How to create an outdoor dining area

Find out how to transform your garden, terrace or balcony into a gorgeous outdoor dining space with these clever ideas

John Lewis Eden Outdoor Dining Chairs
(Image credit: John Lewis)

Do you love al fresco dining, but wonder how to bring your garden or terrace to the next level, beyond just choosing an outdoor dining set? Think everything from the right flooring to great outdoor dining furniture and sumptuous accessories and atmospheric lighting. Attention to detail is key, so take inspiration from our design tips (as well as our practical advice, obvs). 

If you are creating an outdoor dining area as part of a bigger garden overhaul, find out how to plan, design and cost your garden transformation

1. Choose practical outdoor flooring 

An outdoor dining area will need flooring that can support lots of furniture and your barbecue, so choose a practical, durable surface that is hard (to prevent your furniture sinking into the ground), and even and smooth (to prevent accidents). Ideally, your outdoor flooring will mimic that of the flooring indoors in style, colour and finish for that perfect indoor-outdoor blend: decking is a great option if you have wooden kitchen flooring, but look at paving options if you have floor tiles.  

Find out how to design the best garden deck in our guide. 

This decking area is supporting a barbecue and dining set from John Lewis.

(Image credit: John Lewis)

2. Keep everything tidy with ample storage

Every garden needs some good outdoor storage, but especially a garden that doubles up as a dining space or outdoor kitchen. If your outdoor dining area is covered, you can keep all your utensils and table linens clean and tidy in kitchen trolley, boxes, and crates outside; otherwise, make space with clever shed storage.

We have plenty more space saving garden storage ideas.

A selection of outdoor storage options is available at Ikea. 

Ikea outdoor

(Image credit: Ikea)

3. Create an atmosphere with an outdoor speaker

Music makes any dinner party better, so why not have it on when dining outdoors, too? You can, of course, simply have sound coming from the indoors, but for convenience's sake (think changing a song quickly or controlling volume), invest in an outdoor speaker.

The Aglow Bluetooth Outdoor Speaker from Kreafunk is waterproof and doubles up as an LED lantern. Available at Cuckooland.  

(Image credit: Cuckooland)

4. Up the comfort level with an outdoor rug

Making outdoor dining as comfortable as its indoor equivalent is all about investing into extra details, especially where it comes to soft furnishings. Sumptuous seat padding is a must, but to take your al fresco dining to a whole new level, lay an outdoor rug underneath your dining set. 

The San Juan Outdoor Rug by Fab Hab is waterproof and reversible – and visually striking. Available at Cuckooland. 

(Image credit: Cuckooland)

5. Make your table inviting with crisp table linen

One of the pleasures of indoor dining is crisp and fresh table linen – so why not have the same level of detail outdoors? Choose natural, luxurious fabrics such as cotton and linen for a slightly rustic, cosy look and feel, but go for natural finishes and colours, as they won't fade as obviously as bright colours. 

In this outdoor dining space, The Eden Outdoor Dining set has been covered with cotton and linen table linen from John Lewis. 

Eden outdoor dining set

(Image credit: John Lewis)

6. Take not just dining, but also cooking, outside

If your kitchen is not right next to your garden dining area, transporting heavy dishes between the inside and outside may be a challenge (especially if you are cooking for a large group). So, why not have a little kitchen dedicated to al fresco cooking right where you will be having dinner? Add a few plant pots, including herbs, and you have a self-sufficient outdoor dining area complete with a mini kitchen garden. 

Get advice on how to design an outdoor kitchen.

This outdoor dining area has been created with the Applaro range from Ikea.

Ikea outdoor

(Image credit: Ikea)

7. Create an intimate arbour space with plants and lights

Al fresco dining cannot be beaten for enjoying the sunshine and open air – but what about when it gets too hot, especially during lunchtime, or at night when you might need a little more shelter? Create a natural roof by training climber plants, such as ivy or a vine to form an arbour. Then accessorise with pretty festoon garden lights and enjoy outdoor dining without overheating.  

Find out how to plan your garden lighting.

festoon lighting over a vine covered decking dining areas

(Image credit: Lights4Fun)

8. Create a shaded area with a parasol

Outdoor dining means being at the mercy of changeable weather, from strong sun to an unexpected shower. To keep everyone comfortably cool – or protected from rain – choose a dining set with a parasol, or add a freestanding or clip-on version to your existing dining ensemble. This option is especially useful for exposed outdoor areas and terraces. 

This outdoor dining area features a garden parasol from Ikea. 

Ikea outdoor dining

(Image credit: Ikea)

9. Go shabby chic to create a unique outdoor space

Shabby chic is an enduringly popular look for bedrooms and kitchens, so why not try it in your outdoor dining area, too? The advantage of this type of look is that not everything needs to match. Invest in a beautiful metal outdoor dining set and then accessorise with favourite lamps, cushions, and lights. Hey presto, a romantic, ambient al fresco dining spot!

We have more brilliantly boho design ideas for you to browse.

We love the elegance of the Monaco six-seater Dining table from Neptune. 

Neptune Monaco 6 seater table

(Image credit: Neptune)

10. Choose stacking outdoor dining chairs to save space

If your garden or terrace is on the small side, and you are planning on entertaining after dinner, you will want to pick outdoor dining chairs that are either easily folded or stacked away. 

The Florence Stacking Armchair from Bridgman is smart and made from aluminium, making it lightweight and easy to move around. 

Grey Stacking Armchairs

(Image credit: Bridgman )

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