Gather friends and family outside with these inspirational entertaining garden ideas
Photo: Jennifer Newman Studio
Outdoor spaces allow us to be more experimental with design, to be braver with color, and inject a bit of fun with eye-catching garden furniture.
If you're tempted by the thought of color but tend to play safe with more neutral shades here is your opportunity to experiment and opt for something bolder. It’s also a good way to add an instant lift to a shady garden.
What better setting for fabric with an ornamental botanical theme and boldly scaled florals than the yard? Choose high performance material designed especially for outdoor use and let your imagination find inventive ways to showcase it such as a luxurious daybed for lounging on to add a touch of decadence to your entertaining.
‘For this daybed we used Persian Voyage, a beautiful, lush botanical paisley from our archive recolored in a rich lacquer pink,’ explains Genevieve Bennett, head of interiors design at Liberty. ‘The atmosphere is one of relaxed bohemian elegance with a contemporary twist.
A solid dining table with space enough for a large group to gather around and plenty of room for a spread of dishes is a must for alfresco entertaining. If you regularly host large groups of friends, opt for benches that seat more people and can be slid out of the way beneath the table when not in use.
‘Whether you’re catching up with friends over lunch or hosting a dinner party in the evening, a large outdoor dining table is a must, providing lots of room for big sharing plates, as well as plenty of space for guests,’ says OKA co-founder and creative director Sue Jones.
The latest outdoor sofa collections have the comfort and distinctive aesthetic of indoor pieces. This fits with the trend to invest in considered schemes that flow out on to a terrace or balcony, extending the usable square footage of our homes to create ‘transteriors’ – halfway spaces that are neither fully indoors nor entirely out.
‘These spaces might be covered patios, sunrooms, conservatories or heated decks, pergolas strung with lights that create a convivial atmosphere, or even simple canopies to gather beneath,’ explains Marie Kristine Schmidt, CMO of GUBI.
Photo: Rowen & Wren
If you’ve caught the dahlia bug and are growing your own, you have the perfect material in the garden to create showstopping displays for summer tables. If not, dahlias are widely available from florists and farmers markets, too. You only need a few stems to make a stunning display and the more random, the better.
‘Dahlias are such showy blooms and look marvellous on their own, either arranged en masse or displayed individually, so one can appreciate their unique traits and features up close,’ says dahlia expert and Floret Flowers founder Erin Benzakein. ‘In addition to holding their own in an arrangement, they play well with others and can be incorporated into any mixed bouquet.’
Photo: Mark Bolton/Future
Aim for a more formal table setting with crisp white china and stylish glassware.
Create a centerpiece by bedecking the table with a generous selection of roses or other seasonal blooms hand-picked from the garden to elevate your social gathering to a more memorable affair.
Even better if you’re sitting beneath a plant-covered pergola or trellis to throw dappled light on to your guests.
Photo: Davide Lovati/Future
An inbuilt fireplace with an enclosed chimney will keep things smartly contained, and provides a safe and sociable way to burn logs, which can be stored in integrated alcove spaces. Layer up pillows and a throw or two to make the space even more inviting.
Choose a homely arrangement of seats around a low table to make your guests' comfort a priority. The look is also firmly in the category of taking interior design looks outside to create that all-important living room feel.
Photo: Studio Ashby/Hay Designs
Choose co-ordinated outdoor furniture, complementary soft furnishings like these peachy summer stripes from Studio Ashby to add a pop of colour, and a cohesive planting style to lend a visual link that leads the eye from one area to the next.
The bench sofas include under-seat lighting and an integrated fireplace in the center that together switch up the space to cozy for perfect night-time entertaining.
Photo: Davide Lovati/Future
Simple freestanding fire bowl styles are available in a variety of materials, including concrete, metal and cast iron, that take up minimal space.
Wood-burning fire pits add a crackle and pop to create a cozy campfire atmosphere. Even better, it’s an instant focal point for your patio or deck.
Photo: Emma Lee/Future
Cooking over flames for that quintessential mix of fire, smoke and food is a key part of summer entertaining. Charcoal grills are central to this experience, and come in a range of styles from the simplest drums and open grills, to the ever-popular kettle versions and more luxurious models.
The simplest option is a kettle barbecue for great results with minimum effort, and they are generally large enough to cook for six. They often come on wheels allowing you to chase the sun or shade depending on your preference.