We’ve waited patiently for so long, and now we’re able to welcome friends into our gardens again it’s time to dress our outdoor dining spaces for long, lazy lunches, starlit suppers and a cocktail party or two. Choosing the right table, adding comfortable chairs to cocoon your Rule of Six favourites and clever accessorising will transform your alfresco dining experience into an occasion to remember.
Holloways interior designer Annie Blackledge shares her tips.
Get a room
Zoning off an area of your garden, space permitting, will help you create an outdoor dining room you can use year-round.
If different paving isn’t an option to demarcate your chosen spot, carefully-placed planters filled with evergreens like Buxus or laurel will help screen off your dining area, creating an intimate space, and clever lighting will point the way for guests.
A covered area for less clement days could add architectural interest to your garden while a pergola planted with climbing roses, wisteria, clematis or honeysuckle will provide shade and shelter, and look and smell heavenly.
Eat, drink and be merry
There’s an outdoor dining table to suit every lifestyle, whether yours is a contemporary or traditional space, a bijou courtyard or a sprawling poolside patio.
Think about when you’ll use your table - daytime or evening - how many guests you’re likely to welcome and your style of dining, formal or informal.
Round tables like the six-seater Tetbury, above, are sociable - everyone can see and hear everyone else - while long tables can often seat larger numbers.
“Teak tables like the round Louvre or long Derby are always timeless,” says Annie.
“The wood mellows to a silvery grey as time goes on and they just get better with age.”
The light, yet tough, aluminium frame and aluminium composite top make the Kona six or eight-seater dining tables a practical and stylish choice for poolside terraces and modern patios alike, and it’ll seat your Rule of Six and more in comfort and style.
For more traditional spaces, the delicately curved Boscombe six-seater marble top table comes in a soothing cobble grey, with pretty heart-backed chairs perfectly at home in cottage gardens.
Scandinavian chic meets supreme comfort with the Hellasgarden bistro set. For smaller spaces, its rope detailing is a definite nod to the nautical, and it's the perfect place for the morning papers or a sundowner.
There's a matching sofa set, too, which comes with two armchairs, a footstool and side tables.
Lloyd Loom furniture has long been a popular choice for gardens - but make sure the set you choose is suitable for outdoor use.
Our knowledgeable sales teams are always on hand to help and advise.
With elegant curves and a delicate weave, Lloyd Loom pieces are both pretty and practical.
The Clementine is a generous round table in a soft grey, which comes with four matching armchairs and seat pads. It’s a super spot for afternoon tea or a sunny breakfast.
There’s a casual dining set in the range, too, which will take you from pre-dinner drinks to an informal supper in seconds.
The right chairs
Contemporary or traditional, choosing the right chairs for your outdoor dining space is vital. Comfort is key if you want your guests to linger for longer.
The vintage curves of the Poppy collection are made to sink into, and there are matching corner sofas and sun loungers for lounging in sunny spots.
The ornately-patterned, British-made Victoria high-back armchairs pair perfectly with the Victoria round table, seating four in comfort when you add a set of pretty cushions.
Reminiscent of 1800s Coalbrookdale, the Victoria comes in powder-coated shades from stone white to lichen and can be dressed up or down to suit your mood.
Setting the table
Dress your outdoor table as you would your dining room, says Annie.
“While plastic plates and glasses might be practical and shatter-proof, beautiful crockery, polished cutlery and elegant glasses bring a definite sense of occasion and sparkle at night,” she adds.
“Linen napkins topped with sprigs of greenery from the garden, tied up with gardeners’ twine or ribbon, are a lovely organic touch.”
Neptune’s Antonia fringed linen napkins come in muted shades from blue to sage, while the Emily linen napkins in salt suit almost any scheme.
Serve antipasti on Neptune’s long wooden Borough boards, and pile salad leaves into beautifully quirky Stanton teak bowls for an organic touch.
Buy them in our Neptune-store-in-store, along with beautiful crockery, cutlery and glassware.
Let there be light
"Neptune’s Rosewood festoon lights hung from the trees and flickering candles at different heights will create a magical atmosphere in your garden as the sun goes down on a still evening,” says Annie.
"Hurricane lamps lining the path to your outdoor dining area will warmly welcome your guests, while pretty, battery-powered string lights - available in Holloways gift shop - woven in between the foliage on the table make for a magical table setting.
"Hanging glass baubles from tree branches will give welcome glimmers of light, too, and add drama to your setting after dark."
Lightstyle of London's solar lights are a pretty, yet practical solution.
From Moroccan-style lanterns in jewel-like shades - which look incredible hanging from trees or the struts of a pergola - to tall thistles and magical spheres, there's a vast selection in Holoways gift shop.
Or opt for a parasol with built-in LED lights, like the Truro.
Say it with flowers
Freshly-picked flowers and greenery from your garden, displayed in antique vases along the centre of your table, soften the look of your dining space.
Alternatively, try shallow vintage pots and bowls planted with bulbs or summery blooms, finished with vibrant moss, for a longer-lasting display.
Old terracotta tomato pots or these galvanised pots planted with herbs like rosemary and thyme, centred along your table, smell beautiful when guests brush past - and can be used in cocktails when the sun goes down.
They're available in all shapes and sizes in our gift shop.
Read RHS Gold medal-winning garden designer Kate Durr’s tips on planting pots here.
We have a huge selection of terracotta posts - handmade in our Italian factory - in all shapes and sizes, which are built to withstand the worst of the British weather.
Shop pots here.
Turn up the heat
“Adding cushions and throws to your dining area will make your guests feel comfortable and cosy,” says Annie.
“And you don’t have to be restricted to outdoor cushions.
“Bringing rich fabrics with tactile textures from your inside living spaces to your outdoor room makes the space feel much more dressed and sumptuous.”
On chillier evenings, line chairs and benches with sheepskins - try the Herdwick - or faux furs.
Light the fire pit - these sturdy examples are British-made, come in many sizes and include cooking grills so double-up as a barbecue or grill. And don't forget to provide your guests with plenty of throws to keep the cold at bay.
On guaranteed dry nights, try adding one of our eco-friendly rugs - made from recycled bottles and recovered ocean plastics - underneath the table to make your dining space feel like a real room outdoors.