Planning for an oasis

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 March, 2012, 12:00am


Whether you have a rooftop, balcony or ground-floor garden, you can make the most of your open-air living space with some planning and imaginative thinking.

With spring around the corner, there is no better time than now to get started.

An outdoor oasis is a useful extension of your home - another room, so to speak. A good first step is to define the space. Imagine how it will function - do you plan to eat and entertain there, or is it more for reading and relaxing, and if you have a family can you incorporate a games area? Above all, it should function as a personal sanctuary. If your vision exceeds your budget, think of the project in phases. You can always start with a few essentials and add to the space over time.

If you are renovating a balcony, try carrying over the interior finishings, such as flooring and trim, to the outside. It will help unify the indoors with the outdoors, making both feel like an extension of the other. A larger outdoor space, such as a rooftop, can be divided into several zones or rooms with distinct purposes - making the area feel more cosy and inviting. If you're lucky enough to have a garden, a pergola or landscaped area can be linked to the house with planted pathways and hardscaping. Flooring and walls anchor a space, so hardscaping is a must. Decking, stone and concrete are contemporary options, but if budget is a factor, concrete can be stamped or stained to affordably mimic flagstone or brick. Trees, shrubs and flowers soften these harder elements and help add to the overall look. The type of plant category selected, such as cottage, tropical, bird-attracting or annuals, will also define the look.

This should be your sanctuary, so choose plants that soothe you and materials that inspire you. Consider installing a fan for summer, and this can be attached to a ceiling or plugged into the wall. Waterproof fans are a worthwhile investment, especially in rainy Hong Kong. In winter, fireplaces, fire pits and chimineas can also prolong the usable season of an outdoor room by several months. And they can do double duty for roasting and toasting food. If you have the room, a barbecue can be invaluable for entertaining.

A water feature is also a great option, providing a focal point and a relaxing setting. These are easy to obtain, you don't have to spend a lot on a professionally installed pond or waterfall. There are many products on the market, from a container water garden, to a tabletop fountain or a bubbling stream at a patio edge.

When selecting furniture, aim for comfort and consider durability. Select quality items that can withstand the elements. Modern trends include teak mixed with aluminium and or glass, and woven materials designed to withstand weather conditions. Outdoor rugs will make the area feel like a specially created 'room'. Look for those that are made from weather-resistant fabric that's durable and mildew resistant.