LIV­ING COL­UMN For a laid­back, out­door liv­ing space try bring­ing the in­doors out.

In the Moment - - Contents - Words: Caro­line Row­land / Il­lus­tra­tion: Matilda Smith

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…

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