When square meters are at a premium, utilise your outdoor space by thinking beyond the garden.

Urban living comes at a price. The pay-off for prime real estate is often a smaller home and bigger rates bill, meaning maximising on every square inch is what’s needed to live a functional life. But think outside of the proverbial box if you will. Your garden holds untapped value as an extension of the home and multipurpose space. 

We’re talking yoga on the lawn, meetings with a view, cooking on the veranda and more. With a bit of imagination, your small garden space can serve many functions at the same time. 


The Perfect Perch

Remember that sensation of hanging from a tree, your body set in motion by the breeze? Well, it’s not just for kids. Swinging from a tree has been proven to increase blood flow to the brain, reduce anxiety by calming the nerves and even burn calories if you put your back into it (apparently an hour’s active swinging burns around 200 calories). And if none of that appeals, swings are just downright fun, even for adults. A tree swing, hammock or hanging chair suspended from a branch or hook in a concrete ceiling is all you need to have your garden double as a relaxing or entertaining space.

The Alfresco Kitchen

Thanks to the durability of materials like stainless steel, cooking outdoors has surpassed the basic braai ‘n tongs. We’re talking about fully equipped, plumbed and gassed modular kitchens on your veranda, or (thanks to the fact that they come on wheels) in your garden. Look to Italian design brand Boffi or local favourite Douglas & Douglas, whose Mobile Braai/Bar Deli makes meal prep outdoors a stylish affair.

Working it Out

Erik Brolin via Unsplash

Keep your wellbeing front of mind with a raised platform for exercises like yoga or Pilates and even mindfulness. The platform will demarcate a dedicated zone, making wellbeing a more intentional action. In addition, raising your body off the ground just a little gives the effect of floating and will ensure you have a clean spot to slow down and check in with your body and mind. For an easy solution, we suggest creating your platform with a pair of wooden pallets. Expand your outdoor workout further by hanging gymnastics rings or a TRX suspension kit from a tree or a beam on even the smallest of balconies; the good news for the aesthetes is that both can be taken down and packed away when not in use. 

Child’s Play

It turns out that unloved (and un-yielding) corner of your garden has a purpose after all. Creating a spot for the kids to get out and play – especially in smaller homes – can be a matter of life and death if we’re honest. A sandpit only requires a couple of railway sleepers and some matting in its most basic incarnation. Then we suggest taking the wooden lid for your sandpit and painting the underside of it with chalkboard paint so the little ones can lean it against a wall and tap into their inner creative. Next, if you position your play zone next to a brick-and-mortar wall or sturdy timber fence, you can install climbing grips into the surface to build strength into your little one’s play time. 

Café Style

Even the tiniest of balconies can accommodate a place to sit with a coffee or a glass of wine. By hinging a bench or small table top off your wall you’ll save valuable centimetres and gain a flexible space. Cast your mind to the charming balconies of European apartment blocks for inspiration, where potted plants spill over. Use a folding table leg, a specialised folding bracket or even a length of chain to support a sturdy timber plank from above or below. Alternatively, if you’re not feeling very handy, check out Spacesave.co.za for plug and play wall-mounted tables.

Keep the Flame Alive

Do you ever find yourself zoning out, mesmerised by the flames of a fire? Live flames have that ability to channel our most archaic selves, eliminating the worries of the day and tuning us into a pensive, meditative state. Beyond that, there’s the warmth factor…and toasting marshmallows obviously. One of the simplest things you can do to expand your home experience is create a firepit. This can be as simple and cost effective as laying some gravel down over weed matting, sourcing a large steel bowl, half barrel (or industrial tank end cap) and a couple of logs as seating. If you prefer, look to one of the countless retail sources like Outdoor Warehouse, Leroy Merlin or even Takealot.com.

Out of Office

Georgia De Lotz via Unsplash

With so many of us working from home, carving out a dedicated space for your 9 to 5 can be a challenge. The benefits of a small shed at the end of your garden are multiple: not only will your workday come with a serene and leafy view, but you’ll be freeing up space indoors as well as forging that all-important distance from home life. Those who aren’t sitting at their desks all day can use a space like this for creative pursuits too. Try Tilley Sheds or Wendy House Centre for an array of neat and adaptable structures.

Living Larder

Make your garden or patio work even harder for you by planting for an edible landscape. Foodscaping has become the buzzword in urban living for so many reasons. Decreasing your carbon footprint, knowing where your food comes from, learning a new skill, becoming self-sufficient and saving money on overpriced food are all good enough reasons to give it a go in our book. Replace ornamental plants with edible alternatives, integrate herbs in amongst your current landscaping, plant fruit bearing trees or – for the patio gardeners – create a potted herb and veg garden. Don’t forget to utilise vertical spaces like walls by installing climbing frames or mesh for creeping and trailing veg. Take it one step further and install an overhead wire from one side to another for an attractive and abundant green ‘ceiling.’ We can’t recommend the expertise of Jane’s Delicious Garden enough for this endeavour, she is a wealth of local, practical info.

Written by Mila Crewe-Brown

Featured Image: Niklas Hamann via Unsplash