For those who love entertaining, having an outdoor space to host guests is essential. There’s nothing quite like enjoying a meal and a chat with some friends in the great outdoors - whether it’s a warm summer day or a winter’s night by an outdoor fire, fresh air makes it so much more enjoyable.
Designing an outdoor entertaining area is a very individual thing and will depend on your taste, space and budget. But whether you have a small or a big backyard, here are 15 tips for designing an outdoor entertaining space that both you and your guests will enjoy!
Planning the design
1. Consider the size of your outdoor space
Have a look at the size of your outdoor area to determine how much space you’ll be working with. This’ll help you properly plan the design of your outdoor entertaining space and decide what can fit in the space and where it’ll go.
2. Draw up a plan
Make a sketch of how you want your outdoor entertaining space to look. Consider what you want to put in the space, how small or big it is, and then mark it out on the floor to ensure that it fits.
3. Plan your budget
This’ll help you determine how much money you can spend on the pieces you want to use for your entertainment area, such as a pizza oven, barbecue, furniture, plants, artwork and lighting. Even with a small budget, you can still have a great outdoor entertaining space.
Designing your outdoor entertaining space
4. Establish traffic patterns
For your outdoor areas to work better together, you can lay formal walkways, create shifts in hardscape materials, or plant shrubs or trees to establish corners and borders.
5. Connect to the indoors
When designing your outdoor entertaining space, be it a deck or patio, locate it in a spot that’s in a traffic pattern or in a place that provides refuge, such as off the living room or master bedroom. This way, it’ll be used more often.
6. Bring out the furniture, even the TV!
Think about whether the furniture will be undercover or exposed to the weather so you can choose what it’ll be made of, e.g. wood, powdercoated metal or wicker. Then consider how many people you’re going to invite and how big your space is. You can add tables (preferably round or expandable to fit more people), couches, benches, chairs, and even small stools for the kids. And bringing out the TV can help keep the sports lovers outside! Just make sure to position it where it’s free of glare and direct sunlight.
7. Create a seating area
You can lay large thin stones or pavers for the base and then stack up smaller, thicker stones or bricks to enclose the seating area that could also be used to sit on. This is called a seat wall, which is more versatile and allows you to enjoy the space every season.
8. Protect it from the elements
You can protect your outdoor entertaining space from the sun, wind and rain by building feature walls or by installing awnings, shade sails or alfresco blinds. It’s a good idea to keep a portion of the space fully covered, so you can still cook and dine beneath it even if it’s raining.
9. Light it up!
Task lighting is great for over the pizza oven, barbecue and dining table, whereas feature lighting can be used to highlight any water features, plants, trees and artwork in your outdoor entertaining area. You can also light every step and grade change or edges and curbs for a beautiful ambience (and to prevent accidents at night).
10. Keep it warm or cool
You can keep your outdoor entertaining space warm on chilly days by installing an outdoor heater or building a fireplace or firepit. With an efficient heating system, you can also increase the amount of time everyone spends outside. For hot days, installing shading is a great option.
11. Have a central focal point
A large pond can become the central gathering point that also provides a spot to arrange furniture and orient views. Or you can have a fire pit as the central focal point, which is great for gathering around with friends or family and telling stories at night. Other focal points include a piece of artwork, a fountain, or a sculpture.
12. Add container pots
Use large container pots full of plants and flowers to add colour and brightness as well as warmth and texture to your outdoor space. You can also add rocks, pebbles or even solar lights to your container pots to make it more interesting.
13. Bring out the kitchen or grill
Having an outdoor kitchen can keep you, as the host, outside with your guests. As for the grill, you can have a built-in grill or use a portable grilling unit that can be moved around depending on the purpose - whether it’s an intimate gathering, a large party on the lawn, or being close to the house in winter.
14. Set up an outdoor bar or buffet
You can use a portable bar unit or create a potting bench to store glasses, ice, wine/beer bottles and mixers and then serve them like a bartender! Don’t forget to make sure there’s available power nearby to operate a blender. A table flush against a wall or a raised bed wall (preferably wide and smooth) is great for an outdoor buffet and you can also use large garden urns or pots to fill with ice for drinks.
15. Think mingling and privacy (or big and small parties!)
If you’ll be having large gatherings, consider designing a large, open space where minglers can wander freely, as well as a smaller, closed-off space for those who prefer to have a quiet conversation, with strategically placed shrubs or dwarf trees, or a trellis with scrambling vines. Plus, a large space can be used for a big party, and your smaller space remains cosy for a more intimate affair.