The longer evenings and warmer weather of summer have arrived! So it's time to free your daily dining from the house and make the most of the garden. Whether you want a quiet dinner for two or to host a family gathering, your garden can be transformed into an ideal location for entertaining in the summer months - and there's little need for hassle.


Follow the six simple steps in the gallery above to make your garden into a wonderland for al fresco eating.


Make your garden glow

A gravel patio area with wicker chairs and table
'Alderney' conical hurricane vase, from £20; 'Aldreney' tealight holder, £24 for six; 'Newington' hurricane vase, from £48, all Neptune.

Chiminea and fire pits are a go-to when entertaining outside. However, it can get tiring fanning the flames whilst being bombarded by smoke so, why not try outdoor lights?

In order to create a relaxed ambience, string up a few lines of light strings and dot around some lanterns and ta-dah! Your own enchanted garden.


Be pretty yet practical

A wild woodland area with a long vintage table and mismatched chairs
Assorted ceramics, glassware, woodware and soft furnishings, from £6, Murmur

Although summer dining is intended for the sunshine, we all know that the ever-changing weather loves to throw us some unexpected rain.

When buying outdoor furniture, hard-looking, robust pieces can be softened with delicate china sets and throws for when the rays are in our favour. Second-hand or assorted furniture salvaged from flea markets also have pretty, rustic appeal.


Be inspired by the great outdoors

An airy conservatory space with a white dining table and chairs
'Padstow' extending dining table, £499; 'Padstow' slat-back dining chair, £299 per pair; 'Worthing' rattan-effect chair, £249; and 'Rosalie' crockery, from £6, all Marks & Spencer.

Without physically going outside, there are plenty of ways of getting nature inside. If you have a conservatory, make the most of the natural light and create a social space for the family. Floral fabrics matched with vases and plant pots give a bright, botanical impression even in the most suburban of spaces.


Tend to your table

A green metal garden table covered with a bold floral tablecloth
'Penelope's Muse' linen from the 'Artbook' collection by Kim Parker, £39 per m, Clarke & Clarke.

When a big family gathering is in full swing, the last thing you want to worry about is if your finest china will be caught in the gunfire of garden games. By using mismatched crockery, it means that your homeware can be easily replaced while still looking good.


Throw a party

A long wooden and metal table with benched covered in colourful Indian cushions
Wood and trestle table and two benches, £1,100; 'Peacock' cushions in pink and blue, £30 each; 'Sacred Cow' placemats, £10 each, all Raj Tent Club.

Long afternoons followed by gentle evenings were made for summer soirées. 'Maximum comfort will ensure you can remain outdoors from sunrise to sunset', says Julie Paul from Oka. A top tip for minimal mess is to have a designated bar for all the food and drink so that the rest of the space can be used for socialising.


Integrate heritage pieces

Elegant white metal patio furniture with an enamel vase of wild flowers
The garden set and matching chairs comes as a part of RE's ever changing second-hand furniture.

Using antique finds in any space is a great way to add your own personal touch. 'A little rust adds character and charm', says Simon Young and Jenny Vaughan of RE but be sure that's it's in good condition. 'Too much rust and the legs might drop off,' they warn.


This feature first appeared in the July 2016 issue of Homes & Antiques. Back issues are still available. To purchase a copy click here