15 ways to improve your outdoor living space

Outdoor living is a huge trend. As well as warmer summers drawing us outdoors, the global pandemic saw many of us turning our attention to outdoor spaces for safer socialising. And so it’s time to turn your attention to al fresco decor – in the summer, your outside entertaining space should be as considered as your indoor decor scheme. From fences and flooring to garden furniture, Good Homes magazine offers 15 outdoor living ideas to improve your space…

First, let’s break it down into three key areas to tackle:

  • Fencing and flooring: Pay as much attention to your outdoor floors and walls as you would your interiors, creating interest with a mix of colours and materials. Add fretwork fencing panels to the top of low walls for privacy, or use them to create garden zones. In terms of flooring, composite, wood and stone are all good, hardwearing options.
  • Create shady spots: An awning, pergola or converted outbuilding means you can embrace your outdoor living ideas without worrying about privacy, shelter from the sun or whatever the weather might throw at you.
  • Find the best garden furniture for your space: Use a combination of comfy chairs, cushions, rugs and a coffee table to turn your garden into a stylish outdoor living space for relaxing, dining and entertaining from day to evening.

15 outdoor living ideas

1. Outdoor tiles

Add personality to your home by using outdoor tiles in different colours and patterns, rather than just the standard grey or stone. Tie them in with your wall or fencing and you’ll have a beautifully stylish space to be proud of.

outdoor living: terracotta patchwork encaustic cement floor tiles

Birch Patchwork encaustic cement tiles, £156 sq m from Otto Tiles

More outdoor tile ideas:

four different patterned outdoor tiles on a white background

  • Top left: Urban tiles in Callizo, £59.55 per sqm from Fired Earth
  • Top right: Deck Chair Porcelain exterior tile in Rhubarb & Custard, £65.75 per sqm from Ca’Pietra
  • Bottom left: Sorrento Outdoor tiles, from £103 per sqm from Otto Tiles
  • Bottom right: Leinz Estrella Outdoor Decor Tiles, £38.95 from Walls and Floors

2. Blur indoor-outdoor living boundaries

Rather than zoning areas, blur the boundaries between in and outdoors by using the same flooring to create a seamless flow. Just make sure to check the flooring you use is suitable for outdoor use.

outdoor living: indoor-outdoor floor tiles from RAK Ceramics

Fashion Stone porcelain tiles, £65 per sqm from RAK Ceramics

3. Create a secluded area

If you want to create a secluded garden nook, Habitat’s Samoa seating with integrated, modular fence panels can be configured as you please, and picked up and moved if you change your mind. The slatted fencing panes offer privacy and protection from the wind.

corner sofa set with fencing in zoned garden

Samoa modular corner sofa set, £1,500 from Habitat

4. Use plants as privacy screens

Whether it’s tall bamboo, boxwood or a vast number of palms and hedging, using plants instead of fencing can make a more attractive option while still giving you the seclusion you need. If you opt for bamboo, keep in mind it can be invasive, so consider picking a slow-spreading clumping variety, or grow it in planters instead.

wooden dining set in lush garden with plant wall

Lisboa teak dining set, £2,799, Dobbies

5. Create garden zones

A change of flooring can signify a different part of your garden, so use decking, tiles or even an outdoor rug to zone individual spaces. Read how Good Homes magazine editor Karen Walker went about zoning her own garden here.

outdoor living: zoned garden with dining area, lounging area and grass area

Swan neck outdoor wall lights, £169; Brooklyn wall lights, £90, both Industville. Photo: Joanna Kossak. Designer Chris Harrington


6. Arrange seating around a focal point

Whether it’s a central firepit or a dining table (or both!), grouping seating around a central piece creates a more welcoming, ordered layout.

u-shaped firepit garden dining set

Oxford U-shaped dining set with fire pit, £3,399, Maze

7. Use multifunctional outdoor furniture

If your outdoor furniture needs to cater for everything from a morning coffee to entertaining guests, opt for a multifunctional set that does it all. The clever Porto garden set from Marks & Spencer features a height-adjusting table can works as both a coffee table, dining table and sundowner cocktail spot.

outdoor living: garden dining set with adjustable coffee dining table from M&S

Porto 7-seater lounge/dining set, £1,299; alfresco outdoor rug, £69. All Marks & Spencer

8. Add a side table

Outdoor seating arrangements often fall short on places to put your drinks. Whether you have a large garden or more compact balcony or patio, a small side table is a must to rest coffee cups, teapots, wine glasses and, of course, your latest issue of Good Homes magazine. Plus, they’re easy to move.

ceramic garden stool/side table in ceramic with bold motif

Vallarta indoor/outdoor stool/side table, £138, Anthropologie

9. Bring indoor furniture outdoors

Pick sofas, chairs and tables that you can use outside during the summer and that fit just as easily inside when needed. Comfort, looks, colour and material are all things to consider.

outdoor living: indoor-outdoor furniture for gardens, terraces and conservatory

Made Goods Aurora furniture collection, from £1,300, all Amara

10. Create an outdoor snug

Whether it’s a loveseat for two, a hanging chair to snuggle up, a hammock for a quick nap or a quiet reading nook, invest in a stylish seat to escape to, where you can while away the hours.

Mrs Hinch egg chair from Tesco

Mrs Hinch egg chair, £350 from Tesco

11. Add a garden marquee

If you’ve got the room, why not invest in an elegant tent or marquee? It’s a great way to create a festival-like atmosphere, while providing shade from the sun and shelter from any drizzly outbreaks. The below design is roomy enough for 10-12 guests to dine, or 18-20 people standing.

garden marquee with Moroccan-style garden set up

3.5m pergola, from £1,950, Raj Tent Club

12. Indoor-outdoor living with an awning

Whether it’s the glaring sun or a tiny bit of drizzle, an awning can create a practical shaded spot. Go for a fully motorised design to make it easy to operate.

outdoor living with an awning sheltering the outdoor dining area

Roma Blue awning, from £3,599 for 2.5m, Hillarys

13. Add a garden bar

Garden bars have never been so popular, and this design is perfect for you to paint, decorate or leave as is. Plus, in the months you’re not using it for drinks, you can keep it as a functioning shed for storage, too. Read the Good Homes’ guide to creating a garden bar here.

garden bar painted white with pitched roof and serving hatch

Shire 6 x 4ft Paradise bar, £965 from Wickes

14. Don’t forget garden lighting

If you want to enjoy your outdoor living room long into the night, then you’ll need some suitable lighting for both practicality and ambience. Add colourful boho vibes to your garden by hanging outdoor solar lanterns from a tree or pergola.

outdoor living: solar hanging lanterns in bright colours for alfresco dining

Outdoor solar lanterns, £36.95 each from Sparkle Lighting

15. Consider an outbuilding

If you have a large garden and want to make the most of the space, perhaps to add guest accommodation or a home office, consider a shepherd’s hut, egg-shaped pod or a yurt. They also provide a secluded spot to escape to if you have a house full!

blue/grey shepherd's hut with grey fibre cement facades

Shepherds hut made with Lap C05 Grey fibre cement facades, from £40 per sqm, Cedral