When it comes to eating outdoors, there are a fair few obstacles we Brits have to negotiate – the weather, wasps, the total rarity of a warm weeknight evening (or warm weekend, for that matter)… And, oh, did I mention the weather? But, while we can’t control summer’s tendency to throw a tantrum in the form of the odd monsoon and gale, there is one thing that we can all control: how we furnish our patios and balconies.
Most of my adult life, I’ve got this wrong. Thinking I was clever, I used to buy set after set of the Most Uncomfortable Garden Set Known To Man, aka the bistro table and chair set (if you need to refresh your memory of what they look like, click here). Sure, bistro furniture may be stylish, cheap and in tempting bright, juicy colours, but if you value your derrière, don’t be swayed – perch on these chairs for any longer than a few minutes and they’ll stick to, and dig into, your flesh. Also, they love to chip away at shins, get so scorching hot you almost burn your legs off when you try and sit on them, and wobble precariously – not great if you’ve had one Pimm's too many (I’ve found this out, to my cost). This instability is a sod when it comes to entertaining, too. Take it from me, those bistro tables are buggers – if you so much as put one salad bowl too many on it, bye bye, barbecue…
So, this year, I’ve switched things up and bought a conversation set. And, reader, it’s changed my summer. A conversation set is basically homespeak for a garden-furniture set that consists of armchairs/sofa and a coffee table. Not only is it more stable than a dining-table set, it’s also so comfy I guarantee you’ll want to spend longer outside.
Buy a set that comes with a big coffee table and use it for dining. If you think how most of us live indoors – ie we spend a lot of time eating off our laps curled up a sofa – it makes sense
It’s more versatile, too. Sit, read and sun yourself on it. My tip: buy a set that comes with a big coffee table and use it for dining. If you think how most of us live indoors – ie we spend a lot of time eating off our laps curled up a sofa – it makes much more sense than a formal dining table. If you’re entertaining, it’s also more sociable – as the name suggests, it encourages guests to stay longer and, yes, it also “promotes conversation”, which must be where the rather Victorian-sounding name comes from. Tempted? Click on the gallery below for some of my favourites: