Expert Advice: The Ultimate Checklist for new outdoor areas, with The Designory

  • 9 minutes
  • 26 July 2023

The Australian climate has always lent itself to spending time outdoors; in fact, the outdoor spaces within our homes are a critical part of how we use them. But where do you start? The Designory have been working with clients for many years, creating beautiful, well connected outdoor areas; so feast your eyes on the exclusive, 10-step Designory’s Ultimate Checklist to help you plan each step of your new build’s outdoor area…in the right order!

 1. What’s your Why?

The best place to start any project is with the Why. Why are you doing it? What are the needs you are trying to fulfil? Do you need more space or another living zone, do you want to be able to cook or congregate outside, do you want space for kids to play…the list goes on.

Make sure you think about who will use the space both now and in the future; is it just for adults, for children or pets, the elderly? And what are the things the users will want to do within the space? What are their interests, hobbies, and needs?

Know your Why; it will guide the way.


 2. Create the Wish List

The next step is to take all of those needs, wants and ideas for your new outdoor space and create your ultimate Wish List. Putting everything down in a list allows you to ensure you explore all of the options for creating your dream space and know you’ve thought through every possibility in the early stages. I like to use a spreadsheet for this; it’s a great way to organise your thoughts, sort through them logically and add information to each one as you go through the project.

The next step is to spend some time prioritising, putting the Wish List in order of importance (with the most important at the top, of course!). Putting the list in order of priority will also help make it easier at budget time, to know where you can cut costs if needed, or spend a little more for those items at the top of the list, that are really important to you.

When you’re creating the list, don’t just think about how you want it to look. Think about the inclusions, about how you want to use your new outdoor space; consider things like types of entertainment areas, visibility and privacy, high vs low maintenance, dividing or screening different zones, connecting indoors with your outdoors and storage.

The Designory - VogueWall

Photo credit: The Designory

 3. Get inspired

Using your Wish List as a base you can now search for inspiration. Collecting ideas and images of all the things you love is a great way to create the road map of what your outdoor space can become. Don’t forget the process of getting from ideas to your brand new outdoor zone may take some time, so make sure you make a note on each image about what you liked; the copper shower, the black fencing, cool cubby house etc. This will help you convey your ideas to your trades later down the track.

You might find in this step you may end up adding to your Wish List — or deleting things. Whether you end up working with a designer (which we think is important of course) or going it alone, pictures speak volumes and help keep your vision on track, convey your ideas and preferences and can help unlock inspiration and possibilities.

Places like Instagram, Pinterest, Houzz and design magazines are a great place to start. At The Designory, we also love scouring the pages of travel magazines for gorgeous resorts and far-flung locations with beautiful outdoor spaces; it’s a great way to push the imagination for what’s possible!

 4. Budget, budget, budget

This one can be challenging, but is important to think of early. Having an idea of how much you would like to spend over all and what your limits are, will help define project and turn your Wish List into a project checklist. Be realistic about what things cost and don’t forget to add in all the trades, raw materials and other professionals you may need. Working with a good designer or builder at this stage will help you set achievable goals; you can enquire about both at The Designory, if you’d like to find out more!

 5. The design work

Now you have your Wish List, inspo boards and budget, you get on with the design of your new outdoor space. This is a great place to bring in a professional, such as a designer or landscape architect. However, if the budget won’t permit that, these following steps will help you create functional use of space that will stand the test of time:

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 6. Zones & levels

Break up your new outdoor area into zones. Think about which zones will need more or less space, if they need to be close to other zones or which zones, like a pool area or a washing line area, need to be fenced or screened from other zones. This will help you create a plan of where everything needs to be. Don’t forget, a screen can be anything from a solid structure, to plants, pots and furniture.

Adding levels is also another way to separate zones and create boundaries without using a fence or screen. It also creates functional solutions and can add interest and character. Think about different levels when planning entertainment areas, soft landscaping vs solid flooring areas, gardening and connections between indoor and outdoor spaces.

 7. Design plans

Having a plan drawn to scale is the map of how your new outdoors area will take shape. Having everything detailed on a plan is important to communicate the size and position of everything to the builder and trades installing your outdoor area – as well as providing a checkpoint for you.

This is also really important in ensuring you get accurate quoting and construction costs. You’ll need to take the measurements of the existing space as a start, then work with your ideas from there. A scale of 1:100 is best – if you’re drawing by hand, you can easily use graph paper for this.

 8. Trades and services

Hiring a reputable builder or landscaper is critical to the success of your project – ideally, involve them in the early planning stages and you’ll find the process is much smoother and you’re more likely to get the results you’re after.

Once you have the plan of your new outdoor space, it’s important to make sure you think about provisions for services, such as electrical or plumbing, to ensure all the works are integrated into your design. This is definitely something to review with the professionals! If you don’t consider this, you could end up needing to have cords and pipes retrofitted to your beautiful new outdoor spaces, or end up with drains or down-pipes where you don’t want them.

Pools and spas also require consideration early, as it will inform not only what service infrastructure your new outdoor space will require, but also will heavily impact fencing, budget and – in most cases – will require council approvals, which can take a long time to process. It’s definitely best to engage the services of a professional pool builder at this point.

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 9. Green, green, green outdoor areas

The key element for transforming your outdoor area is of course the greenery element – your plants! Your early planning will now come in to play again, as the types of plants you select will depend on the scheme and style you are creating.

Research the internet for what types of plants will help you create the look; don’t forget to make sure you look at what is suitable for the area you live in! Climate, access to sunlight and soil types are all things that need to be addressed if your plants are going to thrive and survive. Your local nursery is also a great place to ask questions and speak to an expert about what will work for your home.

 10. The home stretch

The absolute key to creating amazing outdoor areas and places the whole family will want to use is styling. Styling is something that often gets forgotten or left off the list due to budget, but is critical for creating ambience and character.

Treat your outdoor areas just like an indoor space; think furniture, soft furnishings, lighting, pots and accent pieces. Blurring the line between the indoor and outdoor spaces will ultimately enhance the experience of living in both spaces.

When styling an outdoor zone, it is important to consider using the outdoor space all year round and in all seasons and weather. Make sure your materials and fabrics can withstand the weather, light and moisture; there’s loads of outdoor specific products out there, so make sure you check before purchasing.

Now it’s time to pour a cup of tea or glass of wine, get that BBQ sizzling or pool filled, and bring your friends and family together to enjoy your beautiful new outdoor space!

Who is The Designory?

The Designory is a multi-disciplinary design studio located in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. Their end to end in-house team offers a seamless transition from the conceptual beginnings of every project through to the building and interior design, documentation and detailing, approvals processing, project management, and the final layers of decorative elements and styling.

The talented team of designers, draftsmen, decorators and building advisory consultants, specialise in residential, small-scale commercial and hospitality projects. The Designory’s design philosophy is grounded in a strong conviction that great design comes from the inside, out; their belief in the human connection to the built environment is embedded in all levels of their work.

If you’d like to see more of The Designory’s work or enquire about their many services, you can explore their stunning website here. We hope you enjoyed the 10-step by step guide to Designory’s Ultimate Checklist to help plan your new build’s outdoor area.

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