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If warmer weather and long weekends in the garden have got you thinking about your outdoor space, then garden table ideas are sure to be on the agenda. Whether you’re planning to revamp your plot with a new look, want to switch a shabby garden table for something more swish, or need to upgrade a too-small dining table for a family-sized model, there are plenty of stylish options to choose from.
Garden table ideas
Size and shape is key when choosing a garden table to ensure it suits the layout and fits the size and floor plan of your plot. Be guided by the style of your outdoor space or outdoor kitchen idea, the landscaping and any existing lines and features when choosing an outdoor table and chairs. If there are lots of curves and circular shapes, then a round or oval shaped table might suit the space best. If the garden is quite linear or angular, then a square or rectangular-sized table could work better.
1. Invest in a family-sized dining table
If you’ve an expansive patio area or a large family to cater for, it’s worth choosing a generously-sized table to make full use of your outdoor space and ensure that there’s a seat for everyone when you enjoy a best BBQ. An oval-shaped table will provide extra length that works well on a long or wide patio. The curved ends help to create a better sense of flow.
Choose a semi-sheltered spot so that you can enjoy the garden whatever the weather. If there’s no natural shade, invest in a table with parasol that will provide shelter when the sun is at its hottest. A safety glass top is easy to clean after rain or accidental spills and has a neat parasol cut-out section.
2. Pick a practical finish
The best garden furniture can come in for a hammering from rain and hot sun, so it pays to opt for robust pieces in weatherproof materials if furniture is to be left outdoors all summer long.
This sturdy extra-long outdoor dining table has a powder-coated aluminium frame that won’t rust, plus a durable concrete-effect ceramic top that is both water and scratch-resistant. Matching seat cushions are made from a quick-drying synthetic fabric that won’t stain or go mouldy with micro-porous fillings that allow water to drain away.
3. Relax with shapely woven furniture
If comfort is key, woven chairs are a top choice as weaves are flexible, contoured and have more give in them than hard wood or metal seating. Opt for shapely woven armchairs with high backs and armrests that’ll provide extra support. Then supplement with thick cushioned seats that make chairs super-comfortable to sit on.
‘All weather’ woven furniture looks just like real wicker to give a relaxed, rustic look, but is made from woven resin fibre that is weather-resistant and quick-drying so furniture won’t perish when left outdoors.
4. Squeeze in a few more seats
Mix-and-match seating around a long wooden table creates a relaxed look and easygoing vibe outdoors. A combination of chairs and bench garden seating ideas is a practical choice with little ones as you can squeeze more bottoms on seats. And if guests drop by unexpectedly it’s easy enough to pull up another pew.
Wooden furniture is fine to leave out in the garden all year round, though the wood will weather to a silvery grey finish in time. When looking at how to clean garden furniture at the end of each season and treat with a wood preserver. This revives the finish and prolongs the life of your furniture.
5. Save space with a neat circular table
Perfect for small garden ideas where space is tight, a circular table and chairs is a great way of fitting in a dining table area without overcrowding patio space. Curved edges give a circular table a smaller footprint that takes up less space than a square table. They’re also easier to walk around with no hard corners to knock into. Opt for a table with a pedestal base to give greater leg room underneath. Then choose armless chairs instead of bulky carver chairs with arms.
6. Opt for sociable circular seating
Even if lack of outdoor space isn’t a problem, circular tables are a great choice if you want to create a more relaxed, sociable atmosphere outdoors. Curved bench seating nestled around a table feels comfortable and inviting and with guests seated across from each other it’s easier to chat and make conversation.
While round tables provide a generous amount of tabletop surface space, adding a lazy susan or revolving tabletop can be helpful for alfresco mealtimes or playing host from your garden bar idea.
Buy now: Orseno dining set, £3995, Oka
7. Carve out a corner
In larger gardens, it can help to divide the space up into smaller break-out zones, for dining, cooking or relaxation. Instead of relying on hard garden landscaping ideas or screening to section off the space, a corner-shaped seating arrangement will create a more natural, visual divide that feels more relaxed and free-flowing.
Rig up a simple outdoor sail to provide shade outdoors when the weather is warm. Use sturdy poles or the branches of a nearby tree to secure.
