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Alfresco ideas for the summer

With the warmer months here, it's important to make the most of your outside space. So get prepped for the sun (and the showers) with our alfresco ideas for every size of garden.

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Eating, relaxing and entertaining outdoors is one of the highlights of the summer season. Whether you have a sprawling garden lawn or a bijou courtyard, our alfresco ideas are sure to lift your spirits.

Outdoor dining is a wonderful way to embrace the warmth and peace of your outside space. Be it a quick outdoor brunch, a family picnic or an evening barbecue, dining al fresco can add that extra bit of magic to your day.

Alfresco dining area ideas

Planning to redesign your garden or spruce up your outdoor space this summer? We’ve put together some alfresco dining ideas to provide you with masses of inspiration.

Create a cottage courtyard

If you have a small garden, why not create a cottage courtyard with classic garden furniture surrounded by beautiful potted flowers and herbs? You don’t need a lawn or raised patio to truly embrace outdoor dining. Simply style your cottage courtyard to complement the architecture of your home with traditional furniture and atmospheric lighting.

Cottage courtyard garden ideas

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Alfresco decking ideas

Decking areas can offer a perfect spot for barbecues and alfresco meals. You can walk straight out onto raised decking from the back of your home or choose to have a sunny corner or central spot of your garden with an area of raised decking. To explore outline prices to install decking check out our decking cost guide.

Decking seating

Extend your indoor living space

We all love bringing the outdoors in, but it’s also great to take the indoors out and extend your living space into the garden. A great way to do this is to lay a paved or decked patio area near your French or bi-fold doors. This will allow you to move seamlessly between your inside and outside living zones.

Sliding doors that open up fully offer a stylish and super modern alfresco idea too. Choose colour schemes that flow from inside to out to elevate the harmonious mood.

Indoor/outdoor alfresco dining ideas

Relax in a morning sun trap

Outdoor alfresco ideas can be as simple as setting up a comfortable chair in a sunny patch of your garden.

Depending on the direction of your home, you may get the sun in different areas of your garden at different times of the day.

If you have a sunny spot in the mornings, why not create a quiet seating area to enjoy your morning coffee as the sun warms your face? If you get evening sun in your garden, set up a romantic dining corner where you can enjoy the last of the sun’s rays with a drink in hand.

A sunny spot for two in the garden

Build a summerhouse

If your garden is big enough, a summerhouse is a great way of creating a versatile dining space that feels separate from your home – it’s one that you can use whatever the weather too.

You could also opt for a canopy or gazebo. Have a quick glance at our cost guide to building a gazebo to see if it’s right for you.

pretty summer house for enjoying alfresco dining

Throw shade with a pergola

Pergolas are a top spot for entertaining, relaxing and alfresco dining in your garden.

In fact, these beautiful structures are the perfect spot for all year-round alfresco ideas and can transform a run-of-the-mill garden into a laid-back retreat you’ll love spending time in.

If you’re a confident DIY-er, why not try your hand at building a pergola in your own garden? Read our top tips for how to build a pergola – with advice on wooden, steel and freestanding pergolas.

Do remember to check with your local authority if you need planning permission to build a pergola in your garden – you might do if it’s at the front of the property or if it takes up more than half of your outdoor space.

Pergola for alfresco dining

Alfresco lighting ideas

If you want an outdoor dining space that you can use once the sun sets, outdoor lighting is key. From classic wall lights to festoon string and fairy lights, you can really enhance the atmosphere of your outdoor space with different layers of light.

Here’s how to create a magical atmosphere with alfresco lighting:

  • Hanging strings of twinkly fairy lights is one of the easiest ways to add a magical glow up to your garden. White bulbs are classic but colourful fairy lights add a touch of unexpected nostalgia
  • Look out for solar lighting to save on electricity bills. There are so many solar lighting options available these days so you can harness the power of the sun in your own garden
  • Smart outdoor lighting systems that are operated by apps on a smartphone are super handy. These will allow you to create light patterns that dance to music or colour-changing sequences. Disco under the stars anyone?
  • Rattan lanterns dotted around the garden will help you infuse a rustic, laid-back vibe to alfresco dining. Just add a couple of throws so you can carry on the party even if the nights turn chilly
  • Lighting clusters of tea lights and hurricane lamps are a simple yet effective alfresco lighting idea. Choosing Citronella scented candles will also help ward off mosquitoes

hang strings of fairy lights for alfresco ideas

Alfresco BBQ ideas

We’ve never loved our BBQs more. From a simple portable grill to a state-of-the-art outdoor kitchen, eating alfresco during the summer months is all about the grill. Read this guide for some inspirational BBQ area ideas to get you in the mood for eating and entertaining outdoors.

You may already have an off-the-shelf BBQ tucked away in the shed. If you’re dusting off your grill for the first time this year, check out our guide to cleaning your BBQ before you get searing, sauteeing and stir-frying!

You could also consider constructing a permanent BBQ area in your garden. Head to our post which looks at how to build a brick BBQ in 8 simple steps

alfresco BBQ ideas

Alfresco entertaining ideas

From picnic zones to fully-stocked outdoor bars, be inspired by our alfresco entertaining ideas to enjoy with your family and friends.

Picnic areas

There’s nothing better than a family picnic on the lawn. Whether you opt for real or artificial grass, you simply need a picnic blanket and good food. Invest in water-proof backed throws and sturdy melamine or bamboo picnicware that won’t break and cause a potential safety hazard.

picnic in the garden

Harness the beauty of flowers and foliage

Plants and flowers aren’t just a treat for the eyes. They can also reduce the feeling of wind in your garden and help to create sections, secluded areas and shady spots. From classic pots to raised beds and climbing plants, they really help to create an oasis of natural beauty.

pretty garden flowers

Add a tranquil water feature

Water features are a great way to bring peace and serenity to a garden. Imagine enjoying your lunch in the sun, accompanied by the beautiful acoustics of a fountain or meandering stream. See our article here about the different types of water features available for your outdoor space.

garden water feature

Set up a garden bar

Garden bars are hot, hot, hot for alfresco entertaining ideas. So if you don’t fancy going out, consider setting up a dream bar in the garden.

Creating a fun space for entertaining alfresco is simple with a ready-made bar set up in a corner of your garden. Look out for kitsch, tiki-style bars with a raffia roof and decorative grass panels for the ultimate vacation-at-home mood in the tropics!

We recommend hiring a carpenter to build your dream bar. For the next best thing, buy a drinks trolley, an ice bucket and a fire pit and turn up the party playlist. Take a look at more garden bar ideas.

Garden bar

If you’re thinking of redesigning your garden or creating a unique outdoor dining area, use our Checkatrade search to find tradespeople near you.

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