Sunshine is on its way, and with it comes plentiful opportunities to soak up its glorious rays. When the weather warms up, we love nothing more than enjoying a casual breakfast, long lunch or laidback dinner outdoors, revelling in those heat-filled days during the summer months. If you’re getting your garden ready for the sunny season and asking yourself ‘how do you build an outdoor eating area’, let this guide be of assistance. From tablescaping tips to location advice, follow our suggestions for a stylish al fresco set up.



Select a Dining Table to Suit You

Choosing the right garden furniture is all about striking a careful balance between function and form. Your outdoor dining table needs to be large enough to accommodate the desired amount of people, fit into the proportions of your outside space, be able to withstand the elements and, as a large and central piece, have an aesthetic that is to your tastes. Begin by thinking about how you will most likely use the table – will you be hosting large groups of family and friends, or simply using it for a solo morning coffee in the sunshine? If the former, a large rectangular style may be your best port of call, as you can fit more people around it. If the latter, something smaller, such as a square or two-seater circular style, may be more appropriate. Materials, too, should be considered – be sure to opt for an all-weather style (read our guide to outdoor furniture materials for advice) and as well as one that will complement the rest of your garden.  


Choose a Location with Size in Mind

When it comes to your outdoor dining set up, your location will likely be determined by how much space you have to play with. If you’re working with a petite balcony or terrace, you should place your garden table in the centre to ensure there’s enough space to move around comfortably. If you have a larger outdoor space, you’ll need to decide whether you want to stay in close proximity to your kitchen – and thus reduce time spent running back and forth – or choose a separate space set away from your home, in order to create a greater sense of occasion. Leading guests across the grass to a dining set up tucked away from view will make your meal feel elevated and extra special. Whichever you opt for, try to find a spot where the ground is level, to make seating as comfortable as possible, and ensure to leave plenty of space around it for ease of movement. Try to seek a shady spot if you can, or have a parasol on hand for truly hot days. 


Elevate the Occasion with a Formal Table Setting

How do you style an outdoor table? The beauty of dining al fresco is that your setting not only provides a striking backdrop to your celebrations, but an abundance of design inspiration too. If you’re hosting a more formal occasion and would like to decorate your tabletop to match, we recommend taking cues from the nature around you and bringing in verdant hues, tactile textures and natural motifs. Start with a rattan underplate, top with crockery in a pretty patterned design, and introduce complementary colours through your cutlery and glassware. Additional textures, such as a linen tablecloth or napkins, terracotta pots and rustic stoneware will help to create a layered and inviting effect. For the perfect finishing touch, look to create a centrepiece of candles or beautiful blooms. For more advice on mastering the art of tablescaping, read our guide.

Keep it Casual with Mixed Seating

If you’re inclined to host a more relaxed al fresco feast, why not make sitting at the dining table one of multiple options? If you’re hosting a barbecue, for example, provide plates and cutlery for people to help themselves, and let them spread out as they please. If space allows, a lounge area with comfortable seats, a cosy corner with a couple of armchairs and even an indoor/outdoor rug with plenty of cushions could serve as relaxed and comfortable seating options for a lunch or dinner outdoors. Be sure to provide plenty of alternate surfaces, such as side tables or stools, on which people can place drinks or plates when not in use.

Blur the Lines Between Indoors and Out

Just because you’re dining outdoors doesn’t mean you can’t make the most of your inside space, too. If you have room for guests to flit between the two, why not serve a buffet-style feast, with dishes laid out in the kitchen for guests to help themselves? If you’re short on space, this will allow you maximise on seating, as some guests can choose to stay inside, while others may prefer to be outdoors. On really hot days, this may be particularly welcome by those who favour a cooler spot away from the sun’s rays.

If you’re ready to start preparing your outdoor space for the warmer months, why not take a look at our collection of garden furniture, tableware and accessories? You’ll find everything you need to host an al fresco feast.