Remember when we could have friends and family over to our houses, without breaking the law? Ah, those were the good old days!
Fortunately, depending on which state you live in, socialising at home is not too far away from returning – along with warmer weather and longer days. From Monday (October 11), fully vaccinated people in NSW will be allowed 10 visitors to their homes at any one time.
So, now’s the perfect time to give your outdoor area, big or small, a rev-up for some much-needed frivolity.
“Improving your outdoor area is a huge factor at the moment because, obviously, we’re all very excited that summer’s coming along and we’re going to be able to see our friends and family again,” says Sharon Mabin of Sydney’s Simple Lifestyle Interiors.
Mabin says the key is to make your areas comfortable and inviting.
An easy place to start is with cushions – preferably UV, water and mould-resistant so you can leave them outside – cosy throws and perhaps a quality outdoor rug.
“You can get really amazing outside rugs, they’re usually made of polypropylene, and they’re really nice for designating an area or making it feel a little bit more homely,” she says. “You can leave them out all the time and you can literally just hose them down.”
Next up is lighting, which Mabin says is key in creating ambience and a feeling of warmth. “Whether you’re using lanterns or really nice up-lighters, that creates a beautiful focal point.”
A fire pit also sets the mood. Or, bring gas heaters or a chiminea into the mix to keep your guests toasty.
On warmer days, a foldout awning, drop-down blind or a snazzy umbrella adds impact and keep things comfortable.
For a smaller area, Melbourne horticulturalist Dominic Hooghuis of The Plant Runner, says a vertical herb or flower garden can bring the wow factor and it doesn’t have to be expensive.
“You could make it yourself; there are so many things you can upcycle,” he says.
Recycled timber boxes, perhaps sourced on Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace, are one idea.
“Or you could get some cheap geofabric cloth from Bunnings, which lets water and air through, but the soil stays in there,” Hooghuis says. “So, you can just staple that in and make little pockets and sit it upright on the fence.”
For an instant mood lifter, find out which flowers are in season, and fill your vertical garden with colour, he says. Or position it near the barbecue, and grow parsley or other herbs within easy reach.
Another quick fix is to get some mulch delivered and give your garden beds a refresh, Hooghuis says. (Bonus: you’ll smother a few weeds.)
You can also make your lawns come alive without much effort, he says.
“Lawns this time of year really respond well to a feed. So, some nitrogen-based fertiliser just to green them up, or iron-based fertiliser and a good water.
“If you put something on the lawn this time of year and water it in, generally you’ll get it looking pretty green and lush within two weeks.”
In Melbourne’s Frankston, Kellie George and her partner Chris have been renovating their first home and documenting their efforts via January Revival.
George says they can’t wait to have friends and family over again and have started preparing with a solid tidy-up of the garden.
“It needed a lot of love. Just the usual kind of stuff, like getting rid of the weeds, topping up the mulch, pruning back trees and just giving everything a really good clean.”
Some of George’s tips for getting your space guest-ready include thinking about how your outdoor furniture is arranged, and “zoning” larger spaces where guests can mingle.
If your entertaining area is visible to passers-by, George suggests a privacy screen or two to make your space feel more intimate.
Adding festoon lighting will also bring some sparkle. “Ours were just from Kmart, they weren’t expensive, easy to put up, and you don’t need an electrician to wire them in,” she says.
Lastly, don’t forget some background music, which can set the mood – and perhaps help disguise the inevitable social awkwardness resulting from a few too many nights spent with our old friend, Netflix.