LIVING COLUMN For a laidback, outdoor living space try bringing the indoors out.
Celebrate summer by creating a laidback outdoor living space without spending a thing
Summers in the UK can be somewhat unpredictable. One day we’re basking in glorious sunshine, and the next it’s downright gloomy. We never know what to wear from day to day, often caught out by a thunderstorm in ip ops, or sweating on a hot train because we thought it wise to wear a coat.
Despite this, we do try to make the most of what good weather comes our way, and a glimmer of sun brings us out in our droves, whether that’s onto the beaches, parks, café terraces or our own gardens. We love eating outside – the heady scent of a barbecue, chatting with friends while the sun goes down, sipping wine by candlelight on a balmy evening – it’s all so good for the soul, isn’t it?
It’s often hard to plan ahead for these types of days, yet it’s really easy to create the perfect impromptu garden picnic when a sunny Saturday appears. Rather than spending a month’s wages on a set of garden furniture that languishes in a damp shed half the year, my family opts for a little bit of ‘domestic foraging’. I love this phrase – I rst heard it on Sara Tasker’s podcast, Hashtag Authentic, describing a guest’s searches around her home for objects to use in her Instagram images. I realised I do this regularly myself, both for my photography but also when the sun peeks out and we want to move into the garden for the day.
We usually start o with a wooden pallet, an old trunk or a low co ee table, any of which are great for centralising your picnic area. It’s a more civilised way to serve your food and drinks too – a wine glass nestled in grass never tends to stay upright long! A few old crates or a scattering of cushions around the table makes informal seating. We’ve also got a couple of deckchairs, purchased at vintage fairs for less than £25, which can be set up for a bit of lounging.
To transform the picnic from pedestrian to pretty (maybe even worthy of an Instagram snap!) we gather some textiles to soften the scene. Anything from tablecloths, vintage linen or even a bed sheet can be added on the table or the ground. Add a posy of owers, either ‘foraged’ from a vase indoors or cut fresh from the garden. If you need shade, sit a few canes in some sturdy, upturned plant pots and tie a bedsheet or tablecloth to their tops.
I have an unhealthy addiction to enamelware and have lots of it around the house – it’s perfect for bringing outdoors to eat o and serve on. It’s easy to nd at markets and car boot sales, and often very cheap. Chopping boards can be loaded up with the essentials and carried out to the garden. Serving your food this way gives a rustic, laidback vibe. All of these little details elevate your mini event from back garden bland to bohemian chic, with minimal e ort.
My food isn’t fancy, and if it’s a particularly impromptu picnic, it’ll be a case of ‘what’s in the house’ – bread, cheese, crackers, fruit, a quick salad, whizz up a dip or two, and if you’ve invited friends, ask them to bring a dish and a bottle. It’s less about a gourmet meal and more about the joy of eating outdoors and spending time together.
For those days when you don’t want it to end, simply grab some blankets and candles and while away a few more hours under the stars. Friends of mine even have a camp re area at the end of their garden, which is perfect for long temperate evenings. They bought a brazier from a garden centre, which you can pick up for as little as £30, then built bench seating with some old railway sleepers and added some vintage metal chairs from a ea market.
You certainly don’t need lavish garden furniture or a fancy (and pricey) ‘outdoor kitchen’ to create the perfect summer gathering. Simply be resourceful and take the indoors outside. I much prefer this laidback approach to outdoor living as, let’s face it, tomorrow we might well be putting on our rain coats again!
CAROLINE ROWLAND is the founding editor of interiors and lifestyle publication 91 Magazine (www.91magazine.co.uk). Turn the page to discover Caroline’s best al fresco ideas…