Australians are a nation of travellers. Perhaps it’s our island status at the bottom of the world that makes overseas travel inevitable but many of us think nothing of packing our bags and heading for the airport.
Recent events, however, have put a stop to that, temporarily at least. With more exotic holiday destinations out of reach thanks to COVID restrictions, we’re all spending more time in our own homes, in our own backyards. But we can still create that holiday feel at home - without the hassle of packing our bags or navigating immigration checkpoints.
Group Landscape Architect at Clarendon Homes, Bree Howell, says more people are getting on board with the idea of making their own ‘staycation’ environment at home.
“Creating a staycation environment is always a popular idea,” she says. “The ultimate dream is to have a resort-style garden when you build a new house but at the moment, people have a lot more money to invest in their own home because they are not spending it on travel.”
One of the unifying elements of holiday environments, particularly in summer, is a connection to the outdoors.
“A lot of it is that indoor/outdoor flow,” says Bree. “Having that really nice outdoor area for entertaining, even on your own, will extend the living area of your home.
“The main thing is creating that outdoor space that connects seamlessly with the house to expand it and provide an open feel so that you don’t feel like you’re stuck in the house.”
For many, holidays are synonymous with swimming, or at least having a view of the water. Bree says demand for backyard pools has never been greater than it is right now.
“Swimming pools are a big thing right now - swimming pool installers have never been so busy,” she says. “It’s for the same reason that people are investing in their backyards.”
The first place to start if you’re keen on enjoying a holiday-style environment at home is to think of your favourite holiday destinations. For some, it might be the lush tropical beauty of Bali while for others, the Italian Riviera might be more your style.
Whether your dream destination is a resort in Thailand, the colourful streets of Mexico or the cafes in Paris, consider some of the key design elements of those places so that you can tap into that aesthetic in your own home.
Just as you would consider crafting your interior spaces with the right flooring and furniture, it pays to take the same approach outdoors. Even if your budget does not extend much beyond a few brightly coloured banana lounges from Bunnings, you can lean into that look with a striped beach umbrella and an inflatable wading pool.
Where your backyard is not much bigger than a parking space, you could opt for a Parisian cafe aesthetic, complete with metal folding chairs and a portable plug-in coffee machine.
If you do have the budget for a mini backyard makeover, patterned tiles in tones of blue, white and charcoal can add a Mediterranean feel to bare concrete flooring, while a separate timber pavilion in the garden is a nod to south east Asian resort style.
To really make it feel as though you’re in another world, Bree says it pays to edit your view of the neighbours with some selective planting.
“In terms of planting, I’d start with some screening plants along the boundaries - they’re so important in terms of creating that clear outlook rather than looking out on the neighbours’ fences, roofs or garages,” she says. “Using borrowed landscape to maximise those views to draw your eye up to the treetops is a great idea as well.”
Large pots in varying sizes with large, leafy foliage look great grouped together along boundaries while climbers like fast-growing bougainvillea, with its brightly coloured flowers, is a welcomed addition to a sunny wall.
If you have a little more space, consider creating zones at your ‘resort’ with areas designed for relaxing on the sun lounge with a cold drink and a kids’ club where the cubby house and trampoline can live. Firepits with built-in or freestanding seating can be a great space for the family to come together at the end of the day.
“I like to push the firepit towards the boundary so that you’re not dealing with the smoke in the house,” Bree says. “The covered alfresco space next to the house is great for enjoying a drink, cooking on the BBQ and eating dinner outdoors.”
While the focus is understandably on the backyard, there’s no reason why you can’t carry that holiday vibe indoors.
Interior designer Monique Sartor from Sartorial Interiors says your living space can be adapted to work as a hotel bar, even if there are only two customers.
“Even if you don’t have a dedicated bar space, you can create a destination for five o’clock drinks with a simple buffet or a bar cart, which are becoming more sophisticated,” she says.
If you can’t be bothered making cocktails - or even if you can - Monique says upgrading your glassware will give the simple experience of sharing a drink a sense of luxury.
“Add some cut crystal glassware to elevate it,” she says. “Even the sound of a stopper going back into a crystal carafe speaks of luxury.”
Keep the holiday magic alive by casting a critical eye over your bedroom. Thinking about the things you enjoy about hotel rooms should help you narrow down the changes you’d like to make.
If you like room service, for example, invest in a beautiful breakfast tray to enjoy the start of the day in bed. It could even be as simple as buying a beautiful boutique hand wash for the ensuite as a treat. For many, though, there’s something extra special about hotel beds.
“Start with a really great mattress topper - the cloud ones that you can sink into with beautiful bedding,” says Monique. “If you spend money on beautiful bed linen, that alone will make you feel like you are in a five-star resort.”
You never know, you may never want to take a trip again.
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