Let's go al fresco

Summer in the city is all about outdoor dining opportunities and with garden space such a precious commodity in the Capital, it’s no wonder us Londoners are keen to make the most of ours. Make hay while the sun shines and create a stylish outside entertaining space that’ll see you through the long, lazy evenings ahead… 

Whether your exterior space amounts to a sprawling lawn with plenty of square footage or a dainty walled terrace that you can just about fit a two-seat bistro set into, eating outside in London feels exotic. In the summer months, with careful planning and planting, and a collection of the smartest contemporary garden furniture, you can transform your backyard into an extra room. The trick is to zone your space to create arresting focal points, just as you would with plants. Why not give your dining table set-up an outdoor rug, for a stylish finish that blurs the boundaries between inside and out? Fab Hab’s new range of fair trade floor-coverings are woven in India from recycled plastic straws and come in a host of summer-ready patterns and colours.
From £49.95 (cuckooland.com)

Don’t be afraid to fill your outside entertaining space with soft furnishings. Comfort is key, whatever the unpredictable British weather decides to throw at us. If, however, you’d rather not risk bringing those designer velvet cushions outside, there are plenty of weather-proof options to give your patio enough plush without the need for a panicked grab and dash indoors. Extex are a British brand that started life creating hard-wearing but luxurious fabrics for yachts in the 1990s. These days, they offer a range of fabrics and soft furnishings specifically designed for outdoor living. Fauna texture chenille fabric (below), £149 per m (extex.co.uk)

The humble barbecue has evolved. Those with a serious commitment to al fresco dining at home are now installing large-scale outdoor kitchens to impress the guests. WWOO (main image) is a unique modular concrete kitchen by Dutch designer Piet-Jan van den Kommer, and is proving such a foodie’s favourite it’s even caught the eye of Michelin-starred chef Heston Blumenthal. When fully equipped, the innovative outdoor kitchen includes a pizza oven, an integrated steel fireplace, a stainless steel sink, a canopy and barstools. Talk about bringing the inside out – this has everything including the kitchen sink. From £3,000

Without the constraints of four walls, your outside dining/living area can be just that – a place to eat and entertain, but also to sit back and relax in, post-feast. If you have the space, you can create a separate chill-out zone with quirky outdoor seating in which to sit and sup your favourite digestif. French brand Maisons du Monde have an inspiring range of loungers, sun beds and outdoor armchairs to suit your al fresco needs: the IBIS hanging garden armchair in resin wicker will add boho appeal to your backyard. £388.50 (maisonsdumonde.com)

Think about lighting your outdoor entertaining space so your garden party can extend into the small hours. Solar powered fairy lights that charge up during the day and twinkle at night add a magical charm, while a smattering of tea lights and table lanterns can give your terrace a laid-back, Moroccan feel. But keep the look simple and stylish with a string of festoon lights overhead. The outdoor bulbs above, from The Conran Shop, offer a characterful, ambient glow. £85 (conranshop.co.uk)