The way we utilise our homes in Australia has changed dramatically over recent decades.

I have built two homes since 1995 and the room layout has differed somewhat. The first house was single level and modest. The hub was the kitchen/family area, which was adequate in size but not huge. It led out to a simple covered pergola area where we would have family gatherings around the BBQ. My husband built this pergola himself, as it was not included in the original design. The formal lounge/dining room was used constantly as we had lots of dinner parties in the early days.

House number two was huge and open, with a massive formal dining and lounge room that we rarely used. The kitchen/family area was much bigger and so was the adjoining outdoor area. This outdoor area, rather than just being a paved space with a simple roof, was in fact almost a room unto itself that we lived in on sunny days, although it didn’t have walls. However, we contracted a specialist to build it as it was not included in the original house design.

We are about to embark on building house number three, and we are returning to a smaller floor plan with no formal lounge/dining area, but an emphasis on combining the indoor and outdoor areas in a seamless roofline. The outdoor (or al fresco) area is included in the design, as it is in most home designs these days. This is a trend that has developed in recent years to accommodate the Aussie outdoor living practices. More of our gatherings are moving outside due to our pleasant weather.

However, as we will be close in proximity to our neighbours, privacy will be compromised. The best solution for us will be to utilise exterior window coverings.

Probably the hardest wearing and most versatile exterior solution is aluminium shutters. They are lightweight yet incredibly strong – some are even storm rated. The louvres can be tilted to allow light through without compromising on privacy. The light can also be somewhat blocked when the sun moves in an undesirable positon. They are super easy to clean; they just need to be hosed down. Shutters can also protect an outdoor area from prevailing winds that might otherwise blow everything away.

Exterior draperies are also increasing in popularity with the introduction of technologically advanced textiles that are washable, anti-fungal and colour-fast. You can recreate the look of a tent with suitable draperies that offer shade, privacy and in some cases, block out harsh rays of the sun when required. Teamed up with aluminium hardware and tracking, these can add value to a home and create an extra room feeling.

Outdoor fabrics of course have been utilised for some time on furniture for seating and cushions. If you are prepared to spend a little bit extra, you can be assured of a fabric that is colour-fast, mould resistant and washable. There is no limit to the colours, patterns and textures available either. Bright-coloured cushions can really lift an otherwise bland and dreary outdoor area, making it more inviting for guests and residents alike. It also doesn’t matter whether you remember to bring the items inside at the end of the day.

Then of course you have awnings. These products have evolved considerably from the dreary wind-up canvas items of the past. Now awnings can be crank-driven or motorised. They come in all shapes and sizes, and fabric options are virtually limitless. Some awnings even come with built in LED lighting! These structures are very strong and some are wind resistant, so they automatically fold with the first sign of a strong breeze.

It’s always handy to remember that the interior temperature of a home can be altered significantly by the correct usage of exterior window coverings. Placing a window covering directly outside the glass will prevent the external prevailing temperature from entering the home. Obviously, they can be a great investment.