Enclosing Patios and Terraces From Brick Walls to Glass Curtains
One of the most appealing things about the Andalucian lifestyle is the amount of time you spend outdoors, including the space around your own home. Longer, lighter days throughout the year and balmy summer nights when jackets and sweaters are unnecessary accessories are just some of the joys of living in this privileged part of the world.
The Costa del Sol and inland Andalucia used to be largely made up of traditional scattered farmhouses and a series of small villages around the main cities. There are still many areas where the typical southern Spanish whitewashed cottages are dotted around the varied Andalucian landscape. Some areas are now more built up with blocks of apartments, clusters of houses or villas overlooking the fairway of a tranquil golf course. Whatever the size or type of dwelling you dream of (or dream in!) an important living area is the outside terrace, balcony or patio. Whereas in colder climes, the emphasis is on the 'interior' decoration, in sunny southern Spain, there is a natural fusion between inside and out.
Beating the Elements
The price of some properties is dictated by the view. Sunbathing in the privacy of your own patio or terrace with the backdrop of the glittering Mediterranean Sea or wild Atlantic Ocean really is a dream come true for many people. However, some shade is a good idea, especially around midday. There are times when you need to protect your skin from the strong rays and you may also want to shade the house to avoid it heating up to oven temperatures by night fall. As well as shade, you may soon come to the conclusion that some sort of partition may be needed to protect against wind, sand, rain and the chill of winter.
Traditionally, the Southern Spanish people keep their homes cool in summer. Small windows and thick cottage walls do a lot to control extremes of temperatures. Patios and terraces in the countryside are often fronted by a pergola of shady vine leaves, under which the family enjoys long lunches and late evening meals. The typical Andaluz will seek shade rather than sun on his terrace or patio, often building their house with a closed in patio or courtyard, rather than having an outside space. In general, the British and other Northern Europeans invite more sun into their homes and enjoy basking in its warmth, having suffered many long cold winters (and summers!) back home.
In apartment blocks many people, both Spanish and foreign residents, close in the balcony area with glass sliding doors. This is especially evident in some buildings near the sea, where strong winds may sometimes bring unwanted sand into the apartment, or in cities where traffic noise can be blocked out through double glazing. The balcony becomes an extra inside room in winter, but the fixed glass can sometimes make the house too hot in summer.
Creating a new room out of the terrace or balcony by walling it in permanently is another option, but it is important to weigh up the pros and cons of losing that outside space totally. Cool hanging fabric curtains can add a certain 'chic' to outside patios and terraces, and give some relief from extreme heat and sunlight and often work well in combination with floor to ceiling windows. One of the best (and most innovative) solutions to be found is a kind of glass sliding doors in the form of so-called 'glass curtains'. This system gives you the best of both worlds in all seasons, without losing sight of why you moved to Andalucia. Draw them shut against the elements, without cutting out your view of the sea or countryside. Open them with minimum fuss and without sacrificing the outside-in factor.
Security and Privacy
Whether you have a place by the beach, in the cobbled street of a quiet village or have opted for the bustle of Spanish town life around you, you will need to address the question of security and privacy. It is normal in Spain to have 'rejas' (ornate wrought iron grills) around windows and balconies. These work well and give you peace of mind against intruders, as well as blending in well with the local architecture. However, on a terrace or patio area where you do not want iron bars around you, there are other systems to choose from. Although not quite as secure in the long term, one option is to have a drop down awning (as sometimes seen in local bars and restaurants). This gives some privacy and a certain amount of protection from the elements. Once again with some form of glass sliding doors or 'glass curtains', you can shut out the occasional cold or rainy day and reduce outside noise, while maintaining the flexibility to open it all up to enjoy the many days of warm air and sunshine.
Hot lazy summers are the hallmark of Andalucia. Many people who visit or settle here in the winter months are sometimes surprised at how cold it can occasionally become. It rarely lasts long, but there can be bouts of torrential rain or sharp chill. Temperatures can drop below zero some inland areas. An open terrace or patio can become a temporary no-go area if you cannot close it off somehow. Versatile systems are the best, as this allows you to create the environment that you want according to seasonal changes. Sometimes winters can be dry and sunny. However, early morning and late afternoon can be cold. This is when the glass curtains system comes into its own. Watching the sun rise on a clear December day in Andalucia or star gazing into an inky blue sky from the comfort and warmth of your own patio or terrace is worth its weight in gold.
Keeping your options open
The key to inside-out-living is flexibility and versatility without compromising on style. Staying cool in summer and warm in winter is top priority for an optimum lifestyle. Heating and air conditioning are becoming commonplace and often the two systems are combined. For both to function properly, it's best to have good insulation and be able to close off patio and terrace areas. The system of glass curtains could work well, especially since they can be made to measure to meet your needs. Whichever system you go for, you should ask for a quote before giving the go-ahead with any work and check what guarantees are on offer. If you go for a product, like the glass curtains system, ensure that you understand how the sliding or folding mechanism works and ask if it acts like double glazing against noise and temperature.