Interiors

Graham and Green

Clair Strong 

This month interior designer, Clair Strong, reveals how to make your outside space work for entertaining

This summer making the most of your outdoor living space is top of most of our interior design lists. Whether you have a big garden, an urban courtyard or a tiny balcony, there is so much you can do to bring the outdoors in and create extra outside living space.

Think about your outdoor space as an extra room and look to make it stylish, comfortable and functional. Connecting your outdoor space with your indoor space to make it feel part of your home is the key. Think about how you want to use the space and plan it in the same way you would a kitchen revamp or a living room makeover. If you love an interior design trend or style carry it on into your garden to make your outside space look and feel like a true extension of your home or pick a theme – cosy Scandi den, Mediterranean terrace or tropical cocktail bar – and just go for it!

Start by planning your space

 

Before you make any plans, think about the position of your garden – where it gets the sun at particular times of the day, what it looks out on and any awkward slopes or access issues. This will help you work out how to make the best use of your outside space. 

 

Next work out exactly what you are going to use the space for – is it mainly for cooking and eating, for more casual entertaining, for sunbathing or just for relaxing with a good book?

 

Then, think about how you can make the space useful in the day and at night - and even all year round. 

 

Create shelter 

 

Cover for your outdoor living area is an important consideration if you want to protect yourself from the heat of the sun or shelter from the rain. A pergola covered with some pretty climbers or vines will create shelter and blend into the rest of your garden. A small gazebo can be a great option for more semi-permanent privacy for entertaining friends and family. They provide shelter in the day, but if you add some big floor cushions and fairy lights you can turn it in to a cosy chill out zone at night.

Lagoon

Relaxed seating 

 

To create the perfect outdoor living area to relax and entertain in style, you need to invest in the right seating. Look for a stylish outdoor sofas and comfortable sun loungers that are comfortable but look good too.

 

A compact L-shaped sofa that fit neatly on your patio is perfect for smaller spaces. If you have a bigger garden you can go for it with a set of matching chairs, table, sofa, sun loungers and swinging seats. Choose stylish pieces and group them around an outdoor rug and you’ve got the perfect sociable outdoor living room. In a smaller space a garden bench or small day bed can make a statement. Hanging seats are very on-trend this year; they are perfect for curling up and enjoying a good book - and they look super cool too.

 

Do remember, whatever you choose, that you need to think about cover during the winter if your furniture is going to stay outside all year round. An outside bench to store your outdoor cushions is a wise investment. It can also double up as seating in the summer.

To create the perfect outdoor living area to relax and entertain in style, you need to invest in the right seating. Look for a stylish outdoor sofas and comfortable sun loungers that are comfortable but look good too.

Eating out

 

If you are going to be eating outside, it’s important to choose the right dining table and chairs. It’s much better to buy furniture designed for outside than try and use your existing furniture.

 

Don’t position your dining furniture in direct sun. An outdoor dining area is better located in shade or half shade where its more comfortable to eat. 

 

Make sure you pick the right size and shape table and chairs for your space. You need enough space to comfortably slide your chair into the table so as not to feel too cramped and everyone needs elbow room.

 

If you have a big garden, you’ll never regret buying a big dining table for al fresco breakfasts, lunches and evening meals. If you have a small courtyard garden or patio, choose folding furniture or bench seating that can be tucked under the table when not in use. French-style bistro sets are perfect for small balconies and come in lots of bright colours.

 

Dress your table with natural fabrics like cotton and linen and look for bright glasses and plates in unbreakable materials - sharing boards, big platters, jugs and big salad bowls are perfect for outdoor dining.

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The White Company

Cook it up

 

Food just tastes better when it’s cooked in the fresh air. Al fresco cooking is relaxed, sociable and fun.

 

If your outside space is small, there are lots of compact and portable BBQs on the market. Just think about position so you don’t smoke out your guests! Bigger spaces can look at built in BBQs which are more permanent and can cater for larger numbers. Love pizza? Go for a pizza oven.

 

If you have a bigger garden, look at building an outdoor kitchen dedicated to al fresco cooking. Create a space for preparation, plan in storage and add a sink and even a fridge to make it as functional as possible. Plant herbs nearby for easy access and you have the ultimate entertainment space. 

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Garden Trading

Turn up the heat

 

It can get cold at night even in the height of summer so planning how you will heat your space is important if you want to entertain all year round.  

Stylish firepits and chimeneas are practical and more eco-friendly than patio heaters. There is nothing like sitting around the warmth of real flames to create a cosy vibe. Buy just enough logs for the evening and you won’t need to think about storing too much wood. Firepits are good value and create a surprising amount of warmth.

Light it up

 

Creating the perfect outdoor entertaining space also involves thinking about how you can use it day and night. Garden lighting is the secret! Lighting makes your outside space atmospheric, stylish and inviting and there are so many options nowadays.  

 

Choose from hurricane lamps and lanterns for the table as well as candles, strings of bulbs, festoon lights and fairy lights - which are perfect wrapped around a pergola or just wound round trees and plants.  

 

Solar lights are useful for lighting up pathways and illuminating plants. They have no plugs or wires and cost nothing to run. 

 

Layering your lighting gives you plenty of options and allows you to change the mood depending on the event. 

Creating the perfect outdoor entertaining space also involves thinking about how you can use it day and night. Garden lighting is the secret! Lighting makes your outside space atmospheric, stylish and inviting and there are so many options nowadays.  

Party on

 

Add a bar to your outdoor space and turn it into a party zone. You can build a bespoke bar area in your garden or just invest in an outdoor bar set for everything you need to mix up cocktails!

 

Music makes a party go with a bang, so an outdoor speaker or portable speakers are essential. 

 

Love watching films? Create an outdoor cinema and watch your favourite movies under the stars. All you need is an outdoor projector and some 

cushions. 

All in the detail

 

Making outdoor living comfortable is all about thinking about the extra details, especially when it comes to soft furnishings like cushions, rugs and throws. Choose soft comfy cushions, warm woollen blankets and an outdoor rug to make your space more inviting and give it a stylish look. Pick a colour theme to make it look cohesive rather than a mess. 

 

Outdoor living spaces can be as comfortable and stylish as your inside living room. You just need to plan them with as much care and thought as an interior design project inside.

 

As a small, friendly, creative business based in Bath we pride ourselves on offering client-led interior design solutions for all the rooms in your house, from redecoration to complete redesign and refurbishments. We also offer a virtual interior design service to help clients design or update their homes without the need for a face-to-face meeting. We can also design off-plan for those of you with moves ahead.

You can see many of the projects I have worked on since 2006 on my website at www.clairstrong.co.uk or click the buttons below.

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