Picture a typical dinner-party scene. Guests brandishing flowers and bottles of wine arrive and gather in the living room, perching on the sofa, aperitif in hand. The chorus of laughter follows you into the kitchen as you check on the food bubbling on the hob. Your partner joins the party, having finished work in the study for the day – later you’ll settle down in the home cinema to watch a film. With the food prepared, everyone is seated at the dining table, where porcelain plates are layered on fine linen, fresh flowers fill vases and crystal glints in the glow of candlelight. The night goes by with the clink of glasses under flickering flames. The pièce de résistance? This scene all plays out in the garden.
Enter the alfresco lounge
Star of the outdoor-living trend is the garden “lounge space”. Advances in outdoor fabrics and materials make for sofa systems that are as slick and comfortable as those designed for the living room. Designers will often use the same furniture to create a considered scheme that flows onto a terrace, extending the usable square footage of a home. Cassina launched its first Outdoor collection last year, made up of design pieces by Philippe Starck, Rodolfo Dordoni and Patricia Urquiola, as well as classics converted for outdoor use by Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand. Urquiola’s sinuous, rope-backed “love bed” from that range (partly made from recyclable materials) is now the focus of its new Trampoline collection – the addition of an armchair and two-seater sofa allowing for “sociable” arrangements.
Low-slung, curved seating
Get the cushions out
Soft furnishings – from curtains to cushions – add layers of comfort to both home and garden. Specialists such as Sunbrella offer fabrics that are UV resistant for colour durability and protect against stains and soil too. Andrew Martin’s first-ever outdoor furniture line, which launched this year, includes three collections of generously proportioned sofas, armchairs and matching tables (the modular Naxos sofa is £4,500) complemented by outdoor fabrics and cushions, which are anti-mould, anti-mildew and anti-microbial. “Cushions may seem like small details, but when it comes to transforming a space they blur the lines between interior and exterior,” says founder Martin Waller.
Accessories queen Matilda Goad goes even further. “Don’t save your best pieces for indoors,” she says. “I pull all my cushions and rugs from inside out to dress benches. Often pieces made for outdoors have that utilitarian feel, so layering them with frilly floral cushions or prints softens the look. Likewise, if the weather allows, having a lamp from inside and placing it on a little table or outdoor bar always looks good.”
The inspiration: Gaudí’s tiled terrace
Antoni Gaudí’s first house in Barcelona has a richly decorated terrace where tiles add vibrant colour and interest. Casa Vicens will open its doors for one-nights stay through Airbnb from July.
Hit the snooze button
Creating an area to snooze in the garden is easily achieved by adding a brightly coloured sunbed or tying a hammock to a tree. Maison du Monde has pretty fringed ones from £44; Made.com offers a contemporary design in Isola Abstract Print (£65); and you can find inexpensive stand-supported hammocks at Ikea (£95), if suspending a bed is not an option. For a more luxurious solution, consider a garden daybed: the Landscape and Bitta by Kettal (prices dependent on fabric and finish chosen) or the Tribu Mood Garden daybed at Go Modern (£2,960). Also look at flexible, modular furniture from specialists such as Sutherland Furniture, whose collections include Otti by Belgian designer Vincent Van Duysen, offering a capacious chaise that is ideal for lounging (£6,691). If space is a consideration, FBC’s Antibes chaise is a striking alternative (£6,450).
The ultimate cook-out
Sleek handleless doors, seamless worktops, concealed storage – all the elements of a contemporary fitted kitchen can be recreated outdoors. Minotticucine recently designed a sleek black number (fully fitted kitchens from £60,000) on the terrace of a contemporary home in Mauritius, complemented with Black Ice natural-stone worktops and a Sub-Zero & Wolf outdoor grill. Design-led Italian brand Boffi has its own collection of outdoor kitchens, including the K2 modular island, which has a worktop that slides open to create a cantilevered breakfast bar, revealing a concealed hob and sink beneath (about €30,000). Serious cooks too demanding to settle for the average barbecue are also catered for, and most will find the range-like versatility of Officine Gullo’s Grill Cooking Suite 100 model appeals thanks to its three main stainless-steel burners and a warmer grill, although it’s an expensive piece of kit at £13,194.
