Interior stylist Lilly Engelbrecht shares exactly how she transformed her garden into a social hub

Whether it’s a cosy fireside evening or a barbecue and watching sports on the big screen, this stunning garden in Arabian Ranches hosts plenty of social gatherings

Woman in a backyard garden and pool
Lilly Engelbrecht has transformed her outdoor space into a social hub

“Our main objective was to create multiple entertaining areas – it’s lovely to see guests congregate in different parts of the garden when we have parties,” Lilly Engelbrecht tells us.

When she and husband Dewald Engelbrecht moved into their Arabian Ranches home 12 years ago, they needed to transform their outside space from a sandpit into a useable garden as quickly as possible. “We love to entertain and my husband likes to barbecue,” Lilly says.

To that end, their first step was laying down a lawn and planting ficus trees to create a garden space before mapping out different zones. 

Garden dining area with stone oven
Garden dining area with stone oven

The sunken seating area, with its thatched roof and fireplace became the starting point. “It’s really cosy in the winter,” Lilly enthuses. “We regularly light a wood fire, play card games and enjoy nibbles and drinks in that space.”

From there, the couple, who run creative landscaping company Escape Luxury Living , built the bar area with its pizza oven and eight years ago, the swimming pool and adjacent soft seating area were added, with adjustments made to connect the different zones and maximise the views of the pool. “We made the pool a feature, with it facing the lounge and having the overflow opposite the sunken area,” Lilly explains.

backyard outdoor living space
Now the Engelbrecht’s garden is a place to relax with friends and family

The couple designed the pool with seating so that guests can look towards the living area or watch rugby and other sports from a mounted TV or overhead projector, while the water is shallow close to the steps to accommodate their friends’ young children. Their most recent addition is the planted cacti, surrounded by white stones. “These are easy to maintain and give the garden a neutral and calm feel.”

Finishing touches that are pretty and practical

  • Jamie Olivers wood fire oven formDubai Garden Centre
  • Jamie Olivers wood fire oven formDubai Garden Centre, Concrete stools from JYSK
  • “I love the scent of frangipani flowers. Plus, frangipani trees are low maintenance – their big leaves are easy to clear up when they fall during the dry summer months.”
  • Lilly and her husband use their Jamie Oliver’s Wood Fired Oven (from Dubai Garden Centre) for baking bread and cooking roasts as well as making pizzas.
  • “These concrete stools [from JYSK]  double up as side tables.”
  • Locally sourced Hatta stone has been used for the bar and fireplace.

Also read: Dreaming of a green garden? How this Dubai couple took their outdoor space from boring to blooming

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