat featuring a freestanding gas heater

Conceal the amenities

Check out our top screening ideas for outdoor areas.


Photo Credit: Cath Muscat, Brigid Arnott and GAP Photos/Clive Nichols

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