With most of us unable to travel for almost a year, creating a hotel-style smart setting outside is the uplifting change so many of us are craving. And who better to advise on achieving the polished and luxurious look than a hotel designer? We spoke to Dale Atkinson, Founder of Rosendale Design (opens in new tab), for tips on incorporating hotel decoration into at-home al fresco dining areas. Dale has a wealth of experience working with both residential and hotel spaces. He has worked on several high-profile homes, and spearheaded the design of many iconic London restaurants by notable chefs such as Michel Roux Jr and Diego Ferrari, alongside hotels such as the Iconic Stafford London.  These are Dale’s top tips for anyone who wants to achieve that chic hotel look at home.

1. Invest in a wow feature

The easiest and most effective way to pull an outdoor dining area design together is by focussing it on one striking feature – a principle Dale says applies equally to a hotel or residential terrace ’to create a wow feature or visual beacon’.  There are many ways to achieve this, though Dale points to greenery, ‘which is always going to play a key role’. So, think about placing a mature tree in a prominent position – if it blossoms in spring, it will have even more impact. This isn’t the only way to create a ‘wow feature’. Dale draws on his current project for inspiration: ‘Currently, we are working on a private residence where we are creating a sunken firepit with encompassing benching seating. This is a fantastic feature to have as it allows you to entertain into the evening with warmth and light.’ Dale says that the trend right now is very much ’to celebrate and reference the elