Make the most of midsummer with an outdoor area designed for enjoying long, lazy days in the garden.
See our decorating section for more inspiration
Top tips for planning your alfresco area
Think how you are going to use your outside space before diving in with a re-design or splashing out on expensive furniture. Is eating alfresco your main objective, or is it to create a sunny seating area that doubles up as a spot for sundowners? You can demarcate the chosen area in various ways: ‘Use paving or decking, which can be laid in opposing directions to zone different areas; says RHS Gold medal-winning garden designer Rosemary Coldstream. ‘Planters can form a screen to separate an area, or lighting can mark out spaces.’
How can I make my garden look better?
Many of us now view our gardens as an extension of our kitchen and living rooms and are styling them accordingly. ‘Be bold by integrating interior and exterior colours and style; says RHS Chelsea Gold medal-winning garden designer Tony Woods of Garden Club London. ‘If you have a feature wall colour inside, run it outside and along the boundary. Or if you have a very light interior, continue it outside: Then choose furnishings to fit the space.
‘The key with styling an outdoor area is to look at the hard landscaping and work around it, building your theme from that starting point; advises Tasha Green of outdoor soft furnishing specialist Weaver Green.
No space to store outdoor furniture in the winter? You can still enjoy good times alfresco - simply move your indoor dining table and chairs outside temporarily. Dress your table with linen runners and napkins, and bring out your china and glassware - it will look lovely twinkling in the light of a hurricane lamp or candelabra.
And do as Tasha Green, director of outdoor soft furnishing specialist Weaver Green, does and lay an outdoor rug under your table. 'It makes the space feel considered and comfortable, and keeps evening chills off your feet; she says. When choosing a spot for your table, make sure it's near enough to the house to make transporting everything a little less onerous.
On sunny days, choose a natural muted colour theme for your table setting to keep the atmosphere light and cool. Save on storage space by selecting weatherproof chairs, such as these, which can be left outside all year.
Get the look Similar chairs, Oka.
There is no simpler way of creating a welcoming spot for alfresco meals than with a generous table and some comfy chairs on a paved area near the house, like this one at interior designer Fiona Crole's home. 'Round tables make for an informal. relaxed setting, plus everyone can see and hear each other,' says Amy Conn, product development season leader at Neptune. A classic parasol ensures you can linger on the hottest summer days.
Beat the unpredictable British weather with a garden room. Michael Barnes, MD of Apropos, which specialises in indoor/outdoor rooms, says, 'Verandas – with or without bi-folding doors – and aluminium pergolas to shelter you from sudden rainstorms both offer great options for a stylish hybrid garden space.'
A pergola is a useful way of demarcating seating or eating areas, plus it brings an attractive architectural element to an outdoor space. 'They add height and interest to a garden,' says RHS Chelsea Gold medal-winning garden designer Kate Gould. 'And are useful for creating shady, secluded seating areas.' For a comfortable spot such as this in which to kick back and relax, choose low-level seating with plenty of cushions.
Against the backdrop of stripped wood flooring, these brightly upholstered chairs inject energy into this room designed Tor Interiors. Go one step further and have the backs covered in a contrasting design.
Get the look Interior design, Tor Interiors, torinteriors.com.
Smart white leather chairs and a round varnished wood table set a contemporary scene in this light-filled, open-plan dining area. Position your table to take advantage of the best views of the garden.
Pale greys and taupes form the starting point for a beautiful alfresco table. Add accents of blush on candles and vintage greens on glassware. Muted metals, coarse linens and mottled marble add cool and serene country details.
Let the heady beauty of garden-grown delights inspire your late summer decor. Lay a table ready for a harvest-time gathering with linens influenced by the cutting garden alongside homely and honest serveware and furniture.
A table and chairs set by the river makes for an exceptional experience, especially when accompanied by birdsong and bluebells, and the fragrant scent of lavender.
When creating your outdoor entertaining scheme, why not take the colours of the surroundings as your starting point? In the case of this Provençal terrace overlooking a glorious vista, we needed to do little more than echo the soft olive greens of the fields and hills beyond. For relaxed summer dining, the best thing is to keep place settings simple – it helps guest feel like its time to relax.
Get the look Rectangle garden table, H80xW140xD70cm, £265, Out There Interiors.