Beautiful boho picnic set up in a garden overlooking the mouth of the river dart

Entertain outdoors with a beautiful boho picnic set up by The Natural Hire Company in the Grounds of Barrington House. Food by The Kitchen Table and Photography by Bite Something

This summer, many of us will be choosing to entertain outdoors. Whilst restrictions are easing in the UK and should be withdrawn by June 2021, many people won’t be getting back to normal and will continue to exercise care when socialising. I predict that outdoor entertaining will remain popular this summer as people try to avoid mixing with strangers and choose to steer clear of indoor locations. With travel still restricted many of us will also be opting for a summer staycation this year and will want to prepare the garden. But how can you ensure that you can entertain outdoors in style this summer?

One of my closest friends has recently launched a new business here in Devon called The Natural Hire Company. Hannah hires out bars, furniture and props for weddings, events and small parties or special occasions. There is a strong focus on natural materials and many of the items are recycled or upcycled. Taking inspiration from Hannah’s collection, I’ve put together 10 tips to help you create a stunning outdoor entertainment area in your garden or in a public space such as the beach or a permitted woodland or park area. So let’s take a look at how you can entertain outdoors in style this summer.

1. Have a theme

Entertain outdoors by setting up an outdoor living room. Use rattan furniture, rugs, cushions, blankets, a coffee table, side table, a lamp, and a wooden screen.

Image Credit: The Natural Hire Company

Having a theme is a great starting point for curating your outdoor entertainment area. It will help you decide on colour palettes and accessories that you want to bring in and it will create a more coherent feel to the space. Decide whether you want to create a scene reminiscent of a classic chilled Ibiza-style getaway, a more minimal, laid-back Scandi-style set-up or go full-on boho vibes. Once you’ve decided on your theme you can look for inspiration on Pinterest, and gather together your accessories.

Image Credit: The Natural Hire Company

2. Create an outdoor room

Entertain outdoors by setting up an outdoor living room. Use rattan furniture, rugs, cushions, a coffee table, a shelving unit and a wooden screen.

Image Credit: The Natural Hire Company

There has been a lot of talk recently about bringing the outside in, particularly here on my blog thanks to my new obsession with Biophilic Design. However, when we’re looking at how to entertain outdoors in style, the opposite is true. To create a really stunning scene for outdoor entertaining, we should apply the same strategy as we would use for creating a scheme indoors. Think of it like you’re creating an outdoor living room.

Choose comfortable furniture to sit on, like nicely padded sofas and chairs that won’t be uncomfortable after an hour or two of sitting. If your furniture is looking a little worse for wear, you can always get it reupholstered like Hannah did. Using linen upholstery fabric ordered from Linen Beauty, my mum recovered all the seat cushions for Hannah to give them a new lease of life and a fresh new look that brought them more up-to-date. This was way more affordable than expected so if you need to uplevel your cane furniture cushions, I recommend taking a look at Linen Beauty.

Use an outdoor rug to anchor the space and a coffee table so people have some where to place their drinks and plates. Consider adding side tables for convenience as well. You can even consider adding shelving units to style up with accessories that match your theme. Screens can also be useful for zoning the outdoor space and creating privacy.

Entertain outdoors by setting up a chaise longue, rugs, pouffes, lamps, vases, lanterns and a wooden screen

Image Credit: The Natural Hire Company

3. Prioritise Comfort

Entertain outdoors by setting up rattan furniture, rugs, cushions, pouffes and lanterns

Image Credit: The Natural Hire Company

When we entertain outdoors and we can’t retreat inside when the weather isn’t as warm as we’d like or when night falls, it is extremely important to think of the comfort of our guests and to get well prepared. This means making sure we have plenty of soft furnishings to make sure guests are comfortable and warm.

Cushions make outdoor furniture more comfortable and also act as windbreaks to protect our guests from cold breezes. Hannah got these beautiful linen cushion covers from LinenMe. They are made from pure natural linen and are the perfect choice to accompany a simple, stylish and comfortable outdoor seating area. They come in a range of colours and patterns, but Hannah chose a selection of neutral cushions so that they work well with most themes.

Outdoor rugs make it cosy underfoot and floor cushions and pouffes are great for extra seating. Make sure you have plenty of blankets to hand so when the temperature drops guests can wrap themselves up and stay warm. Comfort will make or break your guests’ enjoyment of your outdoor gathering so don’t scrimp here.

Image Credit: The Natural Hire Company

4. Focus on the dining experience

Beautiful boho picnic set up by The Natural Hire Company in the Grounds of Barrington House. Food by The Kitchen Table and Photography by Bite Something

If you’re serving food at your outdoor gathering, it’s not enough to have a carefully planned menu if you’re looking to entertain outdoors in style. You also need to give some serious thought to how you present the food. Creating an impressive tablescape will really up the ante and give your outdoor event a much more high-end feel to it. Your guests will feel super special and appreciate the extra effort.

