by Sam Bartlett
6 minutes read

Summertime is synonymous with outdoor gatherings, garden parties and the national South African pastime, the ubiquitous braai and creating the ultimate backyard space for these occasions not only enhances your enjoyment of your home but also its value.

“We’re blessed with the perfect climate for outdoor entertaining and from as early as September, we can also start spending time outdoors in the evening,” says Cobus Odendaal, CEO of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty in Johannesburg and Randburg.

“And, because an appealing outdoor entertainment area also features high on many buyer’s wish lists, it makes good sense all round to create an inviting outdoor space to share with family and friends and to attract more buyers when the time comes to sell.”

Odendaal says that although a large budget can certainly make it easier to create the dream entertainment area, it can also be done on a shoestring with a little forethought, planning, and imagination.

“Before you start buying materials and furniture, you need a well-thought-out plan and it’s important to consider the several key elements.”

  • Layout and Flow: Think about how you want your backyard to be organised. Designate areas for cooking, dining, lounging, and entertainment and ensure a smooth flow between these zones for easy access during parties.
  • Budget: Determine your budget for the project, taking into account landscaping, furniture, and equipment costs. Do some research about what is available and shop around. Be realistic about what you can afford.
  • Permits and Regulations: Check local regulations, such as zoning laws and building permits, before making any major changes to your backyard.
  • Landscaping: Plan your greenery, from flowers and shrubs to trees and lawn space. Consider using indigenous plants to reduce maintenance and water usage.

The dining area

“When it comes to creating the ideal dining area, it’s worth spending a little money and time rather than just trying to make the available space with your old furniture,” says Odendaal.

“If your budget and available space runs to it, install a patio or deck as the foundation for your outdoor dining space. It clearly defines the area, and these surfaces provide a stable and comfortable surface for tables and chairs.

“It’s also worth investing in weather-resistant dining sets and comfortable seating options. Materials like teak or aluminium are durable and look great year-round and can be brightened with colourful removable cushions.

“As much as we enjoy the sun, dining in its full midday glare is not advisable, so add an umbrella, pergola, or retractable awning to provide shade during hot summer days or shelter from unexpected rain showers.

“And finally, install outdoor lighting to create ambiance during the evening. String lights or lanterns and light pathways.

The Perfect Cooking Space

“Choose the best quality braai that you can afford – and that suits your needs. Consider built-in options for a seamless look.

“You can also elevate your cooking game with an outdoor kitchen complete with countertops, sinks, and storage which not only adds functionality but also enhances the overall appeal of your backyard.

“And for those cooler evenings, a fire pit or outdoor fireplace can be the centrepiece of your backyard gatherings.”

Added Extras

These are largely dependent on budget and taste, but they can really finish off your outdoor entertainment area.

“Add outdoor rugs to define seating areas and infuse style into your backyard, incorporate colourful cushions and pillows to make your outdoor seating more inviting and comfortable and hang outdoor-friendly artwork or sculptures to personalize your space and add visual interest.

“If you spend a lot of time outdoors, it’s worth considering an outdoor sound system – just make sure it’s properly weatherproof and well-integrated into your backyard design.

“And if space and budget allow, a plunge pool or hot tub can be a luxurious addition to your backyard.”

On a more practical level, Odendaal suggests investing in outdoor storage solutions for cushions, garden tools, and equipment to protect them from the elements.

However, he cautions that it’s crucial to avoid common pitfalls to ensure your outdoor space truly shines:

Neglecting Planning: One of the biggest mistakes is jumping into the project without a well-thought-out plan. Avoid hasty and potentially costly decisions and take the time to consider layout, budget, and your specific needs.

Overcrowding the Space: While it’s tempting to fit in as much as possible, overcrowding can lead to discomfort and a cluttered appearance. Leave enough room for guests to move comfortably.

Ignoring Local Regulations: Failing to check local regulations and zoning laws can lead to costly setbacks. Always ensure your backyard modifications comply with local rules and obtain any necessary permits because this can really be an issue when it comes time to sell and you suddenly need to present the buyer with approved plans.

Disregarding Shade: Lack of shade options can make your backyard unbearable during scorching summer days.

Neglecting Lighting: Inadequate or poorly placed lighting can be a safety hazard and affect the ambiance of your outdoor space. Plan your lighting scheme carefully to create a warm and inviting atmosphere after dark.

Neglecting Maintenance: A beautifully designed backyard can quickly lose its charm if you neglect maintenance. Regularly clean and care for your outdoor furniture, grill, and landscaping to keep everything looking its best.

“Designing the ultimate backyard for garden parties and barbecues is a rewarding endeavour that can greatly enhance your home and lifestyle.

“By incorporating the right elements and staying on top of maintenance, you’ll create a space that not only impresses your guests but also becomes your personal haven for outdoor relaxation and entertainment,” concludes Odendaal.


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