Creating Space For Outdoor Eating

 In Garden Design, Landscaping, Uncategorised

Do you want to be able to eat al fresco whenever the mood takes you? Here’s how to create space for outdoor eating in your very own garden.

Spring, summer and autumn in the UK usually bring pockets of sunshine that make it impossible to resist the urge to eat outdoors.  Picnics, barbecues, afternoon tea, pub lunches in beer gardens – we just can’t help ourselves.  And what could be better than enjoying an impromptu meal in your own back garden.  Its quick, it’s convenient and all you need is an appropriate space for outdoor eating.  Here’s how to create such a space.

Deciding Where To Eat

Let’s start with the basics. Where your space for outdoor eating sits within your garden will play a big part in how often you use it. Obviously you don’t want to walk a long way balancing your plate, cutlery, food and drink.  However, if you are a sun lover and your kitchen door opens into the most shaded part of the garden, you’re not likely to use a patio right there.  Pop your patio (or deck) where the sun does shine and design an easy journey to take you there. 

You might want to think about incorporating some storage near to your outdoor eating space. That way you can keep cushions, blankets, cutlery and condiments near to where you’ll use them.  If you really really love outdoor eating, why not go the whole hog and install an outdoor kitchen complete with sink, storage and fridge?

Tiny space for outdoor eating created using contrasting landscaping materials

This sunny spot is the ideal place to enjoy a light luncheon or an afternoon tea.  Notice how we’ve created the space by using contrasting landscaping materials.

Setting The Style

How do you most enjoy eating outdoors?  Are you someone who likes to chill on a sofa with drinks and snacks? Or do you prefer sitting up at the table to share a meal with family and friends?

Will you be using the space for breakfast, lunch or dinner? If you will be eating outdoors in the evening, is there a need for lighting and/or heating?

How many people will be using the space at once?  Are you looking at a 2-seater bistro set where you can read the Sunday paper whilst enjoying coffee and croissants? Or will there be a dozen people sitting around a table that’s groaning with delicious dishes?

Do you want to create an intimate space that’s cosy on a cold day and feels wonderfully private? Or would you rather be able to soak up the sunshine and feel the breeze?

outdoor entertaining space designed by Silver Birch Gardens

Another relaxed seating area. This part of the garden in Rodney Stoke catches the morning sun and would be ideal for an al-fresco breakfast

How Big Does Your Space For Outdoor Eating Need To Be?

Once you know within a little how you will furnish your outdoor eating space, it’s time to decide how much room you’ll need.  

A general rule of thumb for patio sizing is between 2 and 2.5 square metres per person.  So for that pretty little bistro set, a patio or deck of 2m x 2m should be about right.

It’s a good idea to allow at least 1 metre of space all around the furniture.  That’s so that you can comfortably navigate the space with your hands full. And so that you can push your chair back without falling off the patio.  If you need room for a wheelchair, I’d be inclined to extend that to 1.5 metres.

recessed patio lights in large, stepped sandstone patio

This patio is large enough to house two very different types of furniture.  Not too that there are recessed lights to set a lovely evening atmosphere and reduce the risk of anyone tripping on the steps.

Landscaping Materials For Outdoor Dining

The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about creating space for outdoor eating is paving.  Porcelain paving has a lot of endearing properties in that its slip resistant and rather good at repelling stains.  But as much as I like modern landscaping materials, I much prefer natural stone.

Clay pavers make very attractive landscaping features and can be laid in many different patterns.  Mix and match them with stone pavers for some amazing effects.

Decking seems to have gone out of favour a little bit, but I’m sure it will be trending again soon. I love the rustic look and feel of a natural timber deck and modern composite decking can look very sophisticated indeed.

How about gravel? It’s relatively inexpensive to install, drains beautifully and looks great with cottage garden type planting schemes.

limestone patio with planting pockets and breakaway area with built in seating

Don’t feel that you need to restrict yourself to one outdoor dining space.  This generously sized patio has a path leading to a relaxed breakaway area.  It’s perfect for entertaining family and friends and looks amazing when lit for a summers evening.

Extra Features For Your Comfort

Depending on the aspect of your outdoor eating area, you might want to install balustrades or screening, to keep chilly winds at bay. 

Pergolas are very stylish and offer shade as well as shelter from the rain.  Modern pergolas have louvred roofs so you can have a solid top to protect you from the weather, or you can open the louvres to let the sun shine in.  Many people use them as an extension to their home.

Firepit or heater.  In this country, when dusk falls, the temperature drops.  Don’t let that drive you indoors, light the firepit and stay toasty warm as you watch the stars come out. 

Lighting.  Absolutely essential in my view, lighting really does set the mood for outdoor eating.  Go subtle with recessed lights set into your patio, create a party atmosphere with festoon lights, or see the garden from a different perspective by highlighting certain features with light.

Planting.  Give your space for outdoor eating a big hug by surrounding it by plants.  Pollinator friendly cottage garden plants will set a sound track for your snack by filling the air with the hum of bees.  Scented plants will create a relaxing holiday vibe and lush foliage plants have a knack of helping you feel warm in winter and cool in summer. Don’t ask me how they do it – but they do.

The dappled shade from a deciduous tree will make you feel relaxed and sleepy, while the hot colours of bedding plants will energise you. Plants are amazing!

enclosed garden with large patio and modern dining table and chairs. Photo is taken at dusk and the eye is drawn to the subtle lighting

Carefully considered lighting completes the outdoor eating experience

Help To Create A Space For Outdoor Eating

Take a look at our portfolio to grab some inspiration for different ways of using your garden.

Contact me (Dan) if you need a bespoke garden design to help you incorporate space for outdoor eating into your own garden.

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outdoor entertaininglittle girl in a summer dress and straw hat enjoying scented plants like lilac