How I Created The Perfect Outdoor Dining Situation
There really is nothing nicer than being able to eat outside. It summons memories of Spanish holidays, warm nights under the stars and icy cold local rose wine. Relaxed socialising, strappy summer dresses, plenty of aftersun and a hot man strumming a guitar. Oh, and a family sized bottle of Jungle Formula spray, a holiday essential unless you want to be eaten alive. Here in the UK, those humid evenings don’t happen quite so often but one of the things that we are really good at is the lunchtime BBQ. In our house, these weekend events with friends usually start like this.
‘Hello! It’s Lisa. Pop over with the kids, say 2.00 pm? I’ll make super casual burgers, really relaxed, nothing special. Finished and over by 7.00 pm so that we can all have our evenings to ourselves. See you then, bye!’.
The reality. Twelve hours later, we’ve emptied bottle of wine number 15, two empty gin bottles and have moved on to flaming Sambucas. We’re playing our Best Songs Ever at top volume on the Sonos and demolishing a cheese board thrown together from the fridge (mostly involving Dairylea, Babybel, a mouldy piece of blue that’s been there since the last dinner party and Asda’s own mature cheddar). The children have decided to have an unscheduled sleepover and are watching inappropriate TV (we once caught Max and his friend, aged 12, watching The Wolf Of Wall Street when we were socialising downstairs). We’re sneaking outside for illegal fags and more than often, having arm wrestles on the dining table to prove who’s the strongest or worse, playing the Best At game where everyone is given a label as to what they are best at. Last time, I managed to get Best At Instagram and nothing else. Joe and his friends spend at least an hour debating Best At Being Funny as they battle for the victory of wit. Our friends then spend at least an hour saying they’re about to leave whilst trying to book the one Uber that exists in York, a driver who appears to always have Saturday nights off. So predictable. The chances of us sitting on the sofa by 8.00 pm with a cup of coffee and a box set were smashed by the second gin cocktail.
Anyway, despite last week’s blog post of doom when the only sun we were getting was watching Love Island, this week it’s a whole different ball game. Warm weather is currently here and predicted to last for at least the next ten days, hitting temperatures that we could only have dreamed about whilst freezing our bollocks off last week. I’ve taken the opportunity to swing into action with my garden and have replanned out my dining space. Previously positioned in the courtyard, it was quite exposed to the elements and despite looking super pretty (one of my best ever Instagram posts, in fact, regularly reposted when I’m having a dip ha), it didn’t make the most of the view, mainly because it was enclosed by four brick walls. So I’ve replanned the space and changed the dining area to the top decking, an area that was previously home to a blow up hot tub, countless soggy dog toys and a lot of random garden furniture. Here’s how I’ve created a dining space perfect for the twelve hour social event.
Pimped Up The Decking
The decking was, to anyones eye, gross. It had never been jet washed and had what was supposed to be a bin storage area on the corner which we used as a bar/BBQ spot. Joe attacked it with a sledge hammer then realised that he had no idea how to get the struts out. We called in Mike, who had built the bathroom, to assist. He replaced the decking gaps and made it good, adding another four foot square of usable space to the area. Joe jet washed it - it took a couple of hours but the difference was amazing. After leaving it to dry for a couple of days, Mike then painted it. Generally, it has to be said, I would have taken on this job myself but my Mum was staying so it seemed a little harsh to expect her to come all the way from Caversham to watch me paint for two days. After much Instagram advice (for which I am always eternally grateful), I went for Ronseal Deck Rescue in Charcoal. It’s not jet black, it’s much softer but I liked the way it looked in the sunshine and it had great reviews. I also love the way it contrasts with the natural wood of the pergolas and greenery. Note to all prospective decking painters: I received many messages about peeling paint. According to Mike, you need to make sure it’s totally and completely dry and clean before painting it. If it’s even a bit damp, it won’t stick. Anyway, it looks bloody brilliant and I’m delighted.
