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Outdoor eating & entertaining spaces.

Recent weather has been glorious. Summer holidays are approaching. Time to relax, unwind, and enjoy outdoor entertaining. So many months of the year we’re confined to eating and entertaining inside, so when the opportunity arises, let’s make the most of it!

Outdoor dining can often set the scene for some of our most memorable meals - light lunches in the summer sun, or perhaps a glass of wine and a delicious meal wrapped in a blanket under the stars. Creating the right ambiance is key and it doesn’t necessarily require a lot of effort to take meals from the breakfast bar to the patio or decking.

There are, of course, one or two extra considerations that need to be made with an outdoor set up – from working with the elements all year round, to tying in decor with surrounding nature.

Below are some top tips to enhance your al fresco experience.

Find or create a sheltered spot to eat:

Either create a convenient space close to the house for ease of access and a seamless flow from indoors to outside or pick a spot in a picturesque or secluded part of the garden, where you can create a cozy, sheltered outdoor dining area. Avoid designing an outdoor dining area in the part of the garden which receives the sun at midday and early afternoon, or it may become too hot in the height of summer. West-facing is ideal, allowing you to maximize light and warmth in the evening.

Provide enough heat:

While the British summer days can be glorious, temperatures can drop quite suddenly in the evenings. When you’re eating, drinking, and relaxing it’s easy to lose track of time so to avoid the shivers, think about providing warmth quickly and easily. Simple solutions include an in-built tabletop fire pit - one of this year’s leading outdoor living trends. A free-standing firepit is an alternative, in which case opt for a tall slim model rather than a bowl or square which saves space and is safer. Other options include an overhead electric heater, preferably built into an existing wall, to maximize floor space, or a gas heater, but bear in mind that although reliable and convenient, a gas heater isn’t the most eco-friendly choice.

Protect against the elements:

One thing out of our control is the weather – and the British climate is unique! Adding an overhead shade, sail, canopy, gazebo, pergola, or parasol to an outdoor dining area achieves several aims at once. It will provide shade for warmer days and depending on the density and waterproofing, shelter from the rain. If your garden is overlooked, it will also offer some privacy. If you choose a pergola or another kind of open-work structure you can use it as a base for climbing plants which provide colour and scent.

Introduce atmospheric lighting:

Just as in your kitchen or dining room where candles, uplighters, pendants, and spots play key roles, the principle is the same outdoors. Task lighting is required when cooking outdoors around the BBQ or pizza oven. Soft ambient lighting is needed to create a warm atmosphere around the seating area. Consider dramatic lighting too to highlight parts of the garden such as a water feature or to lead the way down a garden path. All of this may sound daunting, but it can be quite easy to achieve. Garlands of fairy lights or bulbs and lanterns from branches of trees work well. Hurricane lanterns work well around the tables and chairs and there are also lots of clever things you can do with smart technology to program garden lighting directly from your smartphone. Experiment and discover ways for the lights to turn on and off at set times every day or to brighten slowly as darkness falls.

Showcase natural materials:

When looking for outdoor dining ideas, create a relaxed vibe by using linen and cotton tablecloths, napkins and seat covers. These will add a tactile note from nature and help ground the zone in the garden. Emphasise this further by putting away the melamine and getting out recycled glassware and bamboo crockery. Limiting yourself to plain colours rather than integrating pattern also helps encourage this natural feel.

Add finishing touches:

Finally, time to accessorise. Plants, pots, water features, outdoor mirrors, colourful cushions, and garden ornaments can all help create the perfect outdoor dining experience. Add stylish glassware, crockery, textiles, and a vase of freshly cut flowers and friends and family will find it hard to leave!

12th Jun 2023