Eating outside is one summer pleasure that’s hard to relinquish, even as dusk falls earlier and the evenings turn cooler. Keep the seasonal mood alive by adding more colour to your table. Throw a brightly hued cloth over the top to provide a colourful background for everyday plates and dishes, or splash out on tableware with a vibrant pattern. From Portugal to Provence and beyond, Mediterranean pottery comes in vivid tones, while practical, patterned melamine pieces can be hard to tell from real china. When the sun goes down, a drop in temperature can break up the party early, so provide throws to keep guests cosy and they’ll stay chatting until late.
Create a space to soak up the sun
Lazing in the garden requires a seat that is comfortable yet light enough to lift so you can pick it up and follow the sun – or hide from it. Furniture made from woven materials such as wicker, cane, loom and cloth has these qualities. Cloth, or rather canvas, is a traditional seating material for the season – indeed, no snapshot of a traditional summer would be complete without a chair layered with cushions to relax in. Another restful alternative (albeit a less portable one) is a fabric-covered swing seat. Odd Ltd and Wilverley are suppliers of these seats that are shaded by their own canopy and have all the charm of a PG Wodehouse party. Wicker, cane and loom furniture has a more rigid structure offering support without compromising the material’s natural resilience. Made in a variety of vintage styles, it comes in a host of modern shapes too.
Create a chill-out space in the shade
Wooden benches and low walls convert instantly into comfortable garden seating with the addition of rugs, throws and cushions. Opt for those made from hardwearing fabrics that won’t show marks. Generous piles of oversized cushions and flat weave rugs soften hard surfaces and set the scene for relaxed gatherings and easy conversation. This bohemian look works most effectively on a patio or deck where walls or wooden panels enclose the space, creating an intimate feel. A strong colour scheme gives any group cohesion and this informal style relies on an effortless, uncontrived arrangement and a feeling of spontaneity.
Choose fabrics designed for the outdoors that will see you through the summer
The outdoor life is tough on fabrics. Exposed to the ravages of sunlight, rain and sun cream, not to mention extra wear and tear, regular furnishing textiles won’t last or keep their looks nearly as long as they would indoors. Having garden furniture re-covered is expensive, so choosing a suitable fabric at the outset will save money long term. There’s a growing selection of purpose-made outdoor materials in a range of colours, patterns and textures, giving you plenty of choice. Made out of acrylic, polymer or polypropylene fibres, they come in plain colours or printed or woven designs and resist the fading effects of sunlight. Most are machine-washable, water-repellent, stain and mildew-resistant and able to withstand salt and chlorine. Before you buy, check that the design you want is suitable for how you wish to use it.
If you’re hosting friends, opt for a patio heater or outdoor cooker
Think of flames flickering over a pile of driftwood on the beach or a campsite barbecue and it’s easy to understand the appeal, on a warm summer evening, of a fire in the open air. If you rarely have the chance to take a trip to the coast or countryside, fire pits and barbecues allow you to enjoy the warmth of a real fire or the taste of food grilled over flames closer to home. Fire pits consist of a metal or concrete bowl in which you can burn wood or charcoal and often they come with accessories such as a grill and ash scraper so you can cook over the embers. More conventional barbecues are widely available, giving you a choice of fuel, size and sophistication, from simple charcoal grills to gas-fuelled cook centres equipped for serious barbecue chefs.
Add interest by introducing unusual objects and finds
Although the planting is the main feature in most gardens, decorative objects have a part to play in the landscape, attracting and sometimes deceiving the eye. A statue positioned at the end of a path seems to extend its length, while placing it amongst foliage lends an air of mystery. Standing it close to a creeper-covered wall or fence helps to blur the garden’s boundary and make your outdoor area appear larger than it is. A garden mirror is another clever trick that adds both intrigue and a sense of space. Made from special glass, they reflect glints of light into shady corners and, made in the shape of a window, can create the illusion that they overlook another undiscovered part of the garden.
Make the most of summer days spent outdoors in the sunshine. This selection of furniture, fabrics and accessories will help you to turn your garden into a valuable extra room. Follow the tips in the above gallery to make the most of your outdoor space.