Lighting in this space is massive issue. Basically, there isn’t any. There’s currently no outdoor plug points and we have to use an extension cord across the seating area which isn’t the best solution. Next week, Christian the electrician is going to put two outdoor plug sockets in for me - one in the dining space and one across the garden next to the cava/gin platform (as yet incomplete but worry not, blog post to come). Anyway, in the meantime I’m using the extension lead and hoping no one falls over it. I’ve added two sets of LED festoon lighting across the ceiling from the lovely Festive Lights, the original company that I bought my courtyard festoons from. They provide the perfect ambiance and together with a lantern and candles, are all I need for the space. I also added a large white wicker lantern from Layered Lounge which has LED candles so you don’t even have to get the matches out. Perfect.
Rescued The Table
I bought the table from IKEA about four years ago and it’s pretty much knackered. The paint was peeling off, but it’s a really good size - it can fit ten at a push - so I wasn’t prepared to give up on it quite yet. I sanded it down with my Bosch orbital sander (favourite power tool ever) and used Danish oil to stain the top. I turned it over and painted the legs with a wood and metal paint in Off Black. I cannot lie, it’s quite a slapdash job, but it looks fine and will definitely be able to manage another year out in the elements of North Yorkshire. Plus, once I’ve plonked a tablecloth on it no one will know the difference anyway. I like to get the most out of my purchases. Ha.
Picked Up A Bargain
I went to B&Q to buy wallpaper paste and came back with ten garden chairs. Reduced from £30 to £12.50 - yes, £12.50! - they are metal folding chairs ideal for around the table. I bought five in stone and five in dark grey and I'm extremely happy with them. Folding chairs are perfect for big tables, expecially if you mix and match them - they don’t have to all be the same. The ones that I bought aren’t online as they are last years stock but my Mum has checked out her local store and they have them there too so it’s worth a look if you think they might look good in your garden too. Maisons Du Monde have similar, I’ve linked them here.
No space in my home is complete without being layered to oblivion so I picked up two rugs (both the same) from my local Homesense to go underneath the table. They were in Clearance (favourite place to be) and were reduced to £32. They’re indoor rugs really, but they’re under cover so should be fine for this space. I picked up four seat cushions whilst I was there and then mixed and matched cushions I already had for the remaining chairs. A table runner from JYSK (bargain price of £7.99) was a perfect contrast to the dark decking.
Potted Up The Plants
After dragging my mum to the garden centre, she proceeded to pot up the plants for me to great effect. I’d picked up some hanging planters, again from Homesense and La Redoute (this isn’t a sponsored post btw but it bloody should be) and filled them with herbs. I know nothing about flowers or plants, but I do know that I’m not keen on mixing colours or anything too ‘flowery’ (sorry gardeners) so I went for bamboo, grasses and flowers in lilac and white tones. I bought two climbers - one jasmine and one clematis - to put at the bases of the pergolas and will be praying for their quick growth. I’ll keep you updated.
I stocked the shelf above the BBQ with gin, tonic, ice, lemons and glasses, thus making it easy for Joe to make himself a drink whilst also cooking the food, multi tasking at it’s finest. Seeing as Joe’s normal multi tasking limit involves eating at the same time as watching Inside The Worlds Toughest Prisons, this is a huge step forward for him. I know, I think of everything.
Finally, I added a mix and match of plates and cutlery (mostly because I don’t have ten the same, ha) and decorated the table with greenery. I added Falcon enamel plates from Layered Lounge and matched them with a Falcon enamel jug. I added candles for soft lighting and throws for across the back of chairs for when it got chilly. The final touch? A Sonos speaker so that we can play Best Songs Ever at high volume and annoy the neighbours. Perfect.
So that’s how I’ve transformed my pergola from hot tub hell to a relaxing social space with a holiday feel. To celebrate the updated garden space (and the cava/gin platform which I’ll detail in full in a later post), we have invited friends over for an early evening, quick-few-drinks-and-a-burger BBQ. Chances of early evening finish - nil. Likelihood of arm wrestling at midnight - high. Especially when my husband is making the gin cocktails. Let’s hope this lovely weather lasts!