A recipe for your outdoor dining space
August 31st is National Eat Outside Day. Until recently, for many of us, eating outside conjured up childhood memories of gritty sausage rolls on the beach or egg and cress in the car with rain pelting the windscreen.
However, over the past year, we have really had the opportunity to appreciate our gardens as an extension of our living space, not just somewhere to let the dog out. Gardens have become outside rooms where we relax and entertain friends, firstly out of semi-lockdown necessity, but increasingly, in a world where space is at a premium, because it makes sense! Dining outside has associated health benefits. Apart from it being better for limiting virus transmission, fresh air and natural light are simply good for health and mental well-being. But how do we make it less of a ‘faff’ and more of a regular thing?
Start with a blank canvas
If you’ve had to make an outdoor space work harder for you during lockdown, now might be the time to make it a more permanent, hardworking fixture to make the most of your space. Like any other inside room, an outside room occasionally needs a make-over. A classic blank canvas is decking. Done well, it is a joy to look at, sit on and walk across. But it must be practical. Millboard decking combines the beauty of natural wood in a moulded composite that’s long-lasting and won’t rot or warp. Whether it’s decking, tiles or stonework, matching the tones and direction of flooring inside and outside can create visual harmony.
Similarly, walls are also part of your canvas – they can be brightly coloured for a modern feel or use mosaic tiles for a more traditional feature wall. Climbing plants can create a green wall and help to keep things cool – they also provide a safe habitat for birds and insects. Space stretching garden mirrors can also create the illusion of ‘another room’.
If your outside area is smaller, make the most of the available space by including built-in bench seating, perhaps running the planks in the opposite direction to the flooring – practical but also pleasing to the eye. Then just add your table and chairs.
Perch and Settle’s outdoor dining table is dark and stylish. Made with Millboard’s Embered oak boards, it makes a dramatic statement and comes with matching benches – a great space-saving solution with little maintenance required.
If you’re aiming to eat or even cook outside on a regular basis, you can make life easier by fitting storage so that everything is conveniently on hand and can be neatly tidied away when not in use. Under bench storage is useful for hiding cushions when it’s wet.
Don’t forget shade. Sunlight is wonderful but enclosed gardens can become really hot – trees, canvas sails or a pergola will offer some respite and what could be better than a brightly coloured hammock waiting in a shady spot? Similarly, if you want to extend the season of using your outside space, invest in a good bistro-style heater and perhaps some shelter from the elements. If you have space, more informal seating can be preferable for breakfast and a newspaper in the morning sun.
Make it yours
Now you can really get cooking and start to make the space more personal with your own finishing touches. To make it more of a ‘room’, bring the ‘inside’ out by using soft furnishings. Outdoor rugs come in a myriad of designs and colourful cushions and warm blankets can really up the comfort factor in your space.
Lighting adds ambience, whether it’s festoon lighting in a tree, or a group of lanterns on the floor in a corner or tealights on the dining table. Because outside dining tables are often larger, you can really go to town on dressing your table with bright table runners, coloured glass and patterned plates. Or you can keep it simple and pared down. Bamboo dinnerware is a good sustainable option for outdoor dining and can be safely popped in the dishwasher.
The key to eating outside is making your space work for you and upping the comfort and convenience factor so that it becomes less of a ‘faff’. The garden is an under-utilised room – perhaps we need to make eating outside more than an occasional summer ritual. So, for this year’s National Eat Outside Day, will it be breakfast, lunch or dinner?