Living Alfresco: 3 Ways to Chill Out in Your Spanish Villa
Make the most of Spain’s balmy Mediterranean climate and create imaginative outdoor living spaces where you can entertain family and friends in the evening or relax with a cup of organic coffee and a book during the day.
There are many different ways to customise and improve your outdoor space: putting in a pool; building a deck, pergola or covered terrace; adding a water feature; creating an outdoor kitchen or BBQ area and, of course, getting the lighting just right to set the whole thing off.
Lazing in the summer heat or watching the sun go down is surely the whole point of creating a living space outside. The key here is to create comfortable, cosy chill out areas for relaxing and entertaining.
You could upcycle wooden pallets into lounge furniture and top them with foam pads and pillows or make tables from palettes and paint them bright colours. Alternatively, have some bench seats made and do the same. Hammocks, patterned sun beds and floor cushions add a playful atmosphere and change up seating levels.
You’ll need to make sure any fabric used for cushions or upholstery (and the filling) is water resistant or waterproof and won’t fade. For example, use cotton canvas, duck cloth or outdoor curtain fabric. Otherwise, have somewhere to store them nearby.
Create a sense of comfort and luxury for your guests by using outdoor blankets and throws. Opt for natural, rustic textures in a neutral palette, maritime stripes in blues and greens or create a sense of drama with velvet or fur throws and cushions in jewelled hues.
Lush outdoor pot plants in traditional terracotta pots, trailing flowers and shrubs will help establish an oasis of calm in your outdoor lounge. Use a variety of plants in shapes, colours and sizes. You could mix up bay trees, lavender, purple rock cress, sage, red valerian, cornflowers and rosemary. For your pergola, consider trailing plants like jasmine, Chinese trumpet vine or wisteria.
Some plants are particularly well suited to the Spanish climate. Have a look at a few of them here.
There is something utterly joyous about cooking al fresco. It not only tastes better, it also means you can sip Cava and talk to your guests while you barbecue steaks, marinade prawns and assemble salads.
When you plan your outdoor kitchen, you should take into account the space available and how you will keep it shaded, sheltered or warm, depending on the seasons.
You could consider planting trees, using umbrellas, erecting an awning or constructing a pergola for sun protection. For cold weather, a portable outdoor heater, fire pit, wood burning stove or chimenea will do the trick.
Your kitchen layout and where you locate your appliances is important too. For example, keep barbecues away from any refrigerated areas. Putting in a sink is a good idea too.
The cooking area is likely be the main focal point of your outdoor kitchen, whether it’s on a grill, a charcoal or gas barbecue, slow cooker or pizza oven. Choose your location wisely, near and preferably facing your guests, and remember to shade the area so you are not sweltering while you cook. Make sure you have enough space for food preparation too.
There is an almost limitless range of features you can add to your outdoor kitchen to make it both attractive and functional: a Big Green Egg (a ceramic charcoal barbecue), an integrated fireplace, wood burning stove, wooden chopping boards, stainless steel sink, smoker, slow cooker or a pizza oven.
Some kitchens even include a couple of refrigerated drawers to keep beer, wine and soft drinks properly chilled without needing to constantly pop indoors. Craft beer fans will be delighted by a built-in kegerator with multiple taps, offering several types of beer.
Weatherproofing your kitchen is vital. This means you’ll be likely to choose materials such as concrete, stainless steel, marine grade polymer and teak for your cupboards, appliances and work surfaces. Kitchen islands can be prefabricated or custom made.
Lighting is an essential part of outdoor entertaining because it sets the mood for you and your guests. You can go low tech, with tiki torches, candles and lanterns or install electric lights.
Solar lights can be dotted around the garden to illuminate garden beds, large shrubs and flowers; to light up pathways for safe passage or to spotlight sculptures, ornaments and wood carvings.
Electric or LED solar fairy lights, which can be set up and moved easily, are cheap to run and provide subtle lighting. You can trail them over a pergola or a gazebo for added romance.
It’s a good idea to light up areas like steps for safety. Motion sensitive lights can be useful here and lend a sense of theatre to the evening as guests walk outside for a drink and canapes.
Illuminate food preparation and cooking areas too so the chef can see what they’re doing once the sun has gone down. It is easiest if you have an overhead structure to hang lights on but you could also have a light pole or mount a light behind a cooking or food preparation area.