Decor tips to outdo even your favourite eatery’s outdoor dining experience

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Words: Leila Petersen | Images: Supplied

When warm weather finally comes around, outdoor dining is immediately on the menu. There is nothing quite like experiencing light lunches while basking in the summer sun, or gathering together under the stars for a delicious dinner.

But taking dinner from the dining room to the decking doesn’t mean you should lower your aesthetic standards. Whether your outdoor space is a city balcony or a sprawling garden, transforming your backyard or patio into a dining area ​requires very little effort. The goal is to create an eating area out in the open that's both comfortable and aspirational.

From accessories that uplift to lighting that creates the perfect outdoor ambience, there are lots of ways to elevate your natural surroundings and enjoy memorable meals with your family and friends.

Ready to prep your space for an unforgettable al fresco experience?

Well, here’s how you can maximise the potential of your outdoor area:

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While al fresco dining is all about the outdoors and spontaneous meals on dazzling sunny days and balmy nights, it doesn’t mean you need to compromise on the finer touches that make indoor gatherings feel polished.

However, simply moving items you use inside to your outdoor area won’t always work. Depending on your aesthetic vision for your planned meal, stark white plates, glistening cutlery, and sparkling glassware - usually enjoyed indoors - might be too jarring for casual get-togethers in the garden.

When it comes to dining essentials, feel free to still pull out your most treasured tableware.

But get creative with the setting by incorporating focal pieces such as accent plates or statement platters in varying shapes and sizes, playing with colourful crockery and glassware, or incorporating patterned table linens.

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Not every product has to match. In fact, mixing and matching your ceramics is a simple way to show off your curated tableware collection.

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Since al fresco dining is about embracing the charm of the outdoors, incorporating nature into your decor will also bring a rustic feeling to your table. Natural materials and textures like wood, rattan, bamboo, wicker, and raffia not only add visual texture and depth to your table setting, but also breathe life into your space.

The best part? You can be as creative as you want.

Instead of usual ceramic or glass platters serve your delicious tapas and antipasti on wooden boards. Use flowers, plants, and fruits as decorative elements.

Serving your drinks on a rattan tray, bringing in split baskets to present your bread and using tablecloths and napkins in natural fibres like linen are all ways one can weave in the elements within nature.


For your placemats, use natural materials such as rattan or bamboo and spice things up with copper silverware. This provides a natural feel without feeling forced.

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As the popular saying goes… it’s all in the details!

When preparing your open-air dining area, don’t forget to accessorise. Accessories not only add personality to your space but they are able to bring a room togetheR. And outdoor areas are no different.

From rugs to comfy cushions to stylish throws and blankets, there are plenty of accessories that can be added to make your outside space feel just as comforting and inviting as the inside of your home.

Planters, outdoor mirrors, lantern candle holders and outdoor art are also small additions that can make a huge difference to your alfresco setting, creating a space you would want to linger in from the day into the night.

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If you want to make the space feel homey, try placing a rug underneath your patio furniture. This makes the space cosier and cohesive. Be sure to invest in a rug that is outdoor-friendly and will withstand any kind of weather.

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A key element to consider when creating your dream al fresco dining space is lighting.

From lanterns to candle holders to string lights, extend the time you spend in your outdoor area long into the evening with these ambient light sources that inject character, create an intimate setting, offer warm pools of light, and bring a new dimension to any dining experience as the sun sets.

Soft lighting that’s relaxing on the eye is best when trying to create an evening glow that keeps your area well lit and your guests comfortable at the same time. You can’t go wrong with groups of candles which, when placed around your glassware, will also help reflect the twinkling light bringing extra pizazz to any tabletop situation.


Lanterns can add charm to your outdoor dining space. The candle cases are easy to move and when displayed in various heights, instantly create visual interest.

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Summer isn’t just a season - it’s a state of mind.

Luckily, when it comes to al fresco dining, you are not confined to the existing decor of your dining space, so you can easily infuse that fresh, bright, and joyful feeling onto your tabletop by making use of fun patterns, colours, and materials.

Statement tablecloths, unique colour combinations of serveware, mismatched dinner plates, and glassware, printed napkins, eye-catching centrepieces, and bold bouquets of fresh flowers are just a few of the quick and easy styling tricks that can easily brighten up your table… and the mood of the evening.

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When playing with different colours and patterns to create a tablescape that feels light and playful, do keep in mind that something should tie the elements together. If you’re pairing different serveware sets, make sure that they share similar proportions or complementary lines. If you mix patterns, make sure they have similar colour palettes to keep things looking cohesive.

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