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Al fresco inspo: 7 styling ideas for outdoor tables

  • Garden ideas
  • Outdoor tables
  • Tablescaping
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Olivia Lowry
outdoor table setting ideas outdoor tablescaping ideas al fresco table ideas al fresco styling ideas

We’re declaring it: summer is officially here. Now that we can sit out without (too much) fear of a torrential downpour, it’s time for a bit of al fresco dining. Most of us can agree that a dinner outside or a morning coffee on the balcony is pretty special, and as Brits we definitely know how to make the most of any temperature that surpasses 20c. 

Our love for home interiors is just as big as our love for gardens and outdoor spaces. In this blog, we’ll have a look at 7 ideas for outdoor tablescaping (that’s the art of table styling). Discover inspiration for simple add-ons to elevate your al fresco experience, or use this list to ignite a more formal dinner party decor project - it’s up to you. Now, can someone get the BBQ lit?

1. Summer colours

It wouldn’t be summer without some colour. Fresh flowers, fruity drinks, statement outfits - you get the gist. Bring that same feeling to your outdoor table by being clever with bright colours. Drench your alfresco spot with tablecloths and runners in impactful, sunny shades like mustard yellow, raspberry red or ocean blue.

Image: @inbedstore Pinterest

If you’d rather keep a neutral base, add in subtle pops of colour with napkins, cutlery sets, glassware or plates. Nothing’s permanent with a table setting, so feel free to experiment with a different mix of colours until you find an alfreso-worthy combination.

2. Glassware

What’s your go-to summer drink? One of the most important things to think about when tablescaping indoors or outdoors is glassware. For summer table styling, think about organic, playful shapes when choosing tumblers and highball glasses.

Image: @amberinteriors Pinterest

Go matching with a set of stackable glasses, or mix and match for a more eclectic vibe. You’ll want to provide some water for the table, and carafes make great statement pieces. Take it a step further and infuse your water jugs with botanicals - it’s an impressive touch, with very little effort needed.

3. Table lamps

The sun might not set until as late as 10pm in summer, but that’s no excuse for a lack of lighting. This one’s all about creating a super social atmosphere for yourself and your garden guests. Lighting up your outdoor table is thankfully pretty easy with portable lamps.

Image: @food52 Pinterest

Give your carefully curated tabletop a warm glow that continues late into the evenings, with no wires or string lights needed. Choose portable lamps that have handles for easy carrying to and from your favourite corner of the garden, and make sure they’re kept charged up for spontaneous BBQ evenings.

4. Picnic-inspired decor

Create your own picnic-inspired table settings for your next summer get-together. A checked tablecloth is key to nailing this nostalgic look. Swap out your usual picnic blanket and elevate the vibe to dinner-party status with checked napkins.

Image: @heathertaylorhome Pinterest

Choose contrasting colours and keep the matching theme going to bring this look to life. Finish off your picnic-inspired table setting with simple, light-coloured tableware sets, and add a few glass bottles of water to pass around.

5. Serving plates and sharing bowls

If you’re anything like us, cooking for others is always a joy. Garden dining is usually done best when there’s some element of sharing. Think small plates of tapas, fresh bread, and colourful salads. Decorate your outdoor table with serving plates and sharing bowls that aren’t just a great statement, but are also pretty practical for passing across the table.

Image: @westelm Pinterest

Choose ceramics and terracotta for a Spanish-inspired vibe - perfect for olives and deli-style starters. Choose wide, shallow dishes that are easy to serve from, and let your guests fill up on whatever they fancy. 

6. Seasonal flowers

Take a look around your garden and notice any flowers, decorative grasses or plants you can prune to create tabletop arrangements with. Not got much of a garden space? Take inspiration from nature in the summer season and put together a colourful bunch of summer flowers from your local market.

Image: @ellaclairco Pinterest

This is one of the easiest ways to bring a fresh summery feel to your outdoor table - especially if your alfresco space is more balcony than back garden. Choose vases or use flowerpots to scatter mini arrangements across your outdoor table.

7. Wooden elements

Keep the organic feel going by incorporating natural textures like wood. Use wooden elements across your whole outdoor tablescape for an elegant, put-together aesthetic.

Image: @studio_mcgee Pinterest

Experiment by styling your tablescape with serving trays, bowls, salad servers and coasters. If you’re styling on a budget, wooden table decor is the best option that’ll make a big impact without breaking the bank. Plus, it’ll give a terrace-like feel to whatever alfresco treats you choose to serve up.
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