Entertaining outdoors is part of the pleasure of lazy summer days and balmy evenings, and no matter what size your space - a grand terrace or a tiny balcony - it’s vital to make the most of the area.
This outdoor zone should be a beautifully furnished extension of your home, so check out stylish and practical patio pieces, ranging in price from luxe to budget, and create patio perfection...
Neutral shades - so on trend indoors - are making an impact outside, and a soft grey, ivory or cream palette features in many woven, rattan-effect ranges.
“Chairs with woven seats and backs feature in many of the new ranges this year, and the attraction of this rattan-style woven effect is that it adds visual interest and is also ultra-comfortable,” says Tina Mahony, director of contemporary garden furniture specialists, Go Modern.
DRESS THE DECK: There’s a big shift towards informal seating as we treat outdoor spaces as lounges, rather than solely al fresco areas. Marks & Spencer’s Worthing rattan-effect furniture has gentle, curved lines and would look just as good in a conservatory. The range, available in grey or ivory, includes a Sofa, £499, Dining Chair £249, and Coffee Table, £229, while cushions start from £15.
For the ultimate in luxurious comfort, it’s hard to beat a daybed, and Lagoon’s super-roomy round Skyline Design Strips Day Bed is £1,949. If you favour a rich brown rattan shade, Neptune has a Toultson Dining Chair, £200, which pairs well with its Hudson Round Table, £1,285. Follow a woven theme with an accessory: a faux Green Ivy Leaf Ball in a woven pot, £164, Sweetpea & Willow.
TOP TIP: Matching the floor tiles in the room that opens onto your patio, and those used outdoors, can make the whole space feel far larger. Topps Tiles’ new Spaces range - Bruge Grey Tiles, £60.03 per square metre - is suitable for indoors and out, and replicates the look of materials such as marble and even wood parquet.
BUDGET BUY: An all-weather rattan Taranto Sofa Set, in stylish grey, £1,150, Next, comprises a three-seater sofa, two chairs with seat pads, and a coffee table.
Create harmony between your space and the outdoors, by choosing a natural material like wood.
“Wood is our traditional choice for garden furniture, and its mellow tones will always enhance a setting,” says Katie Rushworth, a presenter on ITV’s Love Your Garden who has been acting as an advisor for Wyevale Garden Centres.
“Don’t worry if your guests won’t fit around one table. Entertaining lots of people can be much easier if you also create lots of small seating areas. Try adding a bistro set, a mix of metal and weave chairs, or a swing seat.
“Don’t overlook lighting, which transforms a space when the sun goes down,” she adds. “Candles, lanterns or strings of lights are essentials, and solar-powered accent lights can add drama and interest if you highlight paths or create focal points with spotlights.”
DRESS THE DECK: A Longstock 6-Seater Rectangle Outdoor Teak Table, £599, and matching Stacking Teak Chairs, £150 each, is a star in John Lewis’ impressive outdoor range. We’ve never lost our love of the deckchair, which brings a seaside feel even in an urban setting, and Dobbies has a red or navy Stripe Deck Chair, £44.99.
TOP TIP: Tropical hardwoods, such as teak and eucalyptus, are naturally weather-resistant due to their high oil contents, which makes them easy to look after. Over time, teak, courbaril, roble and cumaru will weather to a beautiful silver grey colour.
Bear in mind, stone is an equally attractive natural material, and OKA has a stunning powdered stone Petra range: Round Dining Table, £765, and Stool, £175. A bright parasol, with planters matching its colour, won’t just provide shade but will breathe new life into a space. Raj Tent Club has a glorious selection, including a Pink Gold Star Sunshade, £750.
BARGAIN BUY: Next has a delightful Seville patio set, in oiled finish acacia wood: Rectangle Dining Table, £175, Set of 2 Dining Chairs, £99; Natural Parasol, £50 (Parasol Base, £25), and Set of Two Neutral Stripe Seat Pads, £25.
MAKE MINE METAL
Sleek contemporary style marries perfectly with stainless steel and metallic finishes.
“Size does matter, and there’s nothing worse than overwhelming a space with bulky furniture,” says Nicola Gidlow, buyer for outdoor living, John Lewis. “Decide first on the space you can give over to a new range, and whether you want it to be something which can go indoors as well. Take time to measure up properly, so the dimensions of pieces work well with the proportions of your outdoor space.
“Think of your garden as another room, and that way you’ll naturally choose furniture which matches your taste and lifestyle.”
DRESS THE DECK: A compact glass and steel Maya 4-seater Outdoor Dining Set, £299, John Lewis, is a smart choice for a balcony or small patio. Indian Ocean’s renowned for sophisticated collections which would grace any space, and its Marina Lounger, £1,595, bound with all-weather rope, and with hidden wheels, is available in taupe or black.
Living walls, where plants ‘grow’ on a vertical surface, are becoming hugely popular, as they soften a space and inject colour and interest. A Karoo Indoor/Outdoor Green Wall, £69.95, Clifton Nurseries, comprises a box with nine compartments and special soil, as well as advice on suitable plants. Melamine’s practical for casual outdoor dining, but for real style or special occasions, MiaFleur has some blooming lovely Exotic Palm Leaf Porcelain Plates, £39.95 for set of 4 (available June).
TOP TIP: Comfort is key, especially if you want to linger over meals and drinks, in which case you’ll probably favour chairs with backs rather than functional benches. Check how much care furniture needs before buying - some woods may need an annual scrub down and oil - and ensure you buy a furniture cover, particularly if you don’t have a covered winter storage area.
BARGAIN BUY: Dunelm’s Oslo 4 Seater Dining Set, £99.99, includes a parasol and comes in a pleasing bronze finish metal.
SHOP THE DECK
Clifton Nurseries: 020 7289 6851/Clifton.co.uk
Dunelm: 0345 165 6565/dunelm.com
Go Modern: 020 7731 9540/gomodern.co.uk
Indian Ocean: 020 8675 4808/Indian-ocean.co.uk
John Lewis: 0845 6049 049/www.johnlewis.com
Lagoon: 020 7129 1309/vivalagoon.com
Marks & Spencer: 0333 014 8000 /www.marksandspencer.com
MiaFleur: 0116 298 6393/miafleur.com
Neptune: 01793 427 300/Neptune.com
Next: 0844 844 8000/next.co.uk
OKA: 0844 815 7380/oka.com
Raj Tent Club: 020 7820 0010/rajtentclub.com
Sweetpea & Willow: 0345 257 2627/sweetpeaandwillow.co.uk
Topps Tiles: toppstiles.co.uk
Wyevale Garden Centre: 0344 272 3000/wyevalegardencentres.co.uk