A few years ago my family and I made the move from the UK to Spain. We thought we’d found the perfect house in which to live our new life, and in many ways we had. But there was one thing that we hadn’t really taken into consideration. One of the key differences between lifestyles in the UK and in Spain is the amount of time spent outdoors. With summer being so short-lived in the UK, we only use our outdoor area for around 3 months in summer, with everything being stored away in the garage and shed for the rest of the year.
We completely underestimated the importance of an outside living space. In Spain, the climate lends itself to spending a lot of time outside, so you really do need to consider a permanent, purpose-built outside area. In fact, your outdoor living space can easily become the most lived-in area of the house!
When I first started thinking about developing an outdoor “room,” it was because I had such wonderful views of the sea and wanted to make sure that I could enjoy this as much as possible. At the time there was very little there really, just an area of scrubby grass and a few trees. Once I’d realized that the back garden was the best space to be, I began to make my plans. In some ways this part was the most fun, as I dreamt up so many schemes and ideas for what I hoped would become the perfect chill-out area for me, my family, and our friends.
The obvious starting point was a dining area. The thought of sitting at a large table with friends and family, eating delicious food, and enjoying views of the sea was my ultimate dream. I decided to have a paved and covered area that would be large enough for a table that could seat 8 to 12 people. The paving would be cool to walk on and easy to keep clean, and by having a roof of some sort, we’d be able to sit outside during the hottest hours of the day or even when it was raining. Thinking about the heat, I made sure to include an overhead fan.
Open Air Kitchen
The project grew from there. I planned for a barbecue area with a basic outdoor kitchen, so that preparing and cooking meals would be easy. We sketched a kitchen area along one edge of the covered patio, which consisted of a counter with storage underneath and a space for a small bar fridge. We planned for a sink with running water and an extended counter out from under the roof into the garden. The counter would end with a purpose-built pizza oven and built-in barbecue.
It then became obvious that to turn this area into the best party place, we would need to add a swimming pool. So we planned to extend the tiled area further out into the garden to allow space for sun loungers and deck chairs. The steps to the pool would flow naturally from the outside paved area to make everything appear seamless.
In our minds and on paper, we had the perfect place to keep cool and entertain in style. But hang on a minute, didn’t I start out by saying I wanted a place to chill-out and admire the view? We weren’t always going to be eating, drinking, and entertaining. So back to the plans we went.
I imagined a comfortable seating area where we could relax after a meal or where we could lounge about, reading a good book or just dozing off. So our drawings were adapted to extend the tiled covered area once again. Initially I considered building a seating area along the wall, but thinking it through further, I thought it best to allow enough space for an L-shaped sofa and a few comfortable outdoor chairs.
So after months of planning, we were ready to put our plans into action. I was dreading the actual building phase, as I’d lived through more than one house renovation and could still remember the mess and chaos. Fortunately, we had a really fantastic contractor and the disruption to our day-to-day living was minimal.
It’s been a year since we finished all the work, and now we spend the majority of our time outside, making the most of the weather and the views. We’ve had some wonderful parties, amazing meals, special family times, and many long, lazy, relaxing days…and I really can’t imagine life without this wonderful space. It was definitely worth the time and investment and I would recommend that anyone living in a sunny climate should factor in their dream outdoor space when buying or building a property.
Mike James is a freelance blogger stationed in both Marbella and Brighton, working with Spanish construction specialists Promas Building.