Start a fire
The trend for outdoor fireplaces is hotting up – in highly stylish ways. Antique fire surrounds have long been used to create a focal point inside the home, and can do so beautifully in a garden when fitted by specialists such as Renaissance London. Designer Fiona Barratt-Campbell recently created an outdoor living space with a built-in fireplace as its sociable centre for clients in North Yorkshire. “It’s an amazing courtyard space that was once a monk’s old kitchen and now serves as the most impressive sheltered outdoor area,” she says. “There is a lovely ambience and the owners chill there at all times of the day. We designed bespoke furniture for the courtyard using reclaimed rail sleepers from the Yorkshire railways and covered them with custom covers. The fireplace is a real focal point, an additional room for the owners to enjoy.”
Entertain under the stars
From outdoor bars to home cinemas, homeowners are finding ever more inventive ways to entertain in the garden. Natalia Miyar recently designed a contemporary villa in Ibiza incorporating a snug-cinema with a retractable wall, making it usable in all weathers. “I chose summery blue and white linen for the upholstery and tiles on the walls, which ties in with the colours of the pool outside,” she says.
Lighten the mood
The distinction between indoor and outdoor lighting is ever-more blurred. Flos, for example, now offers a version of Barber Osgerby’s Bellhop lamp alongside Michael Anastassiades’s Captain Flint floor and wall lights. And as designer Charu Gandhi of Elicyon points out, whether indoors or outdoors, a well-designed lighting scheme – highlighting key areas of activity and low-lighting those of rest and relaxation – is key to a successful decor. “You can create different moods, using the equivalent of interior decorative lighting: floor lamps, wall lights and table lamps. Since a lot of our lighting is bespoke, we create fittings that can look the same but are altered in their technical specification to work from inside to out,” she explains. “Uplighting surfaces or larger scale planting brings an atmospheric glow. A dramatically lit outdoor sculpture or water feature can have a strong impact, and I really enjoy commissioning outdoor artwork for projects and imagining how it will feel in the evening as a lit piece.”
Summer-dining tablescapes: the experts’ advice
Natalia Miyar of Natalia Miyar Atelier
I’m drawn to earthy elements and like to bring that to the table with details such as linen tablecloths and napkins, just-picked sprigs or flowers from the garden and natural-rope glass holders. Lighting is important. Clusters of church candles in large floor-standing lanterns work well, paired with tea lights on the table and strings of lights hung from trees.
Kitten Grayson, sustainable florist and grower
The colour palette for this scene was inspired by the pink moon, using seasonal flowers that we grow under biodynamic principles at our cutting garden in Bruton. We always look for a magical spot, somewhere that draws us in and intrigues us, which this time was under the canopy of trees. At that particular moment we were growing lots of pinks in different hues, soft lilacs and whites. We added texture to the table with layers of naturally dyed linen and created an ethereal feel with hanging lanterns and flickering candles.
Emily and Victoria Ceraudo of online homewares brand Ceraudo
We love hosting friends alfresco, and always put a little more effort into it with a colourful tablescape, lots of plants and our Bistro chairs, which add a bright pop of colour. It’s the Mediterranean escapism we all need at the moment.
Jackie Daly, HTSI
Choose tableware evocative of the season in pretty pastel shades or go full-on tropical for added glamour. Bordallo Pinheiro’s Maria Flor collection transforms plates and dishes into delicate flowers that can be mixed and matched for an individual look (from €14.90), and Vista Alegre’s Caribe collection by Christian Lacroix (from €43.30) is striking when complemented with exotic blooms in tall vases and mismatched coloured glassware.
Kate Cartwright, brand marketing manager of Burleigh
At the heart of a well-considered table is the concept of layering. Build your setting with a charger plate, opting for a style with a rich pattern that will work as a border as you layer up the next plate, and finally a bowl, depending on the menu. Mixing and matching patterned ceramic ware will make each table setting unique, as will mismatched vintage cutlery.