With the ‘rule of six’ back in play in England - allowing gatherings of up to six people outdoors - and six people from two households allowed to meet outside in Wales, our gardens are set to become the new sociable living space.
1. Everything in its place
Reimagine your garden as you would an open-plan living space and divide it up into a series of zones for seating, planting, growing vegetables, playing games etc. This can also work in smaller spaces – and even make your space feel bigger than it is.
Alysha Alli, our head interior designer, says: “You don’t have to do a complete redesign to make the best use of your space. Adding pots in different heights and widths to divide zones or creating a living wall using larger plants can make parts of your garden feel like a cosy living area. Screens and panels can also create more intimate sections for relaxing – and there are some beautiful designs available to buy such as those from Screen with Envy.
“Given our socialising opportunities are at the mercy of the great British weather, creating a covered area is crucial. Alternatives to standard gazebos include this steel gazebo from The Range or this metallic arbour from Maisons Du Monde, which looks magnificent with the addition of hanging planters and some ambient festoon lanterns in a woven material.”
2. The best garden seating
Comfort is now as important outdoors as it is indoors. Alysha says: “The crucial trend that has emerged this year is utilising your garden as an extension of your home. Lounge seating creates a relaxed and luxurious environment whilst being practical when socialising with your friends and family. I also love an egg chair like this one from Baker and Stonehouse.
“We’ve been working with our designers to create a new range of outdoor seating for our show homes. Incorporating the trend of bold lines and woven fabrics, we love using natural textures of wood, wicker and rattan. Beliani has a gorgeous range of outdoor sofa sets using on-trend slatted wood forms, while The Range has an affordable choice of wicker options in a variety of colours such as this five piece set in smoky grey.
3. Cooking up a storm
Every sociable garden should have somewhere to cook so you can cater for your guests’ every need.
As you would expect, there are a huge range of products on the market from barbeques and smokers to ovens and steamers. This charcoal smoker and grill from Argos does all four. Meanwhile this dinky pizza oven from Ooni works in any size space and can be run on wood, charcoal or gas.
At the higher end of the market, The Big Green Egg is essentially a barbeque that doubles as an outdoor oven, offering the same flexibility as your indoor oven to cook a wide variety of dishes.
4. Stay snug
From freestanding patio heaters to chimineas and fire pits, the options to keep you and your guests warm outside are endless. Alternatively, invest in a few cosy blankets or wool throws to ensure everyone stays cosy.
Alysha says: “You can find an outdoor heater that complements your design style and your practical needs. This stylish black and brass chiminea from Made.com ticks off several key trends with its art deco minimalist shaping and matte black and metallic finish.
“For a really sociable vibe a fire pit can recreate the feeling of being gathered around a campfire sharing stories with your loved ones. This globe fire pit from A Place for Everything adds interest to your garden with its raw iron finish and intricate cut out details.
“Home design this year is all about reassuring our senses so add accessories that envelop you with warmth and comfort. Introduce chunky knit blankets from a local maker or these corduroy throws from Dunelm will bring a pop of sunlit yellow and baked orange tones to your garden.”
5. Illuminating ideas
Outdoor lighting is key if you want your garden gatherings to continue after dark.
Alysha says: “Festoon lighting can create a magical party atmosphere and is easy to hang along fencing, walls or above your seating area. Choose from white or colourful options to suit your mood from The Glow Company.
“Simple forms, influenced by natural shapes, are on trend when it comes to lighting. We love the simplicity of these solar-powered pebble lights from Not on the High Street, which can be dotted around your seating area.
You can also add outdoor lights via My Redrow along with a host of other outdoor tech options.
6. Garden fun
For families with children, or those who are big kids at heart, your gardens socials can be a great opportunity to enjoy some outdoor fun. Giant games, like this wooden tumble tower from Big Game Hunters, can keep children and grownups entertained for hours. Or why not go retro with a round of swing ball or a classic lawn game like croquet?
You don’t have to spend a fortune to create outdoor fun. Why not set up an obstacle course with wooden hoops, pallets or boards?
However you choose to enjoy your outdoor space, stay safe and let’s hope we see some sun!