If the last year has taught us anything it’s to value our outdoor space, whether that’s a balcony, courtyard or garden. It’s become our coffee shop, restaurant, playground, pub, club and office. here’s kirsty McLean’s guide to making your outside space ideal for entertaining.
Start by finding out where the sun shines for most of the day. This is likely to be where you will make your main seating area, but do consider privacy and shelter too. Look at how this area connects with the house and, in particular, with the kitchen, so you have a natural flow. If you have a shared garden, then consider storage – such as a tall cupboard or shed with shelves so you can take everything down that you need and store it here. It can double up as the bar! Think about how many people you want to entertain. A good rule of thumb is, 5m sq. will seat around 6 to 8 people comfortably, but if you have a smaller space you can be clever about how you use this.
Narrow bar tables and high stools are a great way of making the most of your space, or L-shaped outdoor sofas with low dining tables – some even double up as a fire pit. Use additional single chairs to increase the numbers and keep the arrangement flexible. If you want to have festoon lights or fairy lights overhead you can buy festoon poles – these come in various heights.
If you already have a bit of paving, get out the pressure washer and rejuvenate it. Outdoor rugs are a great way of covering paving and by concentrating on the furniture, lighting, heat and planting, you can transform the shabbiest of areas.
If you are starting from scratch or landscaping, think about levels and materials. If you have a sloped area, consider decking surrounded by raised beds on the sloped side. You can use pressure treated white wood, oak, Iroko, or perhaps a composite which comes in a wide range of colours would suit you better? If paving is more your thing, your options are endless. Granite, sandstone, porcelain, limestone, marble or imprinted patterned concrete can all look good. Think about what pattern you will lay these in – random (using several different sizes), same size (rectangles look better than squares) grid lines or staggered rows.
Decide whether you want an open or covered space. There are some amazing gazebos out there that have retractable roof and sides. They look fabulous with festoon lights strung over the rafters. There are also some great umbrellas that can carry heat and light and come with zippable sides to make an enclosed space. Pop-up gazebo’s offer great flexibility. Heat and light are important considerations in our climate. Options include halogen heaters on stands or wall-mounted, fire pits, fire balls, fireplaces, fairy lights, festoon lights, fixed lights or lantern lights, which might be solar, LED or even candles.
BBQs come in all shapes and sizes, but if you have a little more space, think about using pressure treated sleepers to support a slate or granite work top next to your BBQ to give you a work space.
Planting creates atmosphere and adds style. Use big planters around your space and bring some leafy green to the party and don’t forget the music!
Whatever you decide, it’s not just an entertainment space you are creating, it’s a place to make your guests feel welcome and reconnect. With throws to keep your guests warm, lighting to make it cosy and outdoor rugs on the ground you can create the most fabulous space to enjoy with your family and friends.