The Guide to Outdoor Dining

Hello everyone, Meg here-

We’re quickly approaching summer. Days are feeling warmer as the evenings get brighter, but we aren’t quite in the Summer season yet – That also doesn’t mean that spring isn’t a good reason to have fun. I’m sure you’ve heard of the term “Dining alfresco” although it’s not a direct translation from Italian, it’s often referred to as “Dining in the cool” or “Outdoor dining”. Although if you were to use the term “al fresco” in Italy, you could be asking to dine in jail – So be careful!

We’ve seen plenty of our customers use our products to create the ideal outdoor dining scene. Since Spring is the ideal season for Al fresco dining, I wanted to create a collection of examples to inspire you on the essentials for outdoor dining.

The Shelter

Of course, Al fresco dining can be done without any shade – But it’s a known health benefit to stay in the shade if you’re outside for long periods of time. Our gazebo range covers a range of styles and sizes:

Barbara Log Cabin Gazebo

Our Barbara Log Cabin Gazebo is one of the few in this style of gazebos, perfect for transforming your garden corner – The Log Cabin Gazebos are the ideal size for a corner sofa and coffee table. Perfect for the more casual dining events.

Tourist 3.4m Gazebo

For those that don’t have a lot of space in their garden – The Tourist Gazebo measures 3.4m x 3.4m and is perfect for providing shelter for you and your loved ones. Featuring a traditional apex roof design, it’s easy to see why this Gazebo is so desirable.

Our team here at Tuin can all agree that the warmth from Larch timber is very aesthetically pleasing, that’s why a fair amount of our Gazebos also have a Larch twin – For those that want to bring warmth in their garden.

Samos Larch Gazebo

This Samos Larch Gazebo has been modified with the Larch Cladding wall infills, but it’s an ideal way to add some privacy to your outdoor dining set up.

We also understand that not everyone desires the apex roof type, for a more modern garden we also have some Modern Pent Roof Gazebos.

Excellent Modern Gazebo

Get all the family around the table with the Excellent Modern Gazebo – Measuring at 5.92m in length, you can host your alfresco experience for everyone, while gaining the envy of the neighbours. This Gazebo had been modified with See Through Walls for an extra level of privacy and sun shading.

The Seating

Now that we have our shelter covered – What about the seating? We offer a range of Garden Dining Sets from rustic/shabby chic styles to wicker furniture. Here’s a select few that would look both stylish and provide comfort.

Beverly Wicker Dining Set

Beverly Wicker Dining Set is one of the four wicker options we have in this range, featuring a glass topped table – You can dine in the ultimate comfort with these cushioned reclining chairs that are included in the set.

Montgomery Aluminium Dining Set

A perfect pair with our Modern Styled Gazebos, the Montgomery Dining Set is extremely sleek in design. It also features a comfortable but powerful combination of Textilene and Quickdry foam to ensure years of use- even with the unpredictable weather.

Create Your Own Dining Set

Or, if the other styles in our range just doesn’t quite suit your taste – You can find the ideal set up with our Create Your Own Garden Dining Set. This product page allows you to pick either a modern or rustic styled table in a number of styles. As well as choosing the number and style of wicker chairs to complete the set – Ideal for when you host large dinner parties.

The Heating

Even in the summer evenings, a chill may dampen the dining atmosphere, so why not think ahead with a heating solution? We have a range of Garden Heaters that would be compatible with your gazebo, from free standing to overhead heaters.

The Decor

Now that you have the essentials for your outdoor dining space, now it’s time to decorate it. A lot of our customers stick with a theme when decorating our garden buildings and gazebos. From traditional shabby chic to Bohemian Fantasies- Here are a few of my favourite decor examples:

Samos Larch Gazebo Seating

Soft furnishings like cushions or blanket throws are an easy say to subtly sneak a theme in. For example, these customers who wanted to continue the warmth brought from the Samos Larch Gazebo with the uses of a soft yellow, green and those rich teal flower pots.

Kos Larch Gazebo

Alternatively, you could use the soft furnishings to add a pop of colour to your setup. Reds, Oranges and Blues would make a bold contrast against our wicker furniture.

