In London, we're invariably faced with great garden design challenges, where small gardens, shaded courtyards and inaccessible rooftops are often cloaked with indistinguishable architectural styles and obscure ambiences. Yet, every now and then, clients already own some elegant outdoor furniture – a stylish dining set, unique pouffes, or a fabulous bench. These existent lifestyle furnishings provide established focal points from which to weave a cohesive design amongst, and elevate both palpable liveability and a heightened sense of style. When we commence a project ab ovo, bounded by prosaic surroundings devoid of finesse, the outdoor dining areas which top our clients' wish lists are realised through bespoke seating zones, furnished with off-the-shelf, gorgeous banquet appliances – catering for food, and style.
A superb dining set transforms the blankness of a newly carved out garden layout, topping the space with comforting permanence and an endearing anticipation of good weather in readiness for the perfect alfresco moment. Whether a formal meal, or a casual buffet, the up-close interaction between self-respecting garden owners turned self-styled gastronomic purveyors and their ravenous if slightly inebriated guests is made just that little bit more pleasurable, perched comfily alongside a well-integrated dining hub – readied with all mod cons.
No garden dining area, however stunningly arrayed, is ever complete without a lushly foliaged backdrop. In London's compact gardens, this outdoor reciprocation between organic greenery and architectural eye candy is often manifested as a matter of personal taste. Yet, whether expressed with minimalist verdancy, or virtuosic plantsmanship, we seek all-important homogeneity in pivotally uplifting mere alfresco ornamentation through design cohesion – softened, humanised and evermore mellow, while sustaining precious meals out of doors.
From Vondom in Valencia, FueraDentro in Amsterdam, Viteo in the Weiz district to Manutti in West Flanders and every outdoor furniture showroom in between, we are indeed spoilt for choice amid Europe's dining design exclusiveness. Whichever selection process we opt for, enticed by luxurious big brands, or London's plethora of agglomerated distributors, the materials, shapes, sizes, colours, comfort, lead time, maintainability and of course the affixed price tag determine optimal schematic suitability. Nevertheless, for us, as site-specific and client-focused garden designers, furniture selectivity in new projects should be consistently tailored to intrinsic blueprints – where form, function, ergonomics and style all merge compellingly with our clients' interior designs, favourite artworks and contiguous architecture.
London rooftop living enables lavish wining and dining in pristine ambience, free from untidy lawns and shabby fencing, endowed with architectural seamlessness and arresting bird's-eye views to boot. These hassle-free environments aren't completely foolproof though, absorbing their fair share of pollution, relentless heat and mighty winds. Levitating chairs, shifting dining tables and the occasional disappearing act by a utensil or two are all too familiar to urbanites dwelling in lofty and at times turbulently windy city roof terraces. Anti-topple devices, floor brackets, heavy-duty furniture, adequate weatherproof covers and integral sun shades handily alleviate this urban dichotomy of lifestyle breeziness in a blustery microclimate.
2D space makes three-dimensional garden dining areas, and with inspiration by a visionary Greek mathematician from Alexandria, the ubiquity of square, rectangular, oval, circular, hexagonal, Reuleaux triangle and octagonal geometric shapes continues to conceptually evolve in the hands of computer-aided furniture designers far and wide. Just over two millennia since Euclid's algorithmic farewell, the Chicago architect Louis Sullivan taught us that form indeed should quite often follow function, and in London's frightfully small patios, the roundness of tables, stackable chairs, extendable gadgets and even a ring-shaped dining set contoured as a groovy doughnut go a long way in economically utilising precious outdoor space.
When sunrays fade, we utilise artificial light beams to focalise and invigorate the dining areas in our London urban courtyard gardens, and at times, this isn't a straightforward design task in the absence of overhead structures. We illuminate ambiently through overhanging spotlights, diffuse cosy radiance by projecting uplighters in adjacent planting beds, generate a warm afterglow with concealed LED strips and produce soft, low-key ambiences by cross lighting cantilevered frameworks. Separating dining areas zonally in the lighting circuits, augmented by electrical heaters, enables highlighting garden sections according to use, as well as controlling air and light temperatures.
Each and every garden design we conceive for London clients evolves around the balanced positioning of private seating areas, according to frequency of use, sun, shade and wind patterns, alongside key views and pivotal seclusion. The placing of dining areas, whether formal or casual, defines a cohesive garden design ethos which fittingly focuses on scale, usability, harmonious materials and a spatial interplay with built-in cooking conveniences, where would-be resident restaurateurs turned bistro raconteurs can indulge in serving homemade platters, table d'hote dishes or first-class, a la carte fine dining courses...
Practically matchless in rewarding utilisation and exceedingly practical in function, the modern dining zones which define our clients' London gardens convey a robust hankering for roominess, homeyness and bags of outdoor chic to weave it all together – on a par with their contemporary interior counterparts amongst radiant residences. This refined functionality, outlined by maximised capacity and diverse usage is expressed in well-fitted alfresco dining areas, where laid-back culinary activities, an impromptu barbecue, family entertainment, or a full-on social gathering can unfold year-round.
Whether roasting a vegan barbecue in a last-minute garden party, rekindling some dormant Dutch oven skills, or nonchalantly spinning a motorised, top-of-the-range rotisserie for a splendiferous open-air banquet, our everyday domestic chores become exciting prospects of a sun-filled Sunday afternoon. Well-equipped and readily maintained outdoor dining areas facilitate such cheerful nosh-ups, fulfilling both sporadic spontaneity and passionately pre-planned social events. To effectively cater for such probabilities, the dining sets we integrate into modernised London town gardens are often designed, detailed and manufactured with stainless steel, toughened glass, Corian, GRP, rattan, honed marble and polished concrete. These low-maintenance, contemporary furniture materials promote durability with robust yet sleek profiles, and enhance appearance via stain-resistant surfaces.