Outdoor entertaining

When we bought our tired 1930s house I knew it had potential and it came with quite a sizeable established garden, a converted garage, a very useful but slightly ugly pebble dashed workshop and … ahem … an outside bar …

The bar was one of the things as a stylist that tickled me about buying the house in the first place – great fun to style for a shoot. However, once we moved in I found myself embarrassed when showing people round our new home to admit that we had a bar in the garden. I tried various ways of explaining it – laughing in a slightly maniacal way about it, pretending I was cool with it to almost not mentioning ‘the elephant in the room’. If I am truly honest, if I had the budget to design a garden from scratch, installing a bar wouldn’t see the light of day on the plans.

I really enjoy having people round for supper, entertaining inside and out and as you will know from an earlier post (How To Style The Perfect Drinks Cabinet). I too have been swept along with the tide of styling drinks trays/trolleys/cabinets trend. So why not an outside bar then?

Bar time

The last time that owning your own indoor or outdoor bar was de rigueur was probably from the 1950s to the 1970s (a bespoke wine cellar is more called for these days). A few years later we find ourselves rather awkwardly the proud owners of a bit of a Hawaiian bar – let’s be honest – ‘bar complex’.  Made quite creatively by the previous owner, this ‘wooden bar complex’ wraps itself round a mystical giant wise old tree, the bar to the left and a wooden seating area to the right with a half moon shape roof. The tree that sits in the middle, seems to be happy home to several generations of wood pigeons who fill the evening air with their coos.

Prepare to fall in love with an outside bar

But the conundrum of what to do with it? For a client, this would be easy, so many ideas, so many options.  But when the client is me? I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it altogether, so I have decided in the spirit of ‘the cool drinks trolleys trend’ to go with it. Of course, kitsch would be the obvious way to go, but while I can cope with the odd paper garland, cocktail umbrella and fairy light or lantern, anything more would grate over time. So the plan, with limited budget, to tackle the raw unpainted pebble dash workshop which backs onto the bar area (complete with crazy paving), the tired brown stained wooden structure with broken bar top was this:

Pineapple card garland, 3.5/m, £7.99, Pineapple food picks, £4.99/12, blue plastic Fiesta tumbler, £3.29, Lakeland; pink straws, £2, Sainsburys;

Operation Renovating Bar

  1. Paint pebble dash in Farrow & Ball’s Plummet (not as dark as Downpipe grey – shaded by giant tree and didn’t want to go too gloomy) – tick
  2. Plant a trailing wisteria over the end of the pebble dash workshop and train it round ‘the bar complex’ – tick
  3. Replace the bar top with thick outdoor plywood and seal with paint – tick
  4. Paint all the wood in Cuprinol’s Garden Shades ‘Urban Slate’ (dark grey with an indigo tinge) – tick
  5. Over time, bung in as many pink roses, gorgeous Box balls in pots as well as Agapanthus – preferably the white ones to show up against grey.  All deeply middle class and not in the least bit kitsch but kitsch could be added – just for fun when the mood takes! … tick
Styling and Photography: Charis White

Outdoor entertaining ideas


Hurricane lantern, £21.95, The Corner Shop Woolhampton; Festoon white outdoor string lights, £34.99/20 lights, Amazon; pebble dashed workshop painted in ‘Plummet’, Farrow & Ball;

An old favourite (as long as their is no wind) is to hold on to a meaningful empty bottle or two and use as candlestick. Tiger (described by a national newspaper as a £1 shop for the middle classes!) do really great coloured dinner candles for £1 each; Garden Buddha head on sale in Sainsburys, £11.99;

Styling and Photograph: Charis White

Cushions for comfort

Large pompom cushion, £24.99, small cushion, £14.99, basket (for carrying things out in), £10, Homsense; lampshade, charity shop; glass jug, £6, Dunelm Mill; Fiesta Blue plastic tumbler, £3.29, pineapple food picks, £4.99/12, Lakeland; MagicFelt slippers, £55, Fire and Felt;

Styling and Photograph: Charis White
Styling and Photograph: Charis White

Table setting

Beachcomber Hammam tablecloth, £16.99, Fiesta Blue plastic tumbler, £3.29, Lakeland; Shells as weights for tablecloth and napkin; lantern, £21.95, The Corner Shop, Woolhampton; Paper napkins, £1.50, IKEA.

Outdoor table setting idea for Outdoor Entertaining blog by Charis White
Styling and Photograph: Charis White

Stones and Shells as weights and for decoration

Stones and shells are not only a natural way of stopping your tablecloth and your napkins from flying away in the wind but add a little beachcomber styling too. Outdoor plywood bar top painted in Cuprinols Garden Shades ‘Urban Slate; Hamman tablecloth, 190 x 130 cm, £16.99, Lakeland;

Serving dish

Ceramic Fish platter, £12.99 Homesense;

Styling and Photograph: Charis White

Colourful glass jug

Glass jug, £6, Dunelm Mill; Beachcomber Hammam tablecloth, 190 x 130 cm, £16.99, Lakeland; 

Styling and Photograph: Charis White

Drinks dispenser

This 5L Kilner glass drinks dispenser is perfect for summer drinks such as Pimms but could also double up in the winter for a batch of Sloe Gin. Currently on sale at Sainsburys for £11.99; Fiesta Blue plastic tumblers, £3.29 each, Pineapple food picks, £5.99/12, Lakeland;

Styling and Photograph: Charis White


Cushions on bench, £24.99, £14.99, Homesense; love these ‘Gloria’ mid century style metal garden chairs, now on sale at B&Q, £15 each, £4, for the cushion pad; lantern, £21.95, The Corner Shop Woolhampton. 

Happy outdoor entertaining this summer!

Don’t forget to supply throws for when the sun goes down!
Charis White, interior stylist
Charis White – interior stylist/blogger

Thank you so much for reading. If you would like to receive alerts for future posts, then please press the large blue ‘Follow’ button either at the beginning or end of this post.

Charis x

5 thoughts on “Outdoor entertaining

  1. Inspirational Charis, you very clever lady! Ordered my fire and felt slippers x 2. Can’t wait for them to arrive.


  2. Inspirational, you very clever lady! Just ordered my fire and felt slippers x 2. Can’t wait for them to arrive.


  3. I am really inspired and planning some al fresco styling in my garden based on this. I love the crystal lamp shades. Amazing what you can get in charity shops!


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