Garden design ideas – outdoor dining and entertainment

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If you follow garden design news, you’ve probably noticed various articles over the last month or so about the major trends in garden design for 2018.  It’s that time of year –  home-owners are planning ahead and deciding how to make the most of their gardens and outdoor spaces once the seasons change. According to the Society of Garden Designers, the major trends for 2018 will include:

  • Outdoor living
  • Ecological gardens
  • Asymmetric design
  • Copper, wood-effect tiles, textured paving and limestone as popular materials
  • Shrubs, low level woodland plants and architectural planting as planting favourites

Of these various and varied garden design ideas, I have found that one stands out.  My clients are increasingly asking me for ideas and practical solutions that will make it possible for them to entertain their friends and family outdoors.  Is this trend here to stay? Is it worth investing in? I believe so and this is why …

1. More space for entertaining more people

When food is prepared and served outside, it’s easy for people to gather around and socialise with the cook – and each other – before, during and afterwards.  Many indoor kitchens don’t lend themselves easily to this and it can be a lot easier in the space provided by a garden for people to mix and mingle. You can of course enhance the mood in your garden by adding stylish outdoor furnishings, lighting, and maybe a fire pit for added warmth all year round. Of course, if the budget is large enough (and you have the space!), you can add even more attractions – a swimming pool, a water feature, some garden art, …

Outdoor dining and entertainment is much more straightforward than building on extra rooms to the house.  By simply incorporating the space you already have, you can easily install some appliances and have an operational outdoor kitchen – perfect for celebrating special occasions or just enjoying being outdoors.

Contemporary garden in Hampstead Garden Suburb designed for our client to dine outdoors with friends and family

Contemporary garden in Hampstead Garden Suburb designed for our client to dine outdoors with friends and family

2. Better for the senses

Everybody knows that food cooked outdoors tastes better – especially if an open fire is involved! I’m not sure of the science behind this but I know it’s not just about taste or even smell.  Eating outside evokes memories and pleasant feelings since it —or at least the idea of it—seems to take us back to our childish selves: it feels ‘more playful, less formal and fussy, more exciting’ according to food writer and columnist Annalisa Barbieri - who also comments that ‘As a species, we love a fire; it taps into something deep within us, signalling protection, warmth, the ability to cook’.  So that’s why even our teenage daughter will sit there and chat to us!

And the cooking itself is different – simpler, often healthier and more reliant on fresh ingredients for flavour (possibly even herbs and vegetables grown right there in the garden).

A spacious terrace provides the perfect place to unwind on a sunny afternoon, enjoy an evening meal with the family or a late-night drink with friends.

A spacious terrace provides the perfect place to unwind on a sunny afternoon, enjoy an evening meal with the family or a late-night drink with friends.

 3. Some of us enjoy cooking for others!

Not all of us, naturally, but I’m one of those people that really enjoys planning a menu, choosing great food ingredients (and wine) and preparing the food myself.  Eating out at restaurants can be a lovely experience but on a regular basis it can also become very expensive and sometimes it’s not even that great. So ‘dining out at home’ offers you more control over the cost and quality of your dining experience (and for those with kids, it’s a huge saving on babysitters!).

And while we may love cooking for others, not many of us relish the mess created by an indoor gathering – cleaning up after food and drinks outdoors can be a lot easier.  Most of today’s barbecue grills and other outdoor cooking appliances are made from stainless steel, which makes them easy to clean.

 

Recent Garden Company project

We recently designed and built a garden in Kings Langley, Hertfordshire where the overriding requirement from the client was to be able to entertain family and friends more easily outdoors.  Our clients had a mature garden with some existing hedging and lovely specimen shrubs and trees. The clients enjoyed their existing garden but found it rather disjointed and lacking an entertainment area and further areas of visual interest. They wanted a stylish family garden with a large entertaining area including a swimming pool and pool building connected to the house.  An existing unsuccessful oriental garden which could be viewed from the house also needed to be re-designed, and a new play area was part of the brief.  Our ideas for the new garden design were based on creating a garden that appeared to be hewn out of the surrounding landscape. The scheme has specific divided areas to meet the client brief, with flow and connection between these areas to draw people around the whole space. For more detail and images, visit our website.

Large family garden in Kings Langley designed to enhance outdoor living

Large family garden in Kings Langley designed to enhance outdoor living

In conclusion – we know that one of the main trends in current garden design ideas is the increased popularity of outdoor living and entertainment, despite our unpredictable weather.  In my view, there are good reasons for this trend, including: being able to create more space for friends and family relatively easily (compared to adding on more room inside), enjoying the dining experience more (partly because of deep-rooted emotions linked to the outdoors) and the opportunity to prepare our favourite foods ourselves rather than rely on restaurant fare.

If you are thinking about making better use of your own garden or outdoor space this year, I hope that this has been a useful read. In what ways are you already using your space for outdoor living, dining and entertaining?  What creative garden design ideas could be applied to optimise your use of the space?  If you are in North London or South-East England, please feel free to contact us with your ideas and let’s see how we can help.

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