With summer in full swing, many of us are migrating outdoors to make use of the patio, the pool and the pergola. It’s our famous outdoor lifestyle that makes us the envy of other countries, and some of us are lucky enough to have a first-class environment in which to relax.
But in some cases, our outdoor facilities could use a little help. Take Sue and Craig Gartlacher, who recently had their patio transformed by the outdoor space experts, Aussie Outdoor Living. Sue and Craig had a patio adjacent to their in-ground pool, which wasn’t meeting their needs, as Sue explained.

“We had two massive shade umbrellas there, which we’d had for some time,” she said. “But the problem was when it rained you had to scoot everyone indoors, so you couldn’t entertain if the weather was ominous. We wanted somewhere we could sit all year round, even when it was raining or windy.” Sue and Craig live on five acres with a willow tree in the back of the property. In summer months, it creates a beautiful backdrop so it was important that an open, free-flowing structure allowed the natural environment to be displayed at its best. The couple visited Aussie Outdoor Living’s Dural showroom and were impressed with the service from the start. The family company is owned by Chris Reilly, who runs it with the help of daughter Jess. “Chris is very passionate about what he does,” Sue continued. “What we really liked about Aussie Outdoor is that from the beginning Chris and Jess sat down with us and showed us their ideas. “Chris was really excited about it. He was very professional, but he said, ‘I really hope I get this job, because I can see it in my head’. Everything he said he and his team were going to do, they did.”
Sue said many tradespeople in the past have been less than professional, but the team from Aussie Outdoor Living was “amazing”. “The construction team were here at seven o’clock every morning and they packed and cleaned up every single day,” she said. Apart from taming the weather, Sue and Craig have a large family, and love entertaining. They wanted a space that could accommodate the 30 or so people they regularly invite over. Now that Christmas is fast approaching, Sue said the timing on the new outdoor area couldn’t have been better. “Everyone says they can’t believe how big the space is now — they’ve been blown away. We’ve got 35 people coming over for Christmas Eve dinner and it’s going to be amazing. We’re very, very happy with the result.” For Chris Reilly, the solution to the problems of weather control and space were easy to solve. He recommended a full gable on the roof, with plenty of height, LED lights and fans. The gutters on the house were also upgraded to prevent any problems with gutter overflows. Remote-controlled electric blinds and glass pool fencing shield the area from the elements. “It looks awesome,” Chris enthused. “At the end of the day I’m looking for clients who want quality, want it to last and want the best on the market — it’s as simple as that. For me, there’s no compromise.”
Aussie Outdoor Living has been in business for 13 years, and draws on a network of tradesmen hand-picked by Chris. Daughter Jess plays an important role photographing the projects both before and after the transformations, which has built up over the years into a handy reference for new clients. Then there’s the showroom. “Our clients say our showroom is the David Jones of showrooms,” said Chris. “And we worked hard to get that effect. Pretty much everything we do is in the showroom so people can see for themselves — decks, roofs, fans, walls, screening, outdoor kitchens, barbecues — it’s all there.” Sue’s and Craig’s project took about four months altogether, with three weeks of actual construction. He said because it’s a family business, he can control the quality of the work that went into the build. The frames and supports are aluminium to prevent rust. The roof panels are a translucent polycarbonate made in Israel that Chris has been using for years, because he knows it can stand the test of time. Nothing is in kit form; everything is bespoke and built for the site. “The electrician on this project has been working with us for four or five years, our blind and shutters guy made sure everything was colour coordinated,” said Chris. “Steve, our glazier, fitted the glass panels and Matt, our construction manager, organised the schedule. “We’re like a one-stop shop, and everyone is local — we all live and work in the Hills.” Chris says Aussie Outdoor Living’s patios and pergolas are like getting an extension to your home, but without the $250,000 price tag. Highly commended at the Hills Building and Design Awards 2016, Chris is proud to continue a family tradition of uncompromising excellence. “I’m not a sales rep, I’m the owner of this business,” he said. “I want to make sure these structures are going to be there for 15 years, and still looking awesome.” ❐

Makeovers step by step:

  1. Chris meets clients.
  2. ‘Before’ photos taken of space.
  3. Showroom tour to work out materials and ideas.
  4. Images of previous jobs used as a guide.
  5. Site visit to get a better understanding.
  6. Design solution and materials finalised.
  7. Council approvals.
  8. Tradespeople engaged, construction starts.
  9. ‘After’ photos taken at completion.

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