Styling outdoor spaces. Bringing the Indoors Out- Dining Al Fresco with style

Most people do their best to bring the outside into their homes, using real or fake plants and flowers and echoing the colours of nature to bring calm and beauty into their rooms.

But since when did I do anything the "normal" way? I definitely do not have green fingers and the only thing I have really succeeded with in my garden is my grapevine - planted after a lovely holiday in Cyprus- which grows so madly the neighbours all get to share it too.

grapevine in UK garden

No, I prefer to bring the inside out and guests at our regular barbecues have grown used to cushions, rugs and even lamps being brought out to add a touch of genuine comfort to our more than rustic benches.

We like eating outside so much a few years ago my husband built a giant wooden gazebo under which we can fit a table for at least 8. We have spent many a happy hour under there watching the sun setting over the fields behind our home and watching Red Kites circle and bats swoop around in a typically batty fashion.

sunset red sky rural england

Think vintage, think shabby (very shabby!) think things painted white badly and you have my style. Piled mismatched floral cushions and cosy fleece blankets for when it turns chilly and we are waiting for the flames to really get going in our Chiminea and fire pit. And yes - that is a disco ball you can see hanging in the Gazebo waiting for my occasional Abba-esque moments.

dining al fresco under gazebo

We like bunting and mismatched vintage china (well I like it and my husband tolerates my eccentricities) and occasionally I will throw out a tablecloth topped with as many candles as I can find to add to the light coming from the sparkling lights wound all round the rafters of the gazebo.

I am a sucker for lanterns too - metallic, glass, Morrocan style....if I can bung a tea light in it I'll buy it!

multiple lanterns outside with tea lights

Even cheap solar lights from that shop where everything costs £1 look magical at dusk, especially after a glass or two of Prosecco.

Nothing tastes better than food from the barbecue if you turn away from bangers and burgers. We love venison steaks (provided by local friends who shoot), marinaded chicken and fish served with couscous or cauliflower rice, sweet potato fries or asparagus shoots and my favourite, a warm potato salad with sweet mustard and bacon.

We don't shy away from all BBQ traditions though - there has to be at least one big bowl of crisps to snack on (served in my favourite Cath Kidston enamel bowls) to be dipped in my homemade fresh but exceedingly garlicky Tzaziki which comes with a health warning for vampires.

And hiding in a dark corner of the table you will probably find some bright orange cheese puff things too which my children munch on until their fingers and faces are stained.

My main problem now is that having turned my back on gas barbecues a couple of years ago I stupidly skimped on what I spent on a charcoal BBQ and my supermarket model gets hot fast but burns out too quickly meaning you end up feeding it coals like you'd feed a grumpy toddler breadsticks to keep it going.

It doesn't have a variable grill height either which is vital to cook food at the right temperature. You can see my daughter looking quite glum in the picture below as she waits and waits.... and waits for her supper.

BBQ and English fields

I'd love the Ibiza Deluxe Charcoal BBQ from Direct Stoves - it has handy shelves, variable grill heights and a large cooking area. Perfect for family suppers in the garden and parties with friends.

This post is being entered into a competition to win it so wish me luck! In the meantime if you are the judge of the competition please gaze into the hypnotic flames of my fire pit pictured below and imagine me chanting gently "give the BBQ to madmumof7, give the BBQ to madmumof7......"