15 outdoor entertaining tips for spring and summer

Take it outside.
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Want to entertain your friends in a beautiful setting? With our clever tips and tricks, your yard will be just the place.

WATCH: Adam and Charlie build an outdoor bar

The days are warm, the pace is chilled – it’s the ideal time for relaxing. The perfect place in which to spend your leisure hours is outside, in the tranquil privacy of your own backyard. Now’s the time to create – or just glam up – your outdoor room. And you don’t need heaps of space – a balcony or courtyard will suffice. So we’ve come up with a fab selection of alfresco living ideas, from dressing a summer dining table to creating a beautiful furnished space, so you can entertain in style, with ease.

1. Enclose your garden space


Love the look! Take a cue and extend your fence to create a lovely sense of enclosure, so you can position your outdoor living zone in a corner of the garden where it enjoys two ‘walls’. Include both lounging and dining furniture, coloured up with bright cushions and bunches of fresh blooms.

2. Use planters


Liven up outdoor spaces by including a couple of really striking planted containers. Tall cube planters are ideal because they elevate the plants, giving them extra prominence. As for the planting scheme, go for summer-hardy species and stick to simple colour combos, like this mix of spiky flax, silver helichrysum, and red pelargoniums and verbena.

3. Add decking


Easy to convert into brilliant outdoor rooms, decks that extend out from the house can be used constantly. Buy an outdoor rug to give the space a homey feel, and arrange chairs around a coffee table. For extra impact, group a few weathered urns nearby, as here, and add a pillar candle holder for evening charm.

4. Install a garden screen


Take a small space from dull to dazzling. Use easy-on-the-eye green and a slate-coloured garden screen as your backdrop, then play it bold with a dash of colour here and a splash of colour there. Start by taking your indoor cushions outside. Portable screens are a lovely way to create an instant garden corner retreat.Seek out quirky designs in metal from garden and homeware stores.

5. Rustic style


Jazz up plain-Jane outdoor tables with a clutch of potted Mediterranean herbs and brightly printed cushions and napkins. Here, pots of thyme, sage and lavender blend with a standard rosemary and a bunch of nasturtium flowers.

6. Introduce some shade


For a flexible approach to sun protection, go for a market umbrella – the cantilevered versions with a side post are ultra handy. Invest in a pair of stylish outdoor armchairs and a table, hang a few paper lanterns and settle in.

7. Create a tranquil retreat


There’s tons of potential in that neglected garden corner! For starters, build a compact elevated terrace, overlooking a water feature if you have one, then deck out with white wicker furniture and surround the area with lush palms and beautiful orchids. That wasted space will look fresh – and so inviting!

8. Grow some herbs


If a barbecue is central to your outdoor entertaining, think about adding a few culinary companions, like herbs. For convenience, grow them on a herb table – a purpose-built model like this one looks fab, but a few terracotta pots on an old bench would serve just as well. If you use a lot of herbs in cooking, consider buying mini pots from supermarkets. They’re easy to harvest as needed, and cheap to replace.

9. Table for two


A verandah or balcony corner is all you need to create an outdoor retreat for two. Group a pair of wicker chairs and recommission a couple of vintage timber pieces to serve as tables. Timber benches are really useful, as they can serve as coffee tables and extra seating, as required.

10. A summer dream


Create a dreamy garden escape with the simplest ingredients. All you need is a table set up on the lawn, a neutral-coloured linen cloth, an assortment of wooden chairs and a couple of fragrant lavender plants in wicker baskets. Perfect!

11. Tea in the garden


Dress up earthy, rustic hardwood furniture for a delightful afternoon tea in the cooling shade. Go for an unabashed romantic look, with a linen table runner, plump cushions, pieces of pastel coloured china and a baby-blue jug filled with summer blooms in varying shades of pink. Leafy trees provide natural sun protection for alfresco meals. Just move your furniture around to take advantage of the best shady spots.

12. Style your space


A little styling goes a long way with outdoor entertaining areas. So, while the summer party season is in swing, include little touches like flower-filled baskets and lanterns on your outdoor tables. Buy the flowers as potted bloomers and just sit them inside wicker baskets.

13. Colour code


Love themed colour schemes inside your home? Then carry your obsessions outside, too! Here, the French antique grey chairs are teamed with the exterior paintwork, while the table arrangement is a careful combination of aqua, pink and mauve. Add groups of tea lights for a gorgeous glow.

14. Utilise your space


Even a tiny courtyard can be inviting. Simply plush things up with a few interior style furnishings. Start with a pair of deep upholstered wicker chairs, gathered around an ottoman. Then add in a few scattered cushions, a wicker drinks tray – and how about planting up a window box for a pretty backdrop?

15. Install a water feature


A simple water feature is such a lovely touch – its gentle trickling will calm you instantly! All you’ll need is a large container (with the drainage hole sealed), and a pond pump with a spout and fountain head. Of course, you’ll also need access to power, so you should consider having an outdoor power point installed while you’re designing your space.

Designer’s tips

  • Divide your space into zones that suit your lifestyle. For instance, separating the living and dining areas gives a house-like feel.
  • Remember, less is more when choosing plants and furniture. The repetition of one colour or style makes an area appear more spacious.
  • Pale paving creates a light, airy feel, and unifies all the spaces. Don’t mix up flooring in outdoor rooms – stick to a uniform style throughout.
  • With no overhead trees, some sort of shade structure is essential for sun-drenched areas. Consider adding a small pergola or pavilion, or go for a retractable shade sail in white canvas.
  • Add interest with themed decorative touches, like chrome lanterns or striped pots.
  • Choose plants to suit the conditions that the space provides – sun or shade. Keep colours limited to just a few shades for greater impact.

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