1. Plan how you’re going to use it. Do you want a seating area, a dining zone, or both? Work out the space’s primary purpose first.
2. Find shelter. A covered verandah that gives protection from both sun and rain is ideal. Next best is a pergola over which you can train vines like wisteria or jasmine, a shade tree or strategically placed shade sails, which give a lovely sense of movement.
3. Create privacy or conceal ugly views with screening. Horizontal battens have a contemporary look and are simple to fit, while there are myriad patterned screens in materials from plastic to corten steel that blend function and form nicely. Drops of diaphanous fabric hung around a pergola are stunning, if not 100 per cent practical when it’s wet or windy.
4. Disguise a boring border with plants. Quick-growing slender weaver’s bamboo will grow in a narrow bed and will soon give you a swathe of greenery rustling romantically in the wind.
5. Keep a clear passageway from the house exit so that you don’t have to hop round your furniture to reach the garden.
6. Set tall, narrow rectangular planters around the perimeter for a sense of enclosure, with either built-in or freestanding seating arranged within, or ring the area with garden beds. With plantings, mix up textures and foliage for year-round interest, layer shrubs of different heights and include fragrant varieties for an extra boost to the senses.
7. Take cues from your indoor space to create a gorgeous seating area; think inviting sofas and armchairs, coffee and side tables, an outdoor rug, and outdoor-grade floor and side lamps for ambience. Add a selection of cushions and throws in a couple of baskets that can be brought outside when needed and whisked back inside in adverse weather.
8. If day-long dinners are your thing, invest in a sturdy table and comfy dining chairs with seat cushions to encourage guests to linger. Allow around a metre all around the table so people can pull out chairs and others can pass behind them.
9. Music is an integral part of entertaining, so invest in a set of weather-resistant speakers, positioned undercover, to take the party outside.
10. Decorate with pots. Nothing works better than greenery to turn your patio into the perfect transition space between your house and garden. Not a green thumb? Succulents are beautiful, on-trend, come in myriad forms and are virtually impossible to kill. Enjoy!