Consider treating your outdoor table as you would your regular dining table. Add a table cloth and proper napkins along with placemats and metal cutlery. Serve drinks in appropriate glasses and consider using decanters or jugs so that guests can easily serve themselves at the table. Dress the table with flowers and candles or lanterns. If you really want to create a special scene, try hanging macramé lampshades above the table along with some form of lighting, whether that is fairy lights or maybe a string of festoon lights.

Hannah’s top tip for entertaining outoors?

Hosting outdoors is always the way I love to do things, but if you want to enjoy your own party, I’d always recommend getting everything you need for the day outside and within reach! The first few parties I planned, I would find myself back & forth to the kitchen to top up drinks, or to get more ice. The more you can do to minimise this, the better, so you can fully relax and enjoy what you’ve created.

Hannah Clegg, Founder, The Natural Hire Company

Beautiful boho picnic set up by The Natural Hire Company in the Grounds of Barrington House. Food by The Kitchen Table and Photography by Bite Something

5. Create a drinks station

Entertain outdoors with a spectacular DIY bar

Image Credit: The Natural Hire Company

Whether or not you are serving food at your outdoor gathering, you should pay particular attention to how you serve your drinks. It can make the whole event run so much more smoothly if you have pre-planned how you will serve your drinks and have everything to hand.

Consider creating a drinks station. This doesn’t have to be quite as spectacular as Hannah’s bars, although if you’re in Devon you could hire one. It can be anything from a small bar cart, to a stash of drinks hidden in buckets of ice under a table. It obviously depends on how many guests you are entertaining (and what current restrictions permit of course) as to which option you choose. But what you want to achieve is a hassle-free way to serve your guests.

Image Credit: The Natural Hire Company

6. Provide entertainment

Entertain outdoors by setting up rattan furniture , rugs, cushions, large vases, a wooden screen and vintage suitcases

Image Credit: The Natural Hire Company

With so many of our entertainment options still out of bounds due to COVID restrictions, when we consider how to entertain outdoors this summer, it’s definitely worth thinking about how we can provide added entertainment for our guests. That might come in the form of (live) music or outdoor garden games. If you have one, a hot tub is a nice touch for helping your guests to unwind.

As cinema’s have been shut for quite some time, putting on an outdoor screening of a classic film is always a good idea. You can create an outdoor cinema reasonably easily and cheaply these days. All you need is a simple projector screen and a portable projector linked to your PC or laptop.

7. Set the Mood

Entertain outdoors with a spectacular DIY bar

Image Credit: Edwin Ho at Anran. Bar by The Natural Hire Company

Every event, no matter how small, needs to consider the mood that is created. Do you want your outdoor gathering to be calm, relaxed and laid back, or should there be a more vibrant feel to it? The mood can easily be influenced by your music choice but also by the lighting. Once the sun goes down this is increasingly important. You don’t want your guests to be sitting in the dark unable to see one another but you also don’t them to be blinded by spotlights. Choose soft atmospheric lights that create a warm and inviting glow.

8. Create a focal point

Entertain outdoors by setting up rattan furniture , rugs, a rattan table, floor cushions and a wooden screen

Image Credit: The Natural Hire Company

Just like you would in a regular room, it helps to have a focal point to gather around in your outdoor space. This could be the bar, the cinema screen, the coffee table, or the BBQ but it could also be a fire pit. A focal point draws the eye in and helps the layout of your space to feel more intentional.

9. Create a backdrop

Entertain outdoors with two peacock chairs set up surrounded by large vases full of pampas grass, lanterns, pouffes and a macrame tipi

Image Credit: The Natural Hire Company

As social media has effectively taken over our lives and everybody is looking for the next selfie opportunity, you can provide one for your guest by creating a backdrop for photographs. This can be a funky wall, a special seating area, or something like an archway or macramé hanging. Anything that can “frame” your guests and help them capture that memorable shot is a great idea.

Image Credit: The Natural Hire Company

10. Incorporate plants and flowers

Entertain outdoors with two peacock chairs set up on rugs surrounded by large vases full of pampas grass

Image Credit: The Natural Hire Company

I know we’re talking about outdoor gatherings here but it never hurts to add more plants and flowers to your set-up. Move whatever potted plants you have from elsewhere in the garden and position them in your outdoor room as you would indoors. You can also bring indoor plants outside for the day. Pampas grass and other dried flowers also work and can help to create an impressive statement. Small vases of flowers dotted around on tables and on the bar add colour and texture and another level of visual interest.

So what do you think? Will these tips help you to entertain outdoors in style this summer? Or will you be heading back to the pub?

Entertain outdoors in style this summer