Rebecca Udall’s Guide to Dressing your Outdoor Table 

Al fresco dining is now upon us, weather dependent of course, but there have been a handful of warm, sunny days suitable for outdoor dining already this spring. I love setting an outdoor table, as it is usually less formal and you can be more playful and relaxed with your table settings. Below, I have shared my tips and advice for styling an al fresco table, whether you are planning a casual brunch or an evening dinner party.

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 Southwold 2.4m Rectangle Dining Table Set

Add flowers and foliage

Terracotta pots are a great decorative piece for outdoor tables, adding texture, colour and height to the table. They keep the aesthetic of your table convivial and relaxed. My favourite plants to place in pots include lavender, herbs such as rosemary, and textured flowers such as cosmos later in the summer.

Tablecloths instantly elevate your table 

A simple way to immediately elevate an outdoor table is with the addition of a tablecloth. On a windy day, the aforementioned pots will be handy to weigh it down! I tend to quickly brush off my outdoor table before placing a tablecloth on it. You don’t need to thoroughly clean your table as the cloth will hide a multitude of sins. Linen tablecloths are ideal for outdoors, as they release stains much better than cotton. On a dry day, lightly mist your tablecloth with water to effortlessly relax creases.

Use a butler’s tray to help with serving 

A butler’s tray or a small side table placed beside your outdoor table can be incredibly helpful to act as extra serving or clearing space. You could also use this to set up a dessert or drinks station, to place an ice bucket or to place extra servings of food so you’re not having to nip back and forth back into the kitchen. Our rattan serving trays and condiment carriers are also useful tools for transporting items such as cutlery, condiments, plates and napkins to and from the table.


Embrace more whimsical styling 

I tend to style with a slightly more whimsical emphasis for al fresco tables, to compliment the outdoor setting. Try mix-and-matching your napkins for a relaxed and fun look to your table. Either choose napkin designs in the same tones (such as our green hellebore napkins and green Victoria napkins) or stick with the same design but in different colours (a white tablecloth paired with different coloured scalloped napkins, for example). Weigh your napkins down beneath cutlery if you’re worried about them blowing away.

Mix-and-match serveware 

Our Eleanor and Elouise platters and serving bowls can be used in tandem on an outdoor table to add interest and colour. All of our serveware is perfect for al fresco appropriate dishes such as salads and summer-themed nibbles like bruschetta. If you’re styling a larger table, leave room to set these down, or as previously suggested, you could place these on a side table.

Avoid stainless steel cutlery 

However much I love our Line stainless steel cutlery, it isn’t best suited for really hot days dining outdoors. Bamboo, wooden and acrylic cutlery sets are much more pleasant to handle on warm sunny days, and also add another dimension to your table styling.

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Don’t forget candlelight 

If you are dining in the evening or will still be seated around the table around dusk, add candles to your outdoor table. Use hurricane lanterns for soft, ambient lighting - or our tall and slim hurricane tubes are ideal for placing over tapered dinner candles to stop the flame blowing out and to prevent wax dripping on your tablecloth.

Move your table to a different location 

Perhaps your table is always positioned in the same place in your garden for convenience, sunlight or shelter - but try moving it to a different position for an al fresco dinner party. During the peak summer months, dining beneath a tree dripping in dappled lighting can feel very romantic.

Don’t forget comfort 

Outdoor chairs aren’t usually as comfortable as your indoor dining chairs. Add seat cushions onto each chair for added comfort, so your guests are happy to sit for longer. It’s also a nice idea to provide blankets for your guests, especially if you are dining in the evening or towards the beginning or end of the season.

Add texture 

I always use some elements of woven textures such as rattan or abaca to add depth and interest to outdoor tables. Something as simple as rattan chargers or abaca placemats will instantly lift your table styling.


For further al fresco table styling ideas, browse our Table lookbook and Al Fresco Dining edit.