Curved Lattice Gazebo

Another idea is to introduce more natural elements to blend the scene in with your garden – Like with this Curved Lattice Gazebo where the customers introduced both planters and hanging baskets for subtle, but definitely effective pops of colour.

Mitch Log Cabin Gazebo Lighting

Or for our all-night events, why not experiment with some lighting? We do not offer electrics in our own installation service, but with the help of a qualified technician- You could certainly upgrade your wooden gazebo with a touch of modern technology. Imagine colour changing light bars that you could set the ambiance with?

The Menu

So now that the area has been set up, with all the finishing touches – I’m certain that your dining area looks great… But what to serve alongside it? I personally would go for this Teriyaki Salmon Noodle dish to get those taste buds in action, paired with a fruity Pinot Noir to complement the dish.

Is al fresco dining not just for you? Why not take a look at our Log Cabin Pubs inspiration post, or maybe you would prefer looking at how our products can be utilised for Hot Tub Covers.

Care of Garden Furniture

Like any outdoor product, garden furniture needs to be looked after and maintained if you want it to last for years, regardless of the material used: softwood, hardwood, wicker or metal it still needs regular treatment and regular care.


The weather of course affects garden furniture, the Autumn and Winter can have some very damaging effects. Likewise the heat of the sun in the hottest months can bleach and dry out wood in any furniture this can result in loose fittings, bolts, screws etc, which in return results in loose joints and these should be regularly checked. The weather and moisture levels in the air will also affect the timber and you can see splits and cracks appear if not treated correctly.

The weather conditions should be borne in mind and your maintenance adjusted accordingly to the time of year. It’s also a good idea to consider covering furniture during the winter months or moved indoors. Cushions should always be taken undercover when not in use, rarely are garden furniture cushions waterproof.

In the case of wicker furniture during the winter it will become very stiff, likewise in the heat of the sun it will be a little more elastic. Too much moisture can also cause a problem and mildew will build up over time which may cause sagging.

For both hardwood and softwood furniture on going maintenance must be carried out which includes painting and treating softwood and oiling hardwood.

Maintenance Routine

A regular routine should be set up to ensure the Garden Furniture will last for years. This should consist of:

  • Cleaning
  • Checking Fixtures, Fittings and tightness of joints
  • Treatment

Cleaning Garden Furniture

Regular cleaning of your furniture is necessary to prevent mold, fungus or insect attack. General warm soapy water is enough if done regularly. For slightly more dirty furniture such as a picnic table you could also use a solution of bleach. You can also mix up your own cleaner with one cup of household ammonia, half a cup of vinegar and four litres of warm water.

Wicker generally needs a wash quite regularly and a soft brush or a vacuum cleaner will also help to remove dirt and dust caught in the complex weave. Check the weave regularly and move any strands back into position if you have noticed they have moved. Do not use foam cleaners on wicker as it will get lodged in-between the weave and will ultimately cause damage. It is a good idea not to use wicker furniture that is damp as it may cause sag.

In extreme cases a pressure washer is also very effective in removing damp spores and fungus especially when emerging from the winter and furniture has been left out.

Using a pressure washer to clean your garden furniture

Using a pressure washer to clean your garden furniture

Regular cleaning will stop mold, algae build up and insect attack. These can be particularly dangerous to garden furniture if allowed to build up around and within joints.

Insect attack in a piece of hardwood furniture. This needs immediate and proper cleaning to prevent damage

Insect attack in a piece of hardwood furniture. This needs immediate and proper cleaning to prevent damage

It is completely normal for mildew, algae, fungus and spore to build up on furniture if it is not cared for.

Mold and Algae forming on a garden bench

Mold and Algae forming on a garden bench

Checking Fixtures and Fittings

With regular use of your furniture it is important to check the fitting and fixtures that make it up. Check these are still tight and keeping joints together. This is particularly important after a few weeks following initial installation. Also make sure you check all bolts in the Spring as the wood tends to dry out and all bolts will become loose possibly creating loose joints.

Like all wood your furniture will expand and contract according to the moisture content in the air and the level of treatment you have applied. In extreme cases without regular treatment and in direct sun all of the time, cracks can appear due to the inherent nature of timber reacting with its environment.

