Outdoor Dining by Katherine Sorrell

With comfortable, practical furnishings – and a dose of good weather – there is nothing nicer than eating al fresco.

These days we treat our outside spaces more as an extra room, with dining chairs and a table plus sofas and armchairs, side tables, lighting, rugs or outdoor kitchens.

Placing your dining furniture

Pick a place near to the kitchen door so that you can get food and drink in and out easily, making sure it enhances the overall setting. Make sure there is enough space, the ground is level and dry, there are no overhanging branches and it is not too sunny or shady.

What to choose?

You could have: a bar set that takes up little space; a large table with six or eight chairs for formal dining; a casual dining set with a sofa and lower chairs; or a small bistro set for two. Options include dual-height tables for both dining and lounging, or a gas-powered firepit table.

Modern outdoor furniture is comfortable, low maintenance and durable, and available in a huge number of styles and materials. For a more traditional feel, opt for natural rattan, Lloyd Loom, teak or oak, in generous, curving shapes, while a more modern space might incorporate steel, aluminium, outdoor wicker or upholstered, weatherproof fabric, featuring slim, angular forms and a minimal outline.

Luxurious touches

Outdoor cushions add comfort, colour and pattern. Consider a side-post parasol that raises, lowers, tilts and rotates, and has a light and a Bluetooth speaker. Lighting could be an oversized garden chandelier, a giant floor lamp or a row of torcherès. Perhaps add an outdoor rug made from weatherproof polypropylene or a table-top pizza oven.

Extend your evenings outdoors with flexible lighting

External lighting lets you enjoy your outside space later into the evenings, highlights interesting features, helps guide you safely in the dark and provides additional security. Outdoor lighting circuits must conform to Building Regulations, so use a qualified electrician.

  • A floodlight with a wide beam, set at least two metres off the ground, is effective at providing general light.
  • Wall lights are ideal for passageways and either side of entrances. Security sensors can switch lights on when a visitor approaches.
  • Use spotlights to highlight specific elements.
  • For a party atmosphere, wind strings of lights around trees, posts and trellises.
  • If you have no outside power, consider solar lights or battery-operated LEDs. They are inexpensive and easy to install, and available in a range of styles.


This Pro Series of festoon lights fills your space with an ambient glow, perfect for summer soirees. Five metres of warm white LED connectable festoon lights, £30, Lights4Fun: 01423 816 040; lights4fun.co.uk.

Made from durable steel, this dining set is both practical and stylish. Rope dining set, £399, Dobbies Garden Centres: 0131 561 6406; dobbies.com.

This foldable bistro set echoes Parisian café furniture and comes in an array of colours. Rive Droite bistro set, small, in Clay, £120, Garden Trading: 01993 845 559; gardentrading.co.uk.