How to make a garden perfect for outdoor entertaining

A light grey garden sofa is accessorised with orange and grey patterned cushions. A jug of a summer cocktail drinks is on a tray on an outdoor ottoman, ready for an evening of entertaining in the garden.

Ten expert tips for an inviting and entertaining garden

Entertaining friends and family in the garden is one of the joys of the longer, lighter evenings. If you love family BBQs and laidback garden parties, you'll want to make your garden a perfectly inviting space for guests and outdoor entertaining.

Whether you are revamping your whole garden, or just refreshing your patio, let the experts at Armadillo Sun, makers of luxury garden furniture, and Stiled, specialists in outdoor porcelain tiles, guide you.

1. Find your hotspots

Spend some time sitting and watching where the sunshine hits your garden at different times of day in spring and summer.

Where the light warms your garden helps you identify where you are likely to want to be at these key points of the day, and how you might want to use and furnish that spot,” advises Caroline Lomax, founder of Armadillo Sun.

Take photos on your phone to remind you of these entertainment hotspots.

With clever garden furniture choices, you can exploit the sun wherever it is for your outdoor event by moving and shifting key pieces. Lightweight soft garden furniture is an absolute boon to lovers of outdoor entertaining who want to make the most of the space, and sun, they have.

Evening sunshine is really important. This is often when you are entertaining in the garden and catching those last rays of light. You and your guests will want to be comfortable – lounging and relaxing, not sitting upright. This is the perfect spot, to my mind, for a garden sofa!” recommends Caroline.

A soft fabric outdoor sofa and blue patterned garden cushions with a bottle of champagne on a weatherproof ottoman

2. Zone your outdoor entertaining area (whatever its size)

View your garden like you would your house with different ‘rooms’, each with a distinct role and ambience.

Use patio tiles to frame and highlight an area. Pergolas are also a popular way to create a defined space.

Offering a mix of seating options is a really simple way to build zones into your garden. For example, outdoor bean bags in a lushly planted corner invite cosy conversation; whilst repeat planting and a framed patio around a garden dining set lean towards more formal alfresco entertaining. A focal spot with a fire pit, heatproof porcelain tiles and a garden sofa can be used to draw people together.

A light blue sectional garden sofa is arranged with two pairs of soft chairs facing each other across an ottoman table ready for alfresco dining.

Even in the smallest of gardens different seating spaces can be created with a few chairs or garden bean bags, a small outdoor rug, and strategically placed pots and plants.

Zones needn't be fixed either – unlike rooms in your house, you are not limited by immovable structures like walls and doors, so you can arrange and re-arrange furniture and décor to suit the event. Create an open laidback family BBQ area, then transform it the following evening for a garden party with conversation corners and sit-down dining spots.

3. Treat your outdoor entertaining area like your living room

Extend your entertaining space by considering your garden as an extra room in your home.  Using outdoor porcelain patio tiles matched to ones used indoors creates a large cohesive living area with a seamless flow from one to the other.

Two large luxury garden bean bags are sat outdoors on a patio that extends indoors.

Even if designing your home around an indoor-outdoor aesthetic is not practical, you can still reflect your indoor style outside.

“Look at your patio as an outdoor living room and organise and accessorise it as such,” recommends Matthew Williams, founder and CEO of Stiled.

Stiled porcelain tiles can even be used to create wood effect flooring for warmth and an indoors-out feel.

Outdoor patio tiled with wood-effect porcelain pavers used for a garden table and chairs and planters

Image: Harbury Natural Outdoor Porcelain Tiles available from Stiled

“For me creating a living room in an outdoor area is essential … just like you sit back on your sofa to relax, this is an area of your garden where the focus is on encouraging you and your guests to switch off,” says Caroline.

Emphasise comfort with a loungey garden sofa; dress with outdoor cushions that compliment your indoor colour scheme. If you love boho décor, then consider outdoor rugs, Moroccan hanging lights, throws, scatter cushions, and plenty of bean bags.

4. Don’t overlook the importance of hardscaping

We all love the plants and flowers that add colour and texture to our outdoor spaces.

“But a garden needs a balance of softscaping, through plants and lawn, and hardscape – paths, patio areas, and walls to make it a place people want to explore”, says Matthew from Stiled.

A gravel path lined with brick pavers curls round a corner and opens up into a circular patio with a firepit at its centre. Lush greenery and plant obelisks surround both patio and path.

Image: a family garden makeover by garden designer Jenny Radford

This is particularly important in making your garden the perfect place to entertain. Consider how guests will move around your outdoor space, and the easiest way to divide it up. Carefully planned hardscaping is essential even in a smaller garden.

It adds structure and definition within limited space and, by choosing complementary colours and materials, creates continuity that will make a small garden feel spacious”, adds Matthew.

5. Durability, practicality, and style

Nothing takes the joy out of a party than mild panic at a splash of sauce on a cushion or a spilled glass of red wine. You should be able to enjoy entertaining in your garden too!

“Ensuring your garden entertainment areas are unfussy and easy to clean is essential,” emphasises Caroline.

Accidents will happen so being able to relax knowing that stains won’t be a permanent reminder of a party however good it’s been – makes all the difference.

Durability does not mean boring! The Stiled range of beautiful outdoor patio tiles are all non-porous and wipe-clean. Browse Armadillo Sun’s bold and bright new designs to see how practical fabric can look stylish and feel luxurious.

6. Opt for low-maintenance

Whilst you may start off with all the good intentions, outdoor maintenance can be tedious. When the sun has peeped out from behind the clouds, a spontaneous bank holiday BBQ is dampened by knowing that you need to air the seat cushions first, or should be sealing the patio pavers.

Choosing products and materials that take minimal maintenance will not only save you time, but also mean you make more use of your garden entertainment areas.

7. Make space for storage

For easy entertaining you want the essentials close at hand, not buried at the bottom of the shed or tucked into a dusty corner in the garage. Consider outdoor storage – there are many cleverly disguised options these days – where you can keep outdoor cushions, garden décor, even the clean BBQ utensils, close-to-hand.

If you have had enough of the cushion hokey-cokey  bringing them in and out morning and night choose garden furniture that resists the damp and dries quickly.

8. Think cosy

Invite your guests to relax by creating a cosy sanctuary in your garden. You can create a sense of refuge and escape from the outside world by adding height into your outdoor space. Low slung seating, like garden bean bags, creates a sense of surrounding height. Also consider planting with obelisks and arches, and use existing trees, hedges and walls as inviting nooks. Tile a wall to add character to a corner.

Cosy can be simply created through layering textures with outdoor rugs and throws, and by using colours in the warm spectrum, like terracotta and paprika.

Two soft comfy-looking outdoor sofa chairs have been placed together in a garden corner and covered cosily with orange cushions and a pumpkin throw.

 9. Plan for the elements

“You want the ultimate outdoor entertaining space, whatever the weather throws at you!” emphasises Matthew of Stiled.

Add a fire pit to keep off the evening chill – it also provides an excellent focal point for garden entertaining. Be reassured that outdoor porcelain tiles are heat resistant so you can enjoy your fire pit without fear of cracking.

Pergolas offer some protection from the wind and the sun; they are also a wonderful choice for zoning your garden entertainment area. Provide extra shade for your guests with an exquisitely beautiful parasol from the East London Parasol Company.

If there is a downpour, have a Plan B and a place to usher people under cover. Choose outdoor furniture that does not absorb water and dries quickly so you can get straight back out there after the rain. Non-slip patio tiles are essential!

Fire pit filled with burning logs on a terracotta coloured tiled patio

Image: Cavendish Cotto Outdoor Porcelain Tile available from Stiled

10. Buck the trends and focus on what you love

We all love a bit of trend-following. What’s the colour of this year’s Chelsea Flower Show? Are outdoor kitchens in or out? However, when creating a garden as a space to entertain your friends and family, we’d always recommend focusing in on your style. What makes you zing!

Are there places you have travelled to that you’d like to mirror? For Caroline, at Armadillo Sun, it was holidays in Morocco, and evenings of food shared together outdoors, that she wanted to recreate with her soft laidback seating and bright Mediterranean colours.

“Lean into what you enjoy about gathering the people you love together outside, and ensure your patio reflects your personality,” recommends Matthew Williams of Stiled.

Your home décor style does not stop when you open the doors to your garden. Whether you love clean simple lines and a modern contemporary look, or prefer layered textures with a laidback boho vibe, you can find outdoor accessories to match. Don’t forget these personal finishing touches when it comes to planning and budgeting for your entertaining garden.

If you'd love a colourful garden but are not sure where to start, browse my step-by-step guide to a glorious colour-filled garden.


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