Monday 6 May 2024

Creating an ideal outdoor space

Since returning to the UK in 2021 after 12 years in South Africa and Dubai, I've really missed having outdoor spaces to sit, relax and dine in.

In the summer in Dubai it was too hot to sit outside, but October through to April you couldn't get me in the house, apart from the odd sand storm and the occasional rain, but even when it rained I'd be outside, under the sun umbrella enjoying the cooler temps.

South Africa was perfect weather for outdoor life apart from after sunset to sunrise during the months of June and July when temperatures would drop below zero, but were in the 20s during the day. The summer heat was broken every 3-4 days with an afternoon/evening of thunderstorms to clear the air. 

Houses in South Africa and Dubai are very different to hose in the UK. The ones we rented were open planned, floor to ceiling windows and lots of them, tiled floors throughout and in South Africa we had a pool and BBQ areas both inside and outside the house. 

This was our first house in South Africa with a balcony over a covered area, the balcony lead to a conservatory with bifold doors and a built in BBQ area. 

The conservatory leading to the balcony.

The built in BBQ behind the black panel.

Our second home in South Africa, no covered area. We were still able to enjoy the outdoors but in the summer we'd often have to dash for cover with sudden storms and gigantic hail stones the size of golf balls.

BBQ area.

Our first home in Dubai, no covered area. But a lot of the time it was too hot during the day to sit outside so most of our time outdoors was in the evening.

Our second home in Dubai. Making use of the sun umbrella and shade from the neighbouring villas.

A much smaller garden, but you really didn't need anything bigger than this as most of the year was spent in doors.

A covered area on the balcony, perfect for early mornings and evenings to sit out in, even in the height of summer.

The downside of Dubai for outdoor life, apart from the heat was the sand storms and the unexpected rain fall, that would leave a mess to be cleaned up every time.

It has been important to me to be able to re create a part of our lifestyle abroad back in the UK and this has been achieved with the building of a sun/garden room at the back of the house and 2 sets of double doors we can open wide into the garden to bring the outdoors in and a covered seating area.

I've set this area up so it can be used all year round and it is sheltered from the wind and the rain and I don't have to cover the chair pod or bring the cushions in and out. I also don't have to sweep up any sand every day like I did in Dubai and unlike South Africa I don't have to deal with the house filling with red mud on our feet after storms or worry about spiders the size of dinner plates or lizards and 'parktown prawns' running around.

I've been using this space all year round, during the winter, rain storms, snow and in summer. I can move the pod in the middle of winter to sit in the corner where the doors from the two rooms meet and I have blankets to wrap myself up in to keep warm.

We've recently taken down an old shed and the base has made a perfect patio for the table and chairs we bought in South Africa to be sited and we'll be assembling the umbrella once the winds have died down.

There's a new storage box for all the cushions and tableware so we don't have to lug cushions back and forth from the house and find somewhere to store it all. There's a large rug also for using on the lawn when the grandchildren come to play. We've still got the large sun umbrella we had in South Africa and Dubai we will reassemble here soon. It is a sun trap here.

The BBQ can be rolled round when needed and we can cook under the covered area as well if the weather is against us. 

We've still got the smaller shed to take down and we're building raised beds in the space. There will also be a compost bin, cold frame and green house built where the wheelbarrow is currently living in the 1st photo and some tidying up down the side of the house and 2 wooden gates to give us some more privacy and security.

I think I've managed to succeed in bringing in a little of everything we had from our life abroad and have created my ideal outdoor space back in the UK. If I could just add a little more sun to the scene I'd be very happy, but nothing over 25c please as it gets too hot to enjoy.

Are you an outdoor person? 


  1. I don't know why but I never thought of South Africa being so cold on a night. The houses in South Africa look amazing, so light and airy. I would struggle with the heat in Dubai though.
    You have done a great job doing up your back garden. It's a great space and I love the chair. x

    1. we didn't think about SA being so cold either until our first winter