Even the spottiest promise of sun is enough to get us out in the garden, ready to soak up some serious rays (after applying sun cream, of course).
But it also means having to wrestle the loungers out of the shed, where they've formed an apparently unbreakable bond with the strimmer and lawn mower. Or uncovering and unfolding all of the furniture that we've carefully protected from the bad weather and frost.
So we just love the ingenious idea that Stuart Fyfe and Matt Davey had of having built-in bench seating round the garden of their London home – making plenty of room for friends.
With the added bonus of an outdoor fireplace – and we are understating how impressive it is – this welcoming space is always ready for relaxing in.
Stuart and Matt took on a major renovation when they bought a 'challenging' 1880s terraced house in East Brixton after years of apartment living.
The house has smashed windows and boarded up doors, and the garden outside was badly overgrown and neglected. But it had potential for them to transform it into their dream home for entertaining in.
‘We wanted something we could redo, and acquiring a wreck to renovate in a developing neighbourhood was the most cost-effective option,' recalls Matt. 'This property was a complete mess, so it seemed perfect!'
- Find lots of inspiring ideas for entertaining outside on our garden hub page
They completely renovated it, converting the loft and adding a wraparound extension to house the kitchen-diner, which fully opened to the garden.
‘We kept decorative costs to a minimum by rolling up our sleeves once the builders left,’ Stuart says. ‘It’s something we enjoy, although it took six months because we worked at weekends or evenings when we had time. We went over budget by a few thousand on fixtures and fittings. It’s a house that we’ll live in for a long time, so we wanted a high standard – even if that meant spending a little more.
The wilderness in the garden was tamed and the level of it raised for a true ‘inside-outside’ effect when the bi-fold doors are open from the kitchen. It's as well-appointed as any room, surrounded by warm stone walls topped by fencing and with wooden bench seating along two sides, facing the outdoor fireplace.
The garden design make it easy – and inviting – to spill out into from the kitchen. The timber benches and fencing and light honey tones of the patio give it a warm feel.
Raised beds filled with colourful plants form the back of the bench along one wall, and to the sides of the built-in fire – which is ideal when temperatures drop in the evening (or for roasting marshmallows!). Grey is a dominant colour scheme in the house and this has been continued in the chic shade of the rendered beds and the bricks of the fireplace.
Stuart and Matt chose artificial turf to give the freshness of grass but without the upkeep and need for regular mowing. 'We’re trying to keep the garden alive but so far, our track record hasn’t been great. Our friends joke that we’ll probably end up killing the synthetic grass, too,' laughs Matt.
But we are loving how they've turned a backyard jungle into an invaluable resource for the hosts with the most: 'We’re entertaining a lot more than we used to,' Matt says. 'From experience, we know that at a squeeze, we can fit 100 people in the living room, kitchen and garden!'
- 10 ideas to landscape your garden from scratch