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A well-designed terrace, lawn, patio or garden is a homeowner's dream. In the UAE, with its year-round sunshine, a great outdoor area is particularly important. It can serve as an excellent spot to unwind or entertain guests, while — from an investment perspective — enhancing the value of the property.
Many homeowners are thus inclined to transform a plain porch, patio, lawn or terrace into an impressively designed, functional space. When selling property, homes that have elegant outdoor spaces will generally fetch a higher value.
''Outdoor spaces that are well kept and designed make the property stand out, sell or rent faster,'' says Erika Gurskyte Pace, Home Manager/Interior Decorator at Infinity Lifestyle Management and Concierge. ''People will consider paying more for an attractive outdoors feature. It can add anything from 5-10 per cent on the price of your house. If you live in a modern tower, spend a bit more on a balcony or terrace garden and you are likely to recoup the cost.''
Creating a truly functional and relaxing outdoor space has its challenges, so careful planning is required.
Have a vision
If you love entertaining friends, need space for casual relaxation or enjoy barbecues, take a realistic look at the available space and list down your needs. Have a defined goal in terms of what you will use the outside space for in order to create a comfortable zone. ''Consider who will use the garden — for instance, if you have young children who want to kick balls around, then planting the whole area or installing expensive water features are not going to work,'' says Merete Broen, General Manager of Zen Interiors.
A shade too bright?
For privacy and shelter from the sun and wind, a shade is necessary. It can transform an outdoor space into an exclusive spot. However, Broen advises to determine the directions of sunrise and sunset before deciding the required shade for eating and sitting areas. ''Pergolas and retractable shades are easy ways [of gaining] flexibility and [they] allow you to use the space during the day and evening,'' she says.
Dining under the stars
A vibrant and inviting dining zone in natural surroundings impresses everyone. Think creatively and beyond just tables and chairs.
For instance, include an outdoor kitchen to make your life easier, says Daousser Chennoufi, Chairman and Key Architect of Draw Link Group in Dubai. ''The perfect choice are comfortable sofas and chairs in eye-catching colours [while keeping] it simple in design and shape. Use acrylic fibres and waterproof materials that will protect your furniture from sand and rain.
''A chandelier can also be raised by a pulley rigged to a tree. To create more a romantic atmosphere, include some vintage furniture with bright cushions.''
Lighting features are an easy and elegant way to brighten up a space and create different moods. ''Keep the pathways, eating areas and food preparation spaces well illuminated,'' says Broen. ''Choose lights that are suitable for outside use, but don't be averse to making grand statements with chandeliers or oversized lanterns as these can inject a real wow factor into your garden.''
Colour, colour on the wall
A smart colour play will blur the divide between a terrace or patio and the indoors, and make a space look lively and appealing. ''If your terrace or patio leads off of your living room, merge the two spaces by using tonal colours,'' Broen says.
''[Take inspiration from] the splashes of colour in the room's soft furnishings for your choice of flowers [or cushions] outside. This brings the outside in and gives your interiors a real feeling of space and connects it with nature.''
The right choice of plants will help in sustaining and maintaining green spaces with ease. Look for low-maintenance, indigenous plants that do not need huge amounts of water, says Broen. ''While exotic imported blooms can look appealing, it's important to do your research on which ones can thrive in the UAE's harsh summer. You can find some beautiful local varieties that don't need much care and attention, yet look great.''
Growing flowers is a win-win thing in any garden space, says Pace. Flowers add colour, break up the green and provide variety and contrast to the area. But do not clutter the space by growing too many plants, she warns, as it could make it difficult to access the space.
The smart use of accessories will add character to a space and depending on what you choose, add the stamp of your personality. ''Get some garden art, and if you have a bare wall you need to hide, try hanging a bamboo blind as a backdrop to your plants,'' says Pace. ''Jazz it up with colourful pots or containers to draw the eye to a focal area.
''If a table and chairs [is the central feature] in a garden, add some colour with an arrangement on the table.''
So you set fire...
Modern fireplaces are captivating and easy to install, creating fabulous outdoor seating areas. Chennoufi says a fireplace gives an upscale look to the residence and provides a relaxing environment during the day and at night.
Choose fancy or rustic and portable or permanent designs that'll suit the overall style of the house. ''When deciding on materials for an outdoor fireplace, pick from stone, metal, stucco, tile or brick,'' says Chennoufi.
''Humble materials can pull off a high-end look. Modern fireplaces, stylish outdoor accessories, furniture and lights create spectacular and comfortable spaces around hearths, making backyard designs more enjoyable.''
Go with the flow
Pools or water features have a soothing influence and an attractive appeal for everyone. ''Look for professionally designed outdoor waterfalls, ponds and fountains, and natural wood features that look expensive but create the perfect ambience for rest and meditation,'' says Chennoufi.
You can also enhance the look of an infinity pool with creative and colourful LED lights. ''Don't choose one colour of lighting,'' Chennoufi says. ''Technology allows the option of changing the colour of the light. You will experience a new mood [every day, outdoors].''
Here are some creative ways to beautify a home's front entrance
Source: Hina Navin, Special to Property Weekly