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The Art of Outdoor Entertaining

The Art of Outdoor Entertaining

The sun is shining and the birds are singing, it’s the perfect time for some summer socialising but instead of going out, why not stay in? …


And invite your friends around to your outside space? Our resident landscape and garden design, Tom Bannister offers us some advice to create the perfect outdoor entertaining space

The idea of inside/outside living and entertaining has its roots firmly in mid -entury Southern California. SoCal Architecture, as it’s become known, brought to life the idea that our indoor space could seamlessly link us to the outdoors. This idea has become hugely popular in Britain over the last ten years as we all strive for that feeling of space that open plan living offers. Below, I have compiled some tips to create that perfect indoor/outdoor experience. 

1 - Indoor Plants

The bigger the better! Try to find plants with big leaves to give a real tropical feel. If you can place this at the edge of your bi-fold doors, you will really begin to feel that seamless transition between outside is beginning to happen. 


2 - Flooring

Outdoor porcelain tiles come in an almost endless array of finishes. If you can get something that matches the inside as closely as possible then that will again create a seamless transition between inside and out. It will also have the added benefit of making your inside space feel much bigger as the space appears to continue all the way outside. If it’s a new extension or new dining space that you have created, try to get the garden designer in as soon as is possible so you can work with them to get this part right.

3 - Planting

Too much hard landscaping can make the whole scheme feel sterile and hot. On a midsummer’s day, planting can help to keep your entertaining space cool and comfortable. To get the balance right between soft planting and hard materials is key to any successful garden. I would say a minimum of 40 per cent of your outside entertaining space should be left for plants. Definitely no less than 30 per cent and more plants does not have to mean more maintenance. Again, a good designer should be able to advise you on low maintenance, evergreen plants. 

4 - Big Pots

There are so many amazing pots available. They are pieces of art in themselves and can become a focal point or main feature of any outside entertaining space. You can be plant them up with anything from large bamboo to specimen olive trees. You just need to make sure they stay watered and ideally with an automatic irrigation system. Irrigation systems are very easy to install so you can just forget about the watering and enjoy. If you up-light your specimens, they will be enjoyed long into the evening.

5 - Lighting

Lighting is critical to the success of your outside entertaining space. If you have invested in your outside space, it makes sense to maximise the time you can use that area. Lighting will enable you to use your garden up to midnight and beyond if the weather allows. It also doubles up as an effective display in the colder months allowing you to appreciate the garden even when you are wrapped up snug inside.

When designing your lighting there is a simple acronym that you can follow. FAF. Function, Aesthetic and Feature. Functional lighting is not going to be much use when it comes to creating ambience. If you can imagine your security light coming on as you sit down for a romantic meal you can get the gist of what I’m trying to say. Functional lighting may also light a path or steps around the garden.

Aesthetic lighting should be considered when trying to set the atmosphere. Soft floor lighting or gentle wall lights can all help to set the right atmosphere for the evening. Lastly, if you choose a few choice features to light up, a beautiful old tree of a water feature. This will all help to create a cohesive lighting scheme that works on many levels throughout the garden. They all have an important job to do but just be careful not to put them all on at once. 

6 - Bigger the Better

If you’re making a terrace, don’t be scared to make it big. There is nothing worse than going to all of that effort in making a new outside dining area to find that you have to ask Grandma to get up and out of her chair every time you want to get up for a drink. Make sure your furniture fits comfortably on the terrace and it must have adequate space for everybody to pull the chair out (once tummy is full of BBQ food) and still be able to move around the back.

You may also want to consider a dedicated space for cooking and food prep. Again, this will help make your outside space feel more integrated. 

7 - Enjoy

Make sure that you create a space that you and your family and friends can enjoy. Then sit back, relax, and poor a glass of something cool.


Tom Bannister Studio

t: 07938 876 203 e: w:

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