Creating an Outdoor Dining Area in your Garden

With careful planning, you can create an outdoor dining area in your garden and enjoy eating al fresco all year round.
The last few months have proved the value of our outdoor spaces. As we prepare to socialise and entertain outdoors over the coming months, having a dining area in your garden will be more important than ever. The unpredictable British climate means that, even in the summer, rain can spoil an outdoor gathering. And while many people invite friends and family over for al fresco meals to make the most of warm, sunny days, our gardens are generally underused in the autumn and winter. However, with a bit of extra thought, you can create an all-year-round outdoor dining area to enjoy in almost any weather.

Where to locate your outdoor dining area

If you are planning a new outdoor dining area, location is a good place to start. Think about the practicalities of accessing the space from your house, both for you and your guests. Will you really want to navigate steps or a steep slope if you are carrying crockery and food? If you are cooking indoors, you may need to plan your al fresco dining space near to your house.
How much sun will the area typically get at the time of day you want to use it? Is it sheltered from the wind? If you want to bask in the late afternoon or early evening sun, you will need a spot that does not get shady towards the end of the day. You may also want to consider whether your space will be overlooked by neighbours and if it offers the best view of your garden.

Which landscaping materials to use

The surface for your outdoor dining area is an important decision. If you want to use the space all year round, you will need to choose a landscaping material that is safe when the ground is wet. That is why non-slip decking is a great solution: it does not get slippery, even in wet or icy conditions.There are many different anti-slip decking options, depending on your budget and the look and feel you want to achieve. Think about whether a grooved or smooth deck, light or dark wood will best suit your dream aesthetic.
Great options for outdoor dining areas include our decking kits, which are really quick and easy to install, helping you create a new space in your garden with minimal fuss. Decking tiles are also a popular choice, particularly for anyone with a small garden or who is building a deck on a roof terrace or balcony.

Choosing garden furniture

The market for garden furniture has exploded in the last year and there is more choice than ever before. While budget is likely to be a factor, you will also need to decide on the right style for your outdoor dining area. You might aim for a clean, contemporary design for your modern space. Or, perhaps something more traditional will perfectly complement your cottage garden.And, of course, you will have to consider who will use the furniture. Will you be entertaining friends and extended family or do you just need seating for your own household? What will be most comfortable and practical option for children and anyone with mobility issues?
There are, of course, many different materials used in garden furniture, including plastic, aluminium and timber. At Gripsure we are passionate about sustainability and our impact on the environment. If you share our ethos, you will want to ensure your new timber garden furniture meets the industry flagship standards of FSC or PEFC. These certifications guarantee that the wood was taken from forests that are managed responsibly in relation to the environment, wildlife and people.

Cooking al fresco: building an outdoor kitchen

Preparing food in your garden means you can enjoy even more of the benefits of outdoor living.  If you are planning on cooking outdoors, you will need to think about what will best meet your needs for the type of food you plan to prepare. A simple charcoal barbecue may suffice, while more serious cooks might want to invest in a wood fired outdoor oven.
If you plan to regularly cook outdoors you could consider a full blown garden kitchen. That will involve creating a practical space to prepare food. This could be a simple trolley with a stainless steel surface or a more ambitious set-up including fixed units, a tiled backsplash and its own water supply. Home and garden magazine Livingetc has some great tips and ideas. If you are planning an outdoor kitchen, installing decking could simplify your project as you can run services from the house under the deck.

Installing a garden cover or shelter

While we might dream of balmy days enjoying barbecues with our friends and families, the reality is often different. If you want to enjoy your al fresco dining area all year round, you will need to protect it from the elements.
Options for garden covers range from simple and relatively affordable gazebos and retractable awnings to timber or metal pergolas and even garden igloos. Some people take it a step further and erect a small building, such as a summer house. If this is something you’re considering, you might be inspired by a project Gripsure completed for the installation of a luxury garden room, from Barbecue Lodge.

Completing your al fresco dining area with accessories and lighting

Once you have worked out the location, chosen the landscaping material and decided on furniture and cooking equipment, it’s time to think about those finishing touches. Accessories and lighting can completely transform an outdoor space. To make your area complete, an outdoor rug and beautiful weather-proof cushions will help create a welcoming, cosy ambience, whatever the weather. If you will be entertaining after dark, you will need to decide how to illuminate your outdoor dining area. Lighting can create a truly enchanting atmosphere and is, of course, also crucial for safety. Festoon lights create a magical party ambience, while a solar powered table lamp will give your dining space that intimate feel of a garden room. The Society of Garden Designers has some useful advice on lighting an outdoor space.
Planting is a crucial element of any outdoor space. If you are a keen gardener you can really have fun dreaming up creative and ambitious planting schemes for your new space. Your choice of plants could, for example, give your outdoor dining space an exotic, traditional English or Mediterranean feel. If you are short on time or lack green fingers, the RHS has some great tips on low maintenance gardens. The key is to focus on year-round interest if you want your outdoor dining space to look good in the autumn and winter.
Whether your project is ambitious or simple, taking time to think about your wants and needs will help you create an outdoor dining area to enjoy quality time with family and friends, all year round.

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