Garden design ideas for entertaining outdoors

There is an “unprecedented” level of demand for garden designers in the UK right now, according to the Society of Garden Designers. A recent survey of the UK’s landscaping market revealed a 166% increase in month-on-month enquiries. The reasons for this are not hard to work out. Covid-19 and the associated restrictions have led to many people spending more time in their gardens. And it’s not just about spending time in your garden on your own or with other household members. Many of the enquiries that we’ve received since lockdown restrictions eased have been focused on how to make better use of your garden for entertaining friends and family.

As you might expect, I’m a huge fan of using outdoor spaces in this way. In this blog post, I outline 3 key reasons why, along with offering some ideas that I hope inspire you to make some adjustments (big or small!) to your own outdoor space.

1 Gardens offer more space for more people

Getting in good shape for outdoor dining and entertainment is much more straightforward than building on extra rooms to the house! It is often easier for people to mix and mingle in a garden space than indoors. 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 water feature, some garden art …. the options are endless. In the Hertfordshire garden shown in the title image, our clients wanted a terrace area where they could enjoy drinks and relax with friends and family.

In addition, 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. A barbecue or pizza oven can cater for lots of people and different occasions. You can go further too, installing appliances that allow you to have a fully operational outdoor kitchen.

2 Cooking and eating outdoors is 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 daughters will sit in our fire pit and chat to us!

If you’re planning to dine outdoors, it’s important to think about garden furniture and how this can help your guests to feel comfortable and relaxed. The image below shows a North London client’s contemporary garden design with a modern dining area to enjoy with friends and family.

Shows outdoor dining area with table and chairs
Outdoor dining area in a small contemporary garden

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 and choosing great food ingredients  –  and good wine!  And of course preparing the food myself.  Eating out at restaurants can be a lovely experience but on a regular basis it can also become very expensive. 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 the cooking itself is different – simpler, often healthier and more reliant on fresh ingredients for flavour.  You might even be able to use herbs and vegetables that you’ve grown yourself.

Shows woman enjoying a drink and relaxing in the garden
The garden can be a perfect place to unwind on a sunny afternoon

While we may love cooking, 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.

In conclusion

It’s well-recognised that there has been a huge upturn (since Covid-19) in interest in outdoor living and entertainment. In my view, there are real advantages to this, 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.  With some careful thought and planning, you can easily host gatherings that people will enjoy.

If you are thinking about making better use of your own garden or outdoor space, I hope that this has been a useful post. 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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