18 clever ideas to upgrade your garden into the perfect spot for alfresco entertaining

Bright outdoor living space
Helen Stone and Rory Robertson,-Interiors Writers

Create an outdoor living space bursting with personality that you can really enjoy from sunrise to sunset

As we usher in the new season and the weather begins to tentatively get a little warmer, it’s time to consider venturing outdoors. Traditionally considered ‘leisure time’ areas, gardens and outside spaces, such as balconies and terraces, are now even more valuable assets, as they double as viable work-from-home locations. 

So whether you’re outdoors to potter around and relax in the more traditional gardening sense, or to multi-task, soaking up some vitamin D while also sending an email (or three), there’s a strong argument for considering any outside area you have access to as another ‘room' in your home. Which means that it’s worth investing in.

But how can you make this space feel more homely and comfortable?


Even if you have the smallest of outdoor spaces – a Juliet balcony or a teeny tiny patio area – you can still aim to create a welcoming zone where you can take a breather throughout the day. A little chair perching in the doorway can be just as enjoyable and useful for soaking up the sun as an outdoor sofa, while a couple of chairs with a coffee table can be easily added to larger gardens and outside areas.  

Think about the visual links to your home, too.  ‘A balcony or terrace can usually be seen from inside, so consider the colours and materials you use and how the spaces flow,’ suggests Wil Law (@johnlewis_wil), Partner & Home Design Stylist. ‘If you have dusky pink on your interior walls, add plaster pink chairs to your outdoor space to introduce visual harmony.’

Outdoor living

From dawn till dusk

One of the great bonuses of a balcony is that it can offer protection from the elements, making it a great spot for a morning coffee and, likewise, a late afternoon or early evening aperitivo – you can create a similar feel on a ground floor terrace with a shade or pergola. And when you’re close to the house, you’re near the wifi, too, so this can easily become a summer office, even if it’s only on a casual basis. In our post-pandemic, changed world, this is considered an acceptable way to work, generally speaking. 

Compact bistro sets are a great choice for a small set-up, with the option of folding furniture where space is tight. Make it a place where you’ll want to be, cosying it up with home comforts such as cushions and planters, as well as favourite plants and eye-catching, scented climbers. Colour, scents, fresh air – this is all part of the allure of outdoor spaces. 

And if you’re working with limited room, look out for a small, light side table. It can be moved near a doorway and will give you just enough space for a laptop or notepad to take up residence.

Outdoor living

Second nature

Convenience also plays a big part in creating a spot you’ll want to gravitate to. A table and chairs on the decking or patio outside the kitchen is an obvious win, as you’ll only have to carry bowls and plates a few extra steps.

For a family home, plump for sturdy furniture and choose bench seating, as this will allow guests to readily add themselves into the mix. A classic all-in-one picnic bench table is practical for lunch, with plenty of room for entertaining in numbers from dawn until dusk. It’s the most convenient option for outdoor family dining and promises easy living for day-to-day use. There’s something effortless, charming and whimsical about a bench-table set-up, so even if you don’t need a family-friendly option, it might still be worth considering if you want a casual vibe – and for relaxed seating, you can’t go wrong with a modular sofa.

Outdoor living

Alfresco dining

Relaxed seating next to a cooking station, such as barbecue, will become a favourite for serving up anything from a midweek supper to a big lunch for family and friends at the weekend. Choose a spot with a bit of privacy and shelter (ah, the British weather!) and build an area where guests can really feel at home and comfortable, even if there’s a surprise rain shower. 

Adding a dash of colour is a simple way to give an area character. A vibrant shade such as orange or terracotta contrasts perfectly with green planting during the day and injects a touch of warmth as night falls. Such colours are also known to have a positive psychological effect, keeping the chill at bay and encouraging social interaction and friendly conversation. Make this space snug and comfy by piling on the cushions and blankets, adjusting the lighting to make it just so and ensuring everyone is toasty from the warmth of a firepit.

If you’re working with limited space, select a smaller bistro-style table-and-chairs set. And if you don’t have an outdoor area? Go big on a picnic theme and pick out a beautiful throw, a riot of cushions and an assortment of chic pieces to take with you to the park or common. Plastic cups and plates are fun, but if they aren’t quite your thing, you can always be a little bit more decadent and pack some proper glassware and jolly summer crockery (just remember to wrap them well so they don’t break en route).

Top tip: for a truly glorious picnic experience, consider an outdoor rug, which will bring a ‘magic carpet’-style picnic experience. On a practical note, they’re also the perfect base for layering blankets and throws.

Outdoor living

A place to recharge

When you think how versatile our homes have become, wouldn’t you want the same from your outdoor space, too? So set aside a spot for doing the things you love. 

An outdoor cinema is a cinch to create with beanbags, a projector and a white wall. A solid, paved area could be the perfect place for morning squats and kettlebells, but if you prefer yoga, you’ll need a decked area, as the wood will have a bit more give for your supine poses. If neither of these sound like your idea of fun, then a comfortable seat can be a great spot for sitting and browsing through a magazine, or for taking a snooze behind the pages of a juicy novel. 

If you’re looking for the ultimate in rest and relaxation, hello sunlounger (or a retro hanging chair). Whatever your preference for chilling and recharging, tailor your outdoor area to suit the way you like to live and bring a little more sunshine into your everyday.

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