How to create the perfect summer entertaining space in your backyard

Photo: iStock

Photo: iStock

Summer brings with it a raft of marvellous things; stone fruits, long days, and so many parties. Whether you plan on playing the host, or would prefer to enjoy a little R&R in your green haven, we’ve asked some experts for their best tips to show your outdoor space some love.

The first step is a good assessment of your space and a thorough clean-up to banish the winter neglect. “Clean the paving, walls and windows next to your outdoor living space,” says Joanne Neylon, company director of Joanne Green Landscape and Interior. If budget permits, splash out on some new outdoor furniture, “then install some well selected pots and plants for maximum impact – you’ll only need a few.”

If your space is in need of a little more attention, Neylon’s biggest advice is to ensure you have some flat zones to work with. “Providing level areas for lawn or paving can make a big difference quickly. Add some walling, where necessary, to achieve these.”

The first step to freshening up your outdoor area is a good assessment of your space and a thorough clean and tidy. Photo: Prue Ruscoe for Robert Plumb. Styling: Claire Delmar

The first step to freshening up your outdoor area is a good assessment of your space and a thorough clean and tidy. Photo: Prue Ruscoe for Robert Plumb. Styling: Claire Delmar

William Dangar, creative director of outdoor furniture retailer Robert Plumb and author of Garden, recommends keeping your outdoor style and materials in line with your interiors.

“Even when working on a large garden I like to create areas of containment – be that a paved area where a dining table and chairs can be placed, or a seating area for generous, comfortable lounge chairs. These zones should have a relationship with the style of the house for a sense of continuity.”

When it comes to defining the entertaining space, Dangar is more of an advocate for blurred lines. “Planting can help to define a zone, and I like to use swathes of mass planting of the same species rather than lots of individual plants, but I prefer plants to drift over the edge of an entertaining space to soften the delineation.”

William Dangar recommends keeping your outdoor style and materials in line with your interiors. Photo: Prue Ruscoe for Robert Plumb. Styling: Claire Delmar

William Dangar recommends keeping your outdoor style and materials in line with your interiors. Photo: Prue Ruscoe for Robert Plumb. Styling: Claire Delmar

There is great debate over outdoor dining versus outdoor lounge, and if you’re lucky enough to fit both then relish in the fortune, but heed Dangar’s advice if space is at a premium: “In a small space, go for one generous piece and support with smaller items – such as stools which double as side-tables – and don’t try to squeeze too much furniture in, it will only look cluttered and overstuffed.”

The fire pit remains a firm favourite in the entertainer’s arsenal for 2018. “They create a focal point to an evening, a place to gather and bring family and friends together,” he says.

“I always recommend that fire pits are positioned on non-combustible surfaces. When in lawn spaces, I often fabricate a mild steel ring to create a crisp edge and then use a gravel surface for the fire pit and stools to sit on.”

For times when the flickering light of the bonfire isn’t going to cut it, we turned to Ted Smyth, co-owner of EST Lighting for his tips on getting the mood right outdoors.

Photo: Prue Ruscoe for Robert Plumb. Styling: Claire Delmar

Photo: Prue Ruscoe for Robert Plumb. Styling: Claire Delmar

“For entertaining spaces, we really enjoy deleting every floodlight from our client’s lighting plan,” says Smyth. “In place of these we add fixtures usually reserved for indoors – decorative pendants, floor lamps, and table lamps, all dimmable, weather-proof and ambient.”

At meal time, “Small, rechargeable LED table lamps can add a subtle layer of light for dining tables and look fantastic,” he says. And to really get the party started it’s hard to go past weatherproof festoon lights. “They can be hung up quickly, ad are always a fun addition when friends drop in or when luncheons last ’til after dark.”

When it comes to the final flourishes, stylist and author Jason Grant admits he’s always won over by attention to detail. “I love a beautiful table setting with abundant shared dishes on handsome platters, glinting glasses, interesting serving ware and accessories – complete with fresh flowers of course! I always strive to bring a splash of colour to a table.”

Bringing indoor comforts outside is another winning formula. “Treat your outdoor space like you would a room indoors and decorate it just the same. Or a cute outdoor umbrella is a great, cost-effective way to update your space and inject some personality,” says Grant.

So now, with the arrival of friends and family imminent, the last thing left to do is fire up the barbecue and get the bubbly on ice.

First published on Domain.

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