How to enjoy al fresco dining through the winter

It looks like we may be under stricter terms when meeting friends soon – well some of the country already is, and there is probably no more inviting friends to dinner inside your home for a while. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t still entertain at home, you just have to be more creative.

One place to take inspiration from are the Scandinavian countries. Now they have it very cold in the winter, but you can still enjoy a glass of something outside on winter terraces. We have nearly all been skiing and had a little Apres Ski on the outside terrace as well, so you can draw some inspiration from those experiences.

So hoping it’s not raining (“when” honestly……) how can you still entertain at home? Well follow our ideas below and we can help you design the perfect Al fresco spot, it will even work for commercial restaurants as well.


The very first thing to think about is keeping warm. There is absolutely no point sitting outside if you are huddled up shivering. Fortunately there are several different ways to do this and you have to think about this like clothing, “layers work best”.

Fire pits are wonderful and really do make you feel cosy, there is something very primal about sitting around a fire cuddling a cup of something intoxicating, like mulled wine. Here is our own fire pit in action – take a look at Arpe Studio for their very stylish range of cool fire pits.


IMG E2428


However I know my Daughter would prefer us to have this one.



A solution that works even better, or in hand with a firepit, is an Infrared Patio Heater. They come in various KwH powers and being electric are very green (if you use Green electricity obviously). Unlike traditional gas Patio heaters, they give out no damaging gases, only heat what they touch and thus don’t “waste” heat, nor do they heat up “objects” like tables and chairs, only humans and other animal types. By affixing one to a wall or umbrella stand and focusing it on the seating area you can provide warmth to people sitting down. They are also cheap to run 11p an hour or so depending on the output. The image below shows a typical installation with the heaters heating the whole of the person in the seating area. We particularly like the range by Herschel, from wall mounted to free standing they have everything you need to keep yourself warm. By adding an Awning, Gazebo etc you can create all weather al fresco dining as well.


Credit:- Herschel Infrared

Exterior Furniture and Fabrics

Investing in good quality garden chairs and looking after them really pays back. Cheap plastic ones are quite uncomfortable, while a good wooden chair and table will last you a lifetime and allow you to sit in comfort which is so important on colder evenings. Don’t forget to look after your wooden chairs though, a good sand down and a little oil every year will keep them as good as new. Cushions are indeed critical and don’t have to be expensive, Ikea have an extensive range that are very good value; always remember to bring them in after use or they will go mouldy regardless of the fabric. The fabric is important, you should always make sure exterior cushions are made out of exterior fabric, but that does not mean it needs to be plasticky and disagreeable to sit on, treated cotton works very well. We have these Ikea Hallo ones which are really comfortable for our Habitat Chairs that we bought 20 years ago.



Credit:- Ikea


Lighting and Hygge

We have always said lighting is critical to any environment, bright white LED bulbs glaring down on you will really spoil the ambience. Your eyes are very good at seeing in the dark, and adapt very quickly to the light around them, so you don’t need blazing light in order to see outside on the colder, darker nights. There is absolutely no need to have the indoor lights glaring through the windows to light the outdoors.

However some light is always good, but it needs to be warm and subtle. Strings of outdoor fairy lights in the bushes and hedges around your outdoor space, create a cosy inner sanctum from the dark, a well placed warm low wattage light close enough to the space but far enough away not to be intrusive can provide ambient lighting. Candle light will always help to set the right mood outside, even during the day. Lanterns will help keep the candles burning and add interest to your space. Candle lanterns with lit candles next to the outdoor chairs give that primal feel and are comforting, while giving off a little light to augment the ambience.

We at London Contemporary towers are great fans of Nordic House, their range of all things Nordic really allow you to go to town on that outdoor Scandi feel and their range of Lanterns is simply divine.



Credit:- Nordic House



In old movies you see people sitting outside with blankets over their legs, in Scandinavia you see it also – why you ask yourself? Its very simple by keeping the legs warm the rest of body stays warm as well – remember that Après Ski? But not any old blanket will do, a slippery duvet or sleeping bag will do just that and slip off all the time and will become annoying very quickly. What is needed is a proper faux fur – this will retain heat, be thick enough to not allow cold transfer from the outside to your legs and also feel cosy and snug, bringing back memories of snuggling up to our parents when we were children.

There are so many options and colourways to choose from with faux fur, John Lewis do a range, as does Dunelm, but the Piece de la Resistance has to be Faux Fur Throws. With every single colour way and style possible and at a leg covering size of 150 X 100 cm there is something here for everyone.


ash faux fur throw

Credit:- Faux Fur Throws UK


So there you have it; heat and comfort by using a combination of Fire Pit, Infrared heater and cosy blankets, and ambience with carefully placed fairy lights and candle lanterns. Now there is no excuse not to meet your friends and have wonderful Al fresco dining and socialising.