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6 Things To Think About Before You Design An Outdoor Dining Area

By April 19, 2023June 21st, 2024Outdoor Living
dining area and fire pit

Do you enjoy dining outdoors? Do you wish you had a more convenient, or perhaps more inviting space to do it? With spring in full swing and summer on the horizon, you may be thinking about adding or upgrading a patio dining space. But before you start testing out grills or shopping for patio furniture, stop and take a minute to ask yourself a few questions.

They can mean the difference between a space that works for you – and one that may look nice, but spends a lot of time empty and alone!

What Type Of Dining Are You Planning?

Depending on your culinary ambitions, you may need more or less counter space, more or fewer appliances, or want to include other perks and conveniences that will make your experience far more enjoyable.

Knowing how you want to entertain will help you choose the cooking spaces that will work for you. If you’re planning snacks around a fire pit, you’ll need something very different than if you’re looking to serve a six course gourmet meal.

There are myriad options, from stone fireplaces and pizza ovens, to built-in or freestanding grills, refrigerators, running water and more. Choose the ones that work for you.

Be realistic about your lifestyle. You may imagine serving up dinner Wolfgang Puck style, but if what you really enjoy is hanging out with the family with some burgers, you’re better off designing around that.

You don’t want to overdo it any more than you want to “under” do it. If you do plan to serve full meals but skimp on the sink or the prep space, you may find yourself too inconvenienced to want to cook and serve outdoors at all.

patio bluestone insetWho Will You Be Entertaining?

Similar to what you will be serving, consider who. If your dining dreams extend only as far as spending time outdoors with your family of four, then don’t clutter up your space with an oversized picnic table.

Even if you do plan to entertain larger parties, a too-long table may limit conversation if people can’t see or hear each other.

Either way, think about who you’ll be dining with. Depending on your answer, you may be better served by a cozy bistro table, a couple of small tables or one larger one, or something else.

If you plan to entertain informally, for example, you may not want a dining table at all. Some comfy chairs with end tables gathered into a group for finger foods and conversation may be just what you need.

Think about the type of parties you’ll host, who will attend, and how you envision entertaining – and feeding! – them.

summer patio seatingDo You Have Easy Access?

We probably don’t have to tell you not to build your outdoor cooking and dining space somewhere across the yard. There’s a reason these spaces are offshoots of an indoor kitchen or living area! But there are other ways that you could be inconveniencing yourself, with the end result that you won’t use your space as much as you’d like.

It should be easy to get into and out of the house without navigating a maze of tables or chairs, and certainly without disturbing diners. Placing seating too close to a door or egress can make for awkward movement through the area.

Placing a grill inside a semi-enclosed space may give you a nice separation of space, but if you constantly have to walk around obstacles to get what you need, you’re eventually going to give up. Make your outdoor dining area a place you’ll use by making it easy to get to and easy to get around.

Summer EntertainingIs There Anything That Will Inhibit Your Use Of The Space?

Naturally you want your dining area surrounded by beautiful landscaping, but be careful about how you do it. Planting a bunch of wildflowers near a door or serving area may look pretty, but your diners may not be too pleased by the collection of bees that join them for dinner.

Large, old-growth trees are wonderful and should be cherished, but placing your patio and dining table beneath them may result in leaves or other debris landing on your plate.

Other, lesser-considered elements can affect your use of the space. If the dining area is near a corner of the house, for example, it may be more likely to catch a breeze that disrupts the meal. If the setting sun shines directly into your eyes at dinnertime, there’s a good chance you won’t be spending too much time in that spot.

Consider all of these possibilities as you design your space so you can accommodate accordingly – a pergola or overhang to block sun, for example – and you’ll make far better use of the space.

outdoor lighting walkwaysDo You Have Proper Lighting?

If you want your dining experience to be able to take place after sunset, it’s important to consider lighting. And there’s more to it than simply placing a few bulbs around the space, or even lining the perimeter of the area.

Lighting serves multiple purposes and each is important. Task lighting should be used around your cooking and prep area. The last thing you want is an accident because you were working in poor lighting.

Safety lighting – which can also be beautiful lighting – can include pathway lights, or lights embedded in patio stones. This lighting should guide diners into and out of the house, as well as around the property wherever they may be walking.

Finally, mood lighting will go a long way to setting the tone for your evening meal. Lanterns placed at the edges of a patio, string lights hung above it – these can create an inviting atmosphere that makes your dining experience more enjoyable and memorable.

Red Bubbler Water FeatureHave You Considered Ambiance?

Lighting is one way to create ambiance – sound is another. You can do it with natural elements, like a water bubbler, fountain or nearby waterfall. The sound of running water is soothing and will mask conversations, creating a more intimate atmosphere.

You can also create ambiance with outdoor audio. No, not by lugging your stereo speakers onto the patio, or by turning up the volume in your living room loud enough to hear it outdoors. Rather, by installing outdoor speakers strategically throughout the space so everyone can enjoy the music at the same volume, without distortion, whether they’re at the head of the table or lounging with a pre-dinner cocktail on the other side of the patio.

Your music selection will set the tone for the type of dining experience you have planned. And with the tap of a button you can take the party from lively daytime to mellow evening.

These are just a few things to think about as you imagine and plan your outdoor dining space. The more you plan, and the more questions you ask, the more likely you’ll be to end up with a space you’ll love – and perhaps more importantly use – season after season, year after year.

Whether you’re thinking about a small, cozy dining space or a large party-worthy one, book a consultation with us and let’s talk. We’ll learn about your lifestyle, evaluate your property, and work with you to make your outdoor dining dreams come true.