Perhaps it’s because in the UK our connection to the outside is limited to a few sunny weeks a year, planning a summer party can feel a little alien. The weather certainly makes it a bit of a lottery but that doesn’t mean you should keep your party focus to the house, particularly if you have a kitchen that links to the outside through French or sliding doors.
SET THE SCENE
So what are the perfect ingredients for a summer garden party? If you want some inspiration then Instagram is choc-full of swoon-worthy outdoor set-ups for making ‘Yay!’ while the sun shines. Accounts such as @mad_about_the_house, @_lisa_dawson_ and @theresagromski are worth following for totally achievable outside dining spaces. Upping your outdoor furniture game is a good place to start. A table that’s big enough to squeeze friends and family around is best, particularly if you are planning to have a few parties, but don’t go too super-sized if your garden’s not huge. Folding chairs are a great solution for smaller spaces and perfect for storing away from the worst ravages of winter. An umbrella is a must, not just in case it rains but also to protect guests from the sun – no-one wants guests going away with sunstroke!
Add stylish rattan or wicker furniture – we love Ikea’s Buskbo armchair and Kungsholmen sets – filled with squishy cushions and throws to keep everyone comfortable. The melamine game is strong on the High Street right now, with M&S, John Lewis, Amara, Lakeland and Sainsbury’s all featuring ranges that are party perfect. Brighly coloured glasses and plates with stunning designs look just like the real thing without the worry that they might get smashed by a clumsy guest.
GET THE BARBIE STARTED
Dining in the garden is now so much more than a few apologetic burgers and sausages burning on the barbie. While you don’t want it too far away, keep the barbecue at a safe distance, not only from the eating area but also from the kitchen so you don’t fill the house with smoke.
If you have a BBQ expert in your midst, make good use of them but also remember to back up their talents with a few additional dishes that take little time to cook and don’t depend on the rain staying away. Preparing a few salads – potato, rice and a mixed for colour – beforehand will help to take the strain off and ensure you’re enjoying the party rather than chopping and mixing while your guests are drinking.
Whether you want to channel festival vibes or Moroccan chic there are now outdoor rugs made with plastics – some of them recycled – that will add a bit of extra comfort and pizzazz to a patio or decked area. La Redoute’s Alberti rug comes in two sizes and two colours and features an attractive geometric design that looks just as good outside as it does in. It’s made from polypropylene, so can take pretty much what the British summer has to throw at it, too but like most other outdoor rugs, it’s best rolled up and stashed away in the shed for the winter months. Cushions that are suitable for outside have come along way, too. Invest in designs from John Lewis and Maisons du Monde to bring your outdoor seating bang on-trend. Use fabrics and materials to link the outdoors with inside, too, creating a harmonious flow between the two spaces. Similar colours on cushions or materials for furniture will help to provide a visual, seamless link between inside and out. Create levels and layers by providing chairs but also popping a few cushions, pouffes and throws on the floor for a more relaxed Bedouin tent feel.
Finally, getting the lighting right will ensure you can enjoy your outdoor space as the sun goes down. Strings of solar lights look fabulous – Lights 4 Fun - have a great range – as well as providing just the right ambience and level of illumination for parties. Citronella candles not only add to the mood, they also help to keep mozzies at bay. If your eating area is quite a distance from the kitchen then use rows of stick solar lights to light your way and create an elegant transition from house to outdoor seating and eating area.