PUBLISHED: 17:57 02 August 2010 | UPDATED: 15:14 20 February 2013
Whether your preferred outdoor dining experience is a rural picnic, a family feast or a beach barbeque, make sure you go al fresco in style this summer...
Live this summer Mediterranean style and move your indoors out, making the most of sunny nights by making your garden an outdoor room.
But while it's always nice to whip out the picnic rugs for a trip to the park, when you're in your back garden you want something just a little bit more civilised. When it comes to garden furniture, the choice is extensive.
"Many people are spending as much money on the outside space of their property these days as they are on their interiors," says garden designer, Randle Siddley. "We are always trying to be more creative when designing new concepts for al fresco living," .
As one of the most important aspects of al fresco living - the furniture - you need to consider what type of material you want. Wood, metal, plastic and cane are the most popular and all have their own qualities that make them attractive.
It is vital that you carefully consider what you are buying, and that you are aware of how to preserve and maintain your chosen furniture properly to keep it looking good and working well for years.
Easy to maintain, metal furniture comes in a vast number of styles and can add a classy feel to any garden. Cast aluminium is a cheaper option to cast iron, as it retains the hard-wearing nature of the lattrer but is not as heavy.
The cheapest option is plastic or resin furniture. Both are comfortable, light to move and easy to wipe down, however, as plastic is degradable it will need to be replaced at some point.
No lazy summer evening would be complete without the delicious smells of a barbeque. There is a huge variety of barbeques available, from one-use only packaged barbeques ideal for that picnic in the park or on the beach, to the professional industry-sized varieties.
Barbeques can be gas, oil or charcoal burning and when you are making your choice, spend some time over the decision, as a good barbeque will make a worthwhile investment for years to come, even if it can only be used for three months of the year.
During your dinner, carefully prepared on your new barbeque, the last thing most people want is to have the sun glaring in their eyes, so invest in a good parasol or house awning. Pick a parasol that's large enough to cover the entire table so no one gets left out in the sun, unless they want to, or if your table is close to the house, a traditional awning is an ideal space-saving solution, as it can be wound back in when not required.
Julie Bratton, marketing manager at Thomas Sanderson, says: "Patio awnings are a great way of creating the relaxed aspect of European al fresco entertaining in your garden throughout the year - no matter what the UK weather is up to."
Julie adds: "Our design team employs the most cutting edge technology
in our awning designs, including integral spotlights, built-in heaters, and remote-controlled mechanisms.
"Our awnings are not only stylish and enhance any garden decor with a choice of more than 300 different fabric colours, but they are also intelligent - the wind sensor on the side of the awning will retract it during high winds, preventing damage to your property.
"You can even programme your awning to unroll when the sun comes
out, encouraging a longer time outside."
GET THE LOOK
1 This green Parasol from Wickes is priced at 59
2 Next has designed these two loungers - the floral is priced at 22 and the teal at 20. Why not take a break, sit back and relax and enjoy yourself
al fresco style
3 These delicate mini lanterns (set of four) from Next are the perfect way to light your garden when dusk arrives. Priced at 12, they come in sterling silver, so will match any outdoor furniture
4 These bright and bold 'Fusion' salad servers from Ciroa (4.75) are made from melamine so are durable and practical for outdoor dining. They will certainly add some sunshine to your table with their contemporary design and colours
If you're the type of person who likes to take your al fresco parties late on into the evening, an ideal solution is to invest in an outdoor heater. These are available either free-standing or for use on table tops. Or you could opt for a firepit.
Stephen Hills, owner of the Garden Furniture Warehouse in Whitstable, says: "Our firepit suite certainly has a unique look and is inspirational, with a fully functional low dining firepit table, it's also completely zero maintenance.
"Traditional wood sets will always be popular, however, busy lifestyles mean that our customers are finding the huge variety of aluminium we have can look good all year round without any upkeep."
For those of you who like to add a bit of glamour and twinkle, outdoor lights or candles are a perfect way to brighten up the night sky.