How do I create a perfect outdoor entertaining space?

Patios, furniture and sense of enclosure

CEO & Garden Designer
Ruth Marshall

Trying to create the perfect outdoor entertaining space takes thought and planning.  RHS gold winning garden designer Ruth Marshall explores the key components in creating the perfect entertaining space in your garden.

Creating the perfect patio

Your patio may be the most expensive part of your garden so making it work for you is absolutely critical. Here are some top tips form RHS Gold-medal winning Designer Ruth Marshall for getting this right…

  • Do you want an outdoor dining table – how big? Seating 6-8 is very different from 10-12- look up the sizes of the tables, and make sure you have at least 1m all round for a chair to push back! Make sure you can fit this on and ideally avoid it sitting right outside the lovely bifold doors you have just put in!
  • For larger spaces the space should ideally be zoned – separate seating and dining space, perhaps “milling” or purely decorative space too if space allows – break the patio up with some edging or detailing to avoid it looking like an aircraft carrier
  • If you can get some decent planting against the house this has a major impact on softening the impact of hard landscaping – beds 60-90cm deep are ideal – less is likely to be miserable!
  • Your main seating area doesn’t need to be right against the house- where does the sun hit? Are you better off just having a “landing pad” or “Breakfast Nook” from your rear bifolds and pushing your main seating/lounging space to the place that catches the main afternoon or evening sun?

Choosing fantastic furniture

Stylish furniture can be eye-wateringly expensive. There are options at many price points and some key considerations…

  1. Is the main purpose to lounge comfortably under an all weather pergola or to sit occasionally when the weather allows? If you can use all year you will want to try it out and check it is comfy! You may also be up for spending a bit more on it if you think it will get a lot of use- in which case consider Kettler furniture. Getting some texture into the furniture without perhaps going down the rattan route is an elegant touch Kettler Aruba
spring garden inspiration for hedgerows

2. Is the furniture going to be prominently visible all year from the house or tucked in a corner? Furniture can add a welcome pop of colour all year round even if it is not used much- look for bistro sets in bright oranges and reds like this one from Garden Trading Rive – perfect for a little coffee perch.

spring garden inspiration for hedgerows

3. There are much lower price point options than a full Kettler set . Much of the midrange brands look a bit samey but there are many cool options at much easier to accommodate prices- I like this set from Garden Furniture Nassau

spring garden inspiration for hedgerows

4. Plain/second hand/cheap furniture can be given a whole new lease of life with bright waterproof cushions. My current favourites are those from Izabela Peters – gorgeous colours and designs.

spring garden inspiration for hedgerows

5. My main bugbear is furniture that needs to be covered in the winter- who wants to look out on tarpaulins for nearly half of the year? Unless you have somewhere else to store such delicate items, choose all weather furniture. Do also note that teak (and other hardwoods) weather to a soft grey- if you don’t like this colour then don’t buy teak! It can be restored with strong chemicals and some hard work each year, but this is more effort than most people want.

Creating Seating areas

Creating fantastic seating areas in a garden is often not just about having somewhere to sit (a deck, some gravel, paving or even lawn), but about making it feel welcoming. Having furniture or perching places there all year is key – if you have to go and get the cushions you wont sit there when you have 10 minutes with a cup of coffee

  1. Create some sense of enclosure – this can be as fancy as a pergola structure or as simple as having some planting around at least 2 sides of the space, a height difference or some shade from trees or an umbrella if it is in a sunny spot.
spring garden inspiration for hedgerows

2. Dress the space – Clothing an existing wall with planting, a screen or a sculptural light box makes for interest, and an outdoor rug on the ground can make it feel welcoming (cheaper than replacing the patio!). Even large hedging can be decorated…

spring garden inspiration for hedgerows

3. More exposed or outward looking spaces benefit from adjacent planting to give a sense of movement and partial protection from view – we all like to feel that we are not overlooked too much when relaxing!

spring garden inspiration for hedgerows

How to put all this together

If you would like a little help to plan your seating areas and entertaining space do contact our award-winning team at CGLA. 01494 818991, or have a little look at our website and see plenty more tips and ideas!

CGLA are an award winning team of Garden Designers, Landscape Architects, Landscapers and Garden Maintenance Operatives working in Buckinghamshire, London and the South East, as well as on prestigious design projects across the UK and abroad. We are currently working in Oman, Jersey and France, and welcome enquires for design, landscaping or garden maintenance. Contact us here