Crack is appearing near this bolt. This is due to no treatment at all and direct sunlight. This bolt needs to be checked for tightness and treatment applied.

Crack is appearing near this bolt. This is due to no treatment at all and direct sunlight. This bolt needs to be checked for tightness and treatment applied.

This article explains more about cracks and splits in timber

As well as tightness of all fittings and joints, make sure that all fittings are still in place, regular use by a busy family can see loose fittings develop and could see them fall out and become lost.

Check your furniture regularly for lost fittings due to becoming loose over time

Check your furniture regularly for lost fittings due to becoming loose over time

Loose or missing bolts and fittings will cause the furniture to become unstable and stress the joints which could easily cause breakages or failure of the joints in any furniture.

Treatment of your Furniture

Wicker and metal furniture only needs regular cleaning and checking. For timber garden furniture it is very important that it is regularly treated this will give it protection from:

  • Weather conditions
  • Humidity
  • Wood Rot
  • Excessive contraction and expansion
  • Fungal and insect attack.

Softwood Garden Furniture Treatment

Most outdoor furniture made from softwood such as pine will be pressure treated, this is a rot proof treatment and will guard against the timber rotting, more details on this process can be found here: Pressure Treatment of Timber

Regardless of pressure treatment it is a very good idea to regularly treat the timber as you would a shed or log cabin. Proper treatment will help to stop the wood develop cracks or joints becoming loose, it will inhibit it’s natural tendency to warp. It will also greatly increase the longevity and enjoyment of the Garden Furniture

Pressure treated picnic table surface. This would benefit from a good timber treatment.

Pressure treated picnic table surface. This would benefit from a good timber treatment to inhibit the formation of cracks and splits over the seasons as well as warps forming.

Pressure treated tree seat, although pressure treated against rot a further timber treatment is required to make sure it last for years

Pressure treated tree seat, although pressure treated against rot a further timber treatment is required to make sure it last for years, to stop splits and cracks and to prevent warping.

Hardwood Garden Furniture Treatment

Hardwood is a good choice for furniture as it contains natural oils that resist rot. However, it does still need caring for as it shares the same properties as all other types of wood and is susceptible to cracking, splitting, shrinkage and expansion which will all affect the longevity of your furniture.

If left hardwood weathers to a silvery grey, depending on the location and the amount of exposure to the sun this can be as short as one month up to a year.

Please see this example, this is a friend of mine’s hardwood love seat. The first picture is the as new finish.

Hardwood love seat as new

Hardwood love seat as new

This seat is now about two years old:

Hardwood love seat two years old, no treatment has ever been applied

Hardwood love seat two years old, no treatment has ever been applied

Notice how much it has weathered and most of it is starting to turn a silvery colour, notice also some mildew / mold / spores on the rear slats forming, this is completely normal in an un-cared for piece of hardwood garden furniture.

Weathered to a silvery colour

Weathered to a silvery colour – another example of an uncared for piece of hardwood furniture. The deep rich colour has weathered to a silvery grey. Notice though large deposits of ingrained dirt or spores.

There are many treatments for hardwood on the market, most of them will be hardwood sealants or oils. In order to look after your furniture it is a good idea to start oiling it within 2 weeks of assembling it and then to keep up the routine every month or so, this will then help to keep the deep rich colour. It will also of course nourish the hardwood thereby extending its life.

Oil is normally applied with a brush in the direction of the grain, aerosols are also available. We have a selection of hardwood treatments in our timber treatment category

Restoring Hardwood Garden Furniture

Restoring a neglected piece of furniture is a straightforward process and start with cleaning, sanding, and re-oiling. I will write a piece on this shortly using the love seat above as an example as I restore it to its former glory.

Here’s an impressive example of restoration:

Restoration of a hardwood table

Restoration of a hardwood table and chairs

Summary on caring for your Garden Furniture

Garden furniture can be very expensive and to ensure it lasts for years please take time to regularly look after it with treatment, care and regular inspections

Care of garden furniture is very important to increase its longevity

Care of garden furniture is very important to increase its longevity. This is a very neglected swing bench and you cannot expect the same life from it as you would if cared for correctly.