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Garden hosting: tips from a stylist

Garden hosting: tips from a stylist

The secret to hosting a get-together in your garden – no matter how large or small, spontaneous or extravagant – is atmosphere. Here, our stylist Meaghan shares some of the ways you can go about creating a welcoming, magical setting.

Choose an unexpected location

As soon as the weather turns summery, we all feel obliged to eat in the heart of our gardens, but a garden room, a conservatory or even a greenhouse transformed into an outdoor room can be just as appealing. For me, it’s about being connected to your garden, looking out onto it, walking through it and bringing as much of it into the room as you can. So for instance, you could keep potting benches filled to the brim with plants, but move them along the edges to create a clear spot in the middle for a long table and benches. Don’t worry about sweeping up so the place is spotless either. Instead, embrace the setting to make this sheltered spot feel as in touch with the garden around it as you can.

Alternatively, if you don’t have a garden room or are set on eating outdoors, choose a more tucked away location. It’ll feel all the more special for being a little unusual, is potentially less overlooked than the area immediately next to your house, and you have the opportunity to create a sense of anticipation by lining the route there with candles. 

Create a canopy

Even when the weather is lovely, most people feel more settled when there’s a cocooning feel to a space. Creating this can be as involved as building a pergola and draping it with climbing plants, or it can be as simple as lengths of fabric strung up between poles, walls or fences. It doesn’t have to be done perfectly. That’s one of the many beauties of styling a garden spot – things are more relaxed. Use hopsacks or a neutral linen like Imogen in Holkham Sand. You can also make little pockets to thread poles through to give your drapes a bit more structure and help keep the fabric taut. You can cover your table completely, or leave gaps so that you can still look up and out at the stars.

You can, of course, also employ a parasol to do much the same thing. Not just for when the sun is out, keeping your parasol up come evening will lend cosiness to the setting, and you can thread fairy or festoon lights around its spokes. 

Let there be light

Candles are one of the easiest tricks in the book, but go above and beyond a few pillar candles or tealights scattered down the tabletop. Our Kate hanging tealight holders are just perfect for creating atmosphere in a very simple way. A few tips for using them though: instead of silver-cupped tealights, use clear ones as that’s what really makes the flame look like it’s floating in mid-air. And snip off the hanging loop on a few of the holders and tie your own on so that you can really play with the heights that they’re dangling at. If you use a clear wire thread, you’ll get even more of that floating look. Or use whatever you fancy, like twine or ribbon. It reminds me of that enchanting scene in the Harry Potter films where the candlesticks are suspended in the air. Candlelight is about making things magical.

…and lamplight

When you bring pieces that you’re used to seeing indoors out into garden areas, it really does completely shift how room-like they feel. Lamp light is one of the most interesting ways that you can bring the sitting room atmosphere outside, because it really isn’t done so often. We’re becoming used to sofas, armchairs, coffee tables and even outdoor rugs in our garden spaces, but lamps make you sit up and take notice of them. One of my favourite designs of ours is the Hanover cordless lamp, because it makes lamps in the garden so much more doable. There’s no need to trail an extension lead or have an outdoor socket fitted because it’s battery powered, and it has different dim settings so you can control the ambiance. I nestle them in with some of our candle holders. It’s nice to have a good mix of light sources and styles because they all play off one another and keep things interesting.

…and strand lights

Because one more style of lighting is never going to hurt! Fairy and festoon lights (like our Rosewood) follow candles in terms of ease and effectiveness. They’re more playful though, so really suit a party atmosphere. But try not to go crazy. When you dot them here and there, they remain flickering and pretty rather than Christmassy.

Make room for mirrors

This is the same sort of thinking as lamps and rugs. Bringing mirrors outside is a good way of dressing and styling your garden, not just for a special occasion, but for you to enjoy every day of the week. They’re not just there to look lovely either: they throw the light around and reflect back the gorgeous greenery and candlelight so you get to enjoy everything twice.

Go for rustic textures

Just like with the hessian drapes, any textiles you take outside should have a wholesome, earthy character to be most in-keeping with the setting. As well as neutrals, I often like to use pale blues, concentrating on different weights of linen so there is a real mix of texture. I then add to these plenty of terracotta tones to make sure things feel warm and cosy. Upholstered bench cushions as well as scatter cushions on top make the outdoors feel as comforting as inside. And don’t forget a linen table runner and napkins – the more softness the better when it comes to making sure everyone feels settled and wants to stay put all night long.

Explore our garden collection here.