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Three garden layouts for dining

Three garden layouts for dining

Is your garden a modest courtyard patch or something more sprawling? Either way, it deserves to be treated like any of your inside rooms with a thought-out layout to make the most of the space. With lots of garden-related conversations being around outdoor living rooms, this week, we take it back to al fresco dining with Fred, who heads up our store design team. Read on as he shares three illustrated layouts for three different sized schemes that each put good food and company at their heart.

A multi-levelled garden

‘When a garden’s on the narrow side but is landscaped to have three different levels, it almost turns it into three rooms. Here, I’m suggesting creating two areas for different types of dining placed at different ends of the garden so that you get full use of the space. Begin with a large dining table on a deck or paved section so that there’s always room to entertain for a bigger party or even to spread out with the newspaper on a sunny Sunday morning. Then, pass through the middle, which I think of as almost like a hallway or landing area inside, into the planting section where there’s a smaller tea for two set (such as Boscombe or Harrington). I really like the idea here of having raised beds with different herbs and vegetables growing – in effect, a very small kitchen garden. Imagine heading up here with a book and mug of hot water and then picking a few home-grown mint leaves as you walk past to enjoy a fresh mint tea in your quiet garden corner. It’s important to remember that dining areas don’t need to be all about meals and feasts. A tea for two set still feels very ‘dining’ but sometimes it’s nicer to be in a smaller setting. I could also imagine choosing this part of the garden if my family were out for the day and I was eating on my own, or if our daughter were in bed and we fancied a light supper in the garden just the two of us.’

A terraced courtyard garden

‘Even in a smaller, courtyard garden, you can sometimes fit in two different dining spots. Make the first area multifunctional by choosing an armchair set with a little outdoor side table that you can use for everything from tea and cake to a relaxed bowl food supper – it’s the garden equivalent to eating on the sofa rather than the dining table. I’d say this sort of dining spot can achieve a similar function to the tea for two set, but because you have armchair and side (or coffee) table rather than bistro table and dining chairs, it is definitely more of a casual eating area. In the design I drew up, the space was narrower at the front of the garden so I put this smaller dining area there to not overwhelm the area and make it feel smaller. Continuing up the garden to see a full dining table setup then has the effect of making the garden feel much larger, because people don’t expect to be able to fit two different areas into a courtyard garden. It’s the surprise and delight mentality.”

A large lawn garden

‘Often you’ll see huge garden tables making it into sizeable outdoor spaces – just because you can. But it can be more effective to create a zoned dining spot with a more communal, round table. Your dining area will feel more intimate rather than lost at sea that way. It also shelters you as a large garden is often a draughty place. That’s why, in this big country garden, I suggested sectioning off the bottom-right corner. Not so much that it’s completely hidden as you want to be able to see through to it; that creates intrigue and also stops any harsh blocks that will make your garden feel smaller and less open. I’d use jasmine in my own garden as the scent is really lovely at dusk. When you’re sat there, you’ll feel sheltered and cosy, and then will feel the benefit of the full expanse of the garden when you walk out from it. Then, tuck a large L-shaped sofa and coffee table set at the other end of the garden, diagonal to this – a secondary, relaxed eating area that pulls you through the whole way. I see this as being the ideal place to retire to post-meal for pudding in bowls and a nightcap.’

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