A breath of fresh air


Given the hit-and-miss nature of the summer so far, creating an outdoor space has probably not been top of your list of priorities. But when the sun does decide to shine there is nothing nicer than sitting back and enjoying some relaxing time alfresco.

So, to ensure you’re always ready when the fine weather makes an appearance, you’ll need to have done some work on a designated dining or lounging area so all you have to do when the sun beats down is grab your sunglasses and a glass of something chilled.

It doesn’t have to be costly or involve digging up patios but ideally, when creating an outdoors area, you’ll want to choose somewhere that offers good shelter – just in case of those summer downpours. If you already have an awning then this is the perfect place to put a table and chairs, but if not then think about investing in a decorative gazebo or an oversized umbrella. All the major DIY dens, including Homebase and B&Q, sell them but you could also try John Lewis and Dunelm.

Painting the walls surrounding your ‘external room’ is another good trick as it instantly helps to define it and give it an identity. Alternatively you could always put up some bamboo screening, readily available from garden centres, to help establish your space.

Next up is suitable furniture. It might have rained a lot this summer but the good news is it’s resulted in many retailers slashing the price of their outdoor dining tables, chairs, loungers and accessories. Have a look at Marks & Spencer for a great selection of styles to suit all tastes. It also does a great line in outdoor games, such as rounders, quoits and croquet, as well as plenty of cool accessories, including bunting, lanterns and essential acrylic crockery in a variety of colours.

Garden Trading (www.gardentrading.co.uk) and Cox & Cox (www.coxandcox.co.uk) are also worth a browse and both sell some very unique pieces. The Range (www.therange.co.uk) and HomeSense (www.homesense.com) are great for sourcing good quality, luxurious looking items at budget prices. And Next is also worth a visit, offering chic bistro sets (ideal for balconies or small gardens), vintage style deck chairs, wrought iron benches and groovy statement seating.

Once you have all your key pieces in place it’s time for the fun bit: enhancing your external environment. Lakeland along with all the major supermarkets have a brilliant ranges of plastic plates, glasses and cutlery, but for a fun, retro feel check out Cath Kidston (www.cathkidston.co.uk) or the Butterfly by Matthew Williamson and Rice ranges at Debenhams. Here, you’ll also find lots of lovely lanterns, floor cushions and planters as well as scented candles so you can enjoy your new outdoor space by day and night.

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