Designing Alfresco Areas for Your Perth Home
Our wonderful Perth climate and lifestyle are perfectly suited for alfresco living. Alfrescos are almost an essential element in any new Perth home. They are used to link the indoor and outdoor spaces of a home. Essentially they are an extension of your indoor living area and should have a northern orientation to take advantage of the low angle winter sun.
They are generally used as an external dining room with their own outdoor kitchen. However, they can also be utilised as an entertainment area for guests and provide the perfect place to enjoy a book on a sunny winters day. Alfrescos should provide enough shelter from the elements so that they can be used during times of poor weather.
If your budget is tight and you don’t want to double up on another kitchen, you can use your existing kitchen to serve the alfresco area. This will save you money and space, but you’ll miss out on having a built-in barbecue.
With clever planning and design, your kitchen can be opened up to the alfresco area in a couple of ways. As a residential design Architect, Antony Svilicich can show you the different options. One possibility is using a bi-fold servery window to directly link the kitchen and outdoor dining area. Your kitchen benchtop can then be extended outside the servery window to become an alfresco breakfast bar. This allows food and drinks to be passed out from the kitchen to guests outside.
An alfresco area could be incorporated into an existing home in several ways. One way is to provide a roof covered outdoor area next to a north facing living space. If there isn’t any existing access from the living room to the outside area then the existing window could be opened up. Depending on the width of the opening and your budget, you can use sliding doors, stacking doors or bi-fold doors to provide direct access to the new alfresco area.
If there is a height difference between the internal living area and the outside, then a raised external timber deck could be used to provide the same floor level between the inside living area and outdoor alfresco area.
Enclosing Alfresco Areas
To enable your alfresco area to be used all year round, you can enclose it using several different options. The cheapest option is using café style plastic roll down blinds. As well as being cost effective, they provide protection from the wind and rain as well as providing a view to the outside.
Another option is the use of louvred shutters, which can be bi-fold, hinged or sliding. They allow you to keep the weather out and help you control privacy within your alfresco area. The louvred shutters let uninterrupted airflow and light inside the space whilst keeping the sun out.
Sliding stacking doors and bi-fold doors are other options to consider. Bi-fold doors are more expensive and generally require a structural support above the door opening to support the weight of the doors. Bi-fold doors have the advantage of being able to open up the entire width of the opening.
Sliding stacking doors are generally cheaper and don’t require any structural support above the opening. Unlike bi-fold doors they can’t open up the entire length of the opening and generally one third of the opening is a fixed glass panel.
When enclosing an alfresco area with doors you will be altering the open space of your block. As a general rule an alfresco is considered as open space as long as it’s open on at least half it’s perimeter. If it’s enclosed then the alfresco is considered as part of the building.
Although it depends on the zoning of the property, most Perth properties have a 50% open space requirement. If the footprint of your home already occupies 50% of the area of the block, then technically you won’t be allowed to enclose the alfresco area. Before proceeding with enclosing the alfresco area, speak to your local council, who can advise you as to what you are allowed to do.
Flooring options for your alfresco area can vary from paving, exposed concrete, timber deck or tiles. The same floor material as the adjacent living space should be used for the alfresco floor. This makes the alfresco area feel like it’s part of the internal living area.
Stainless steel is a popular choice for outdoor kitchen cabinetwork. If using stainless steel make sure that it is 316 marine grade stainless steel. However, even 316 marine grade stainless steel is susceptible to tea staining, which is the overall surface discolouration due to superficial corrosion. It is mainly cosmetic, but is likely to progress to more serious corrosion, if not removed as soon as possible after it has appeared. Generally speaking the shinier the finish to the stainless steel the less likely the material will suffer from tea staining.
There are also high grade laminate finishes that are suitable for an outdoor kitchen. Check the UV rating of the material and ensure if possible that the cabinetwork is protected from the weather.
Granite and engineered stone are excellent choices for the benchtop. As with internal kitchens marble should be avoided because it stains easily.
If you want your alfresco to have a separate kitchen, then must haves are a barbecue, sink, dishwasher and outdoor fridge/freezer, which can be custom built into the cabinetwork.
If using a gas barbecue then a special rangehood is required to extract the smoke when cooking. These rangehoods are more powerful and need to be situated at a higher level above the cooking surface than your typical rangehood.
Pizza ovens are also popular additions to alfresco areas. As well as being able to make great pizzas, they can also provide a focal point to an outdoor area.
As well as a built-in kitchen, a built-in fireplace is a popular addition to an alfresco. Although not very practical in terms of providing warmth on a fresh winters evening, they do provide a visual focal point to the space.
Similarly fire pits are becoming a popular feature to outdoor entertaining areas. They are generally located adjacent to an alfresco area and as with a fireplace they are more a focal point than a source of heat.
Water features such as ponds can also look great, as well as provide a relaxing ambience to an outdoor living area.
TVs are also a popular must have item in an alfresco area. If installing a TV to an outdoor area, make sure it's well protected from the weather. Also bear in mind that if there is excessive sunlight to the outdoor area it will be difficult to view the TV during the day.
A ceiling fan is also a great addition to an outdoor alfresco area. A fan will help with air circulation on those hot summer days and nights. Alfresco areas with higher than normal ceilings, or ceilings that are raked or coffered are ideally suited for ceiling fans. The extra height will make the fan less obtrusive in the space.