With the right design, dining outside doesn’t have to be rustic; in fact, it can be just as (or maybe even more) stylish as eating indoors. Plus, it’s a great way to expand your home’s livable space outdoors in the summertime! From sophisticated small-space setups to tables ready to feed the whole family, I’ve rounded up 14 outdoor dining space ideas to inspire a perfect summer staycation.
Brian McCourt is a contractor, design expert and co-host of HGTV Canada’s Backyard Builds.
Draped for Drama
are a great way to incorporate some shade and comfort to your outdoor dining experience without blocking out light or airflow. By draping a pergola with outdoor-appropriate fabric (like in this Backyard Builds design), you can create a more customized feel that looks really elegant and modern.
Wide open spaces aren’t always the answer – when it comes to outdoor dining, there’s definitely something to be said for privacy (especially if your yard is right next to your neighbour’s). A wall of hedges or bushes bring privacy and a green feel to outdoor dining (just don’t forget to keep them well-pruned).
It’s hard to go wrong with a little greenery. A mix of container florals, vines and green plants brings botanical beauty to an outdoor dining space – making the most of your home-grown surroundings for garden-party vibes all summer.
However, if a wall of plants for privacy feels too high maintenance, there are other options for outdoor dining in peace. The combination of bamboo poles and frosted fencing surrounding this dining setup offers a natural feel without requiring regular upkeep.
The Whole Experience
If you’ve got the room, don’t just think about what table would be nice for dinner outside – create a cohesive outdoor dining space that’s an extension of your home. In this Backyard Builds transformation for example, Sarah and I delivered a covered outdoor dining room that flows with an outdoor kitchen and bar area.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t always have to perfectly match to have great design. In fact, I believe there are plenty of instances when overly uniform, “matchy-matchy” design takes away from the character of a space. For a larger outdoor dining area, experimenting with a variety of coordinated seating options can elevate the charm factor while also providing more functional seating. For example, in this Backyard Builds space, Sarah and I used a combination of banquettes, chairs and a mix of patterned pillows to maximize seating and style.
Just because your outdoor space is on the smaller side, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a little weekend brunch under the sun. The key to choosing furniture in any smaller space is to think about scale – make sure the size of your outdoor dining furniture fits in with the scale of the space for a sense of balance. In this case, a compact-sized table and matching chairs bring a bistro atmosphere to a patio and the woven details don’t get lost in an open-air setting.
When designing an outdoor space, it’s important to consider how you’ll actually use it in real life. Framed by powder-coated dividers for a stylish backdrop, this backyard entertaining space we created for Backyard Builds features a four-seater dining area alongside a comfy outdoor living space – so the family can go from dining and lounging and back again.
It doesn’t take a lot to make a big impact outdoors. When designing this contemporary outdoor dining space for Backyard Builds, Sarah and I added bright bursts of orange, green and red to a neutral foundation for a clean, but character-filled look. The outdoor dining table was custom, yet cost-effective – it was made in a couple of hours using $10 of rough-sawn pine boards and prefab table legs suited for the outdoors.
If you’re going to be spending a lot of time sharing snacks and breaking bread in your outdoor dining space, it’s critical that it’s comfy. In this Backyard Builds dining area, we added cushions to a duo of benches for comfortable, stylish seating.
A Set Table
If you want your outdoor dining experience to feel restaurant quality, you can’t forget about the finer details. Treat yourself to a set of dishes that coordinate with the colour palette and overall theme of your outdoor space – like we did with the blue tablescape in this Backyard Builds dining area.
Extend Your Options
It’s always good to have options. Multi-purpose furniture – like this outdoor dining table with fold-down extender – gives you the flexibility to expand your seating as needed. If you want to try your hand at making your own convertible outdoor furniture, check out this DIY chair-to-daybed made from wooden pallets.
Go From the Ground Up
As important as layout, furniture and shade are to your space, don’t overlook the value of changing things up beneath your feet. A rug is an effective, inexpensive way to give your outdoor dining space a makeover.