Outdoor dining ideas – 11 ways to create an al fresco setup in your garden

When warm weather arises, outdoor dining is immediately on the menu. Inspire your own al fresco dining set up with our favourite garden spaces here

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

Outdoor dining is a must when the sun starts to show its rays. If you're a fan of al fresco dining (who isn't?) in all its seasons, but want some guidance on creating the perfect set up in your own outdoor space then you are in the right place. 

We have rounded up our favourite outdoor dining set ups below, along with design tips on how to recreate the look in your space. These pictures will inspire you to bring your garden or terrace to the next level in no time. 

We go beyond choosing a beautiful outdoor dining set, to focus on everything from choosing the right complementary flooring and garden accessories to atmospheric lighting and more that'll ensure your outdoor dining experience is out of this world. Attention to detail is key, so keep scrolling to admire our round up of the best outdoor dining set ups below and start creating yours!

For more garden ideas and outdoor inspiration, definitely take a moment or five to check out our feature.

  • If you are creating an outdoor dining area as part of a bigger garden overhaul, find out how to design a garden

1. Choose beautiful, but practical outdoor flooring 

(Image credit: John Lewis)

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.

2. Keep everything tidy with ample storage

Ikea outdoor

(Image credit: Ikea)

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. 

3. Create an atmosphere with an outdoor speaker

(Image credit: Cuckooland)

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.  

4. Up the comfort level with an outdoor rug

(Image credit: Cuckooland)

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. 

5. Make your table inviting with crisp table linen

Eden outdoor dining set

(Image credit: John Lewis)

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. 

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

Ikea outdoor

(Image credit: Ikea)

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.

7. Create an intimate arbour space with plants and lights

festoon lighting over a vine covered decking dining areas

(Image credit: Lights4Fun)

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.

8. Embrace the shade with a parasol

Ikea outdoor dining

(Image credit: Ikea)

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. 

9. Take a unique approach to your outdoor space

Neptune Monaco 6 seater table under a pergola

(Image credit: Neptune)

Adding your personality to your alfresco dining set up is a must. Whether you're into modern looks or shabby chic everything, remember that adding your own favourite pieces into your design scheme will make all the difference. We love this boho look, to create your own, invest in a beautiful metal outdoor dining set and then accessorise with favourite lamps, cushions, and lights. Hey presto, a brilliant 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. 

10. Choose stacking outdoor dining chairs to save space

Grey Stacking Armchairs

(Image credit: Bridgman )

If your garden or terrace is on the small side, and you are planning on entertaining after dinner, you will want to pick the best garden 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. 

11. Refresh furniture with summery shades

painted outdoor dining table and chairs set

Table in China Clay, chairs in Mendip Mist, Teal, Antique Rose, Passionate Plum, Lemon Yellow and French Lilac, all Royal Exterior Finish, 1ltr, £17.99, Protek.

(Image credit: Protek)

Dab hand with the paintbrush? For party-appeal, treat an unloved table and kitchen chairs to an assortment of new colours and create a setting that’s fit for a feast.

Protek Royal Exterior Finish wood stain is safe for use around pets, plants and children.

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Anna Cottrell
Anna Cottrell

Anna is Consumer Editor across Future's home brands. She moved to the world of interiors from academic research in the field of English Literature and photography. She is the author of London Writing of the 1930s and has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening.