Create a stylish outdoor table for garden gatherings

how to style your outdoor table
Jennifer Morgan,-Interiors Editor

From colour schemes to tableware, our expert tips for creating a perfect alfresco tablescape this summer

It’s the weekend, the sun is shining and you’re inviting friends and family for a long leisurely lunch outside – what better opportunity to show off your styling skills than by dressing your outdoor table? All you need are a handful of key buys, some clever touches and a few stylist’s tricks to create a special at-home dining experience.

The overall feel is relaxed, but you also want guests to feel that you’ve made the effort – after all, gatherings like this have been a long time coming. Choose tableware that works just as well inside as out, and add a softer touch with linens. Look out for coloured glassware, turning a simple summer spritzer into something special.

outdoor table styling

Sweep colour across your table

Think of summer skies, idyllic beach huts and the raw beauty of the coast for this look, which starts with the painterly sweeps of colour provided by the Tapas range by John Lewis. It’s easy to mix and match pieces with its lovely pastel palette. Add a natural touch with woven placemats and wooden boards – this will balance the crockery, boosting that relaxed vibe.

Keep glassware clear, adding sparkle to a natural garden table. Serve a refreshing cooler in a jug, with simple tumblers stacked and ready to go.

outdoor table styling

Have some tropical fun at teatime

Be bold, be colourful and be lively with a few hero pieces in acidic brights – just the thing for a fun afternoon in the sun. Choose a tray or platter featuring a zingy, fruity design that you can mix in with existing plain pieces of tableware. Take glassware and serving platters outside, creating an afternoon tea vibe, with delicious pastries and fresh fruit must-haves.

Mix bright colours together – watermelon reds with zesty lemon, jade green with hot pink – as long as there’s plenty of white, the look will still feel refined. Think afternoon tea at a fashionable boutique hotel – you could even pop on a summery tea dress to suit.

outdoor table styling

Fall for an exotic pattern

For a stylish summer table, mix and match patterns inspired by the Middle East, thanks to the new Levatine collaboration between John Lewis & Waitrose. Then pick out colours for individual pieces – such as lapis blue, green onyx, cinnabar orange and sky blue.

This look is about adding bold layers of pattern – and think ‘mix and mix’. Coloured glassware is a must too, but stick to rich shades. Guests will soon feel as if they are on a Middle Eastern odyssey.


Scandi outdoor tablewear

Head to the coast in style

Striped linens, blue and white colour scheme and touches of natural texture… sounds like the perfect recipe for a relaxed nautical alfresco feel. Start by covering your garden table with a crisp tablecloth and contrasting mustard placemats, setting the scene for a Padstow-inspired dine-in-the-garden experience. 

Bring out your everyday tableware, but dress it with linen napkins – it’s a small touch that makes a big difference. For serveware, choose wooden bowls – again, playing to that classic nautical vibe. 

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