The best gardens feel like a sanctuary, a place to rest, recharge and spend time with family and friends. The key to getting it right? Furniture.
"Dining and lounging areas within a garden need to be integrated into the design at the outset," explains Richard Unsworth, garden designer and owner of outdoor store Garden Life. "It's vital to have space where we can come together to connect and entertain, and also to switch off and relax." Check out our ideas for choosing and using your outdoor pieces.
1. Find your style. Gather images of gardens and furniture that resonate with you instantly. Make a moodboard, tear pages from magazines and take photos of things while you're out and about.
2. Find the right table. Rectangular-shaped ones always work well and come in a huge variety of styles and materials; if you entertain large numbers often in a medium-sized space, an extendable table could be the answer. Round tables are best suited to smaller spaces - most seat between four and six comfortably - or you could opt for one with a flip top so it can be stored easily when it's not needed.
3. Be influenced by your surrounds. Neat-chic furniture in 21st-century materials works well in cool urban courtyards, while a classic country terrace might suit pretty French ironwork furniture, or simple weathered pieces.
4. Draw on indoor inspiration. Consider your outdoor space as you would an interior zone and apply the 'rules' of interior styling. Use furniture and accessories made to withstand the elements, such as outdoor rugs, padded seating and throws to cosy up large, open areas.
5. Keep in mind the surface your furniture will sit on. "Contrast this with what you select," advises Richard Unsworth from Garden Life. "For instance, if putting wooden furniture on a timber deck, mix it up with stainless-steel or stone pieces.
6. A contemporary outdoor setting is achieved with a 2.1 metre long stainless-steel table with a Carrara marble top from Villa, paired with B&B Italia '1966-45 Schulz' chairs from Space. A glossy black Kartell 'Gnome' stoll adds a quirky touch.
7. Size up. Before you buy, measure the dimensions of your outdoor space. "A common mistake we see is furniture that is too large for an area," says Matthew Cantwell of Secret Gardens. "Allow roo around your furniture so the space doesn't feel crowded." If you're unsure how your chosen piece will fit, try taping together sheets of newspaper to create a template and try it on your deck or patio.
For more outdoor inspiration, click here.