Outdoor living has certainly evolved from the era of a blanket on the grass and a budget disposable BBQ. Nowadays your garden is considered a bona fide extension of your home. It’s a stylish space where you and your family can relax, eat and entertain. So there’s no time to lose to get yours set for summer!

Outdoor living: beautiful outdoor dining set by houseology

Next, think carefully about space and flow. Don’t over-clutter. People need room to move around as well as sit down. Ideally, you’ll need somewhere to store all your furniture during the winter months. If you plan to do a lot of entertaining, a decent dining table is a must, but benches also work well, especially for younger family members. Other options include sofas, loungers, hammocks and swings, so don’t be afraid to mix and match as required.

Alfresco dining

Perhaps the most obvious place to start in terms of garden design is with your garden furniture. How big is your space – and how is it laid out? If your options allow, why not design a dedicated area with much more than just a dining table? Think comfy, modular furniture where you and your guests can relax pre- and post-dining, enhanced with colourful scented plants and appropriate mood lighting. Installing a pizza oven or sunken fire pit to create an outdoor kitchen is another popular option.

Outdoor living: Sharing food & wine with friends

Quality furnishings and outdoor accessories can be a big investment. So it’s worth thinking carefully about what you really need and buy the best you can afford. Practical considerations are paramount. We all want our garden furniture to look good, but it has to weather the elements too. Teak, rattan and metal are all popular materials, so do your research and decide works best for you.

Outdoor living: Rotating pod

Pods and pergolas

The humble garden shed has had a serious makeover. Meanwhile, outdoor structures such as summerhouses, pergolas, verandas and cabins continue to grow in popularity. If your budget is modest, pergolas make great garden ‘screens’, to create separate areas for dining or sunbathing.

If you’re keen to make a statement – even within a smaller space – a rotating garden pod will allow you to enjoy outdoor living (whatever the weather!) all year round.

Outdoor living: Garden lighting for entertaining Credit: lights4fun & Kristy Noble Photography

Let there be light

Just because your garden is outside, doesn’t mean you don’t need to think about lighting. Getting your exterior lights right its vital in terms of creating the right ambience. It will also allow you to enjoy much more time outdoors. We adore these pretty lights for example.

Outdoor living: Light up your garden at night with these Starliter pendants from John Cullen Lighting

It goes without saying that garden and outdoor lights need to be weatherproof, waterproof and fit for purpose. In fact, solar lights are a popular choice for obvious reasons. Remember that where garden lights are concerned, on summer evenings, a little goes a long way – think fairy lights rather than floodlights! We’re big fans of these Starliter LED pendants, which are perforated to create a soft, twinkling effect when hung from a tree or shrub.

Outdoor living: Add a little style to your garden with this display by Debi Treolar

Bold and bright

Just as those finishing touches can make all the difference to the interior of your home, clever accessories can also transform your garden – and you don’t need to spend a fortune, either. How fabulous is this innovative bucket display? Simply fill an old bucket or two with water, flowers and tea lights, and you have an instant, eye-catching floral display with a difference.

Outdoor living: Make your garden party one to remember with these accessories from Ikea

Above all, don’t be afraid to introduce colour to your garden. Save the neutrals for another time. Brighten up your outdoor sofa with a cheery citrus cushion, or make your wooden furniture pop with a lick of paint. Experiment with different patterns and textures, and make your outdoor living space an uplifting celebration of vibrant summer shades!