Buy now: Alps dining set, £1899, Dobbies
8. Double up with outdoor benches
Opt for multifunctional furniture to make the most of limited space outdoors. A compact L-shaped seating set-up can be tucked into a corner plot without crowding the space and will provide more seating than an individual table and chairs.
Shift the dining table to one side and upholstered benches come in handy as footrests when lounging outdoors or can be tucked neatly under a table when not in use.
9. Save space with stacking chairs
With a compact outdoor set-up, such as a small patio idea or balcony, space-saving furniture is a must. Lightweight metal tables and chairs are easier to shift around than heavy wooden furniture or bulky woven pieces. Stackable chairs will take up less floor space when not in use or stored in a garden shed out of season.
10. Choose foldaway furniture
If space doesn’t allow for a garden table and chairs to be set up permanently outdoors, then folding furniture offers a practical option as table and chairs can be packed flat and tucked away in a shed or garage when not being used or over the winter months.
If you’re likely to be moving furniture in and out frequently, opt for lighter-weight metal or aluminium pieces that are easy to lift and shift around. Tables that fold in half are easy to move and won’t require much stowing space. Alternatively, opt for one that folds flat with the top in one section, although these designs are a little more cumbersome to carry.
11. Square up with a table for two
Perfect for a small patio or terrace, a compact, square-shaped table can offer a little more tabletop space than a standard bistro table and can seat four people at a push.
Another option that’s worth considering with square-shaped tables is to have a couple dotted around a medium-sized garden, on a patio, deck or barbecue area. If you should require extra space for guests, two or three square tables can be butted together to create one long dining table to entertain at.
12. Move up a level
Instead of a regular outdoor dining table and chairs, opt for a bar-style raised seating set-up. Perfect for alfresco entertaining, a longline bar table makes a great social spot for guests to gather around or could do double duty as a serving station for drinks and cocktails for garden party ideas.
Though longer in length and height, a bar table also makes a great option if patio space is tight, as bar stools can be neatly tucked away under the table when not in use, so it won’t obstruct the flow of traffic outdoors.
Buy now: Alps bar set, £1599, Dobbies
13. Find the perfect fit
However large or small your space is, there’s nothing nicer than being able to breakfast outdoors or enjoy a late-night glass of wine. A compact bistro set will provide space for two on a balcony or compact patio and most designs are foldable or stackable so won’t impact on floor space when not being used. This clever all-weather rattan set is shaped so that all three parts stack on top of one another, so it’ll take up minimal space out of season.
14. Chill out while you dine
There’s nothing nicer than enjoying a chilled glass of bubbly on a warm summer’s afternoon. Save trekking in and out to the fridge by investing in a luxe dining table with built-in ice cooler.
Ensuring that your favourite tipple is always within reach, the central drinks bucket can be easily removed for emptying and cleaning and when not in use there’s a neat cover that sits flush with the table top so the whole surface of the table can be used.
15. Create a cosy focal point
Stay warm long after the sun has gone down with a blazing fire pit at the heart of your gathering. Creating the perfect chill-out spot for evenings outdoors, this two-in-one combo includes a corner-shaped sofa, benches and table, with a luxe built-in fire pit at its centre.
Guaranteed to elevate the evening ambience in an instant, the gas fire pit has an adjustable flame and glass safety fireguard, plus plenty of space around the edge of the table for resting drinks and nibbles.
What is the best material for outdoor tables?
‘If you are looking for wood, then acacia is a good-wearing option that is used in ship-building,’ says Dani Taylor, Product and Creative Director at Cox & Cox. ‘For a metal option, choose aluminium as it’s light, lasts a long time and doesn’t rust. Most cushions are waterproof – or showerproof – but you should try to bring them in over the wetter months and cover the frames of your furniture with a breathable outdoor furniture cover.’
What is a good tabletop for outdoors?
A simple glass tabletop is elegant and practical option for outdoor use, plus it’s easy to clean after having guests over, says Ideal Home‘s Ginevra Benedetti. Aluminium and ceramic are also durable and weather-resistant choices.
Can any table be used outdoors?
Indoor furniture treated with a sealant or exterior paint will be fine placed on a covered patio area. But if you want to leave it out all the time, it’s better to opt for furniture that’s designed to withstand the elements. Exposure to the sun and moisture can damage indoor furniture over time.
If you have an old dining table you don’t mind getting a bit weathered then there’s no problem with using it outside, but expect it to take on a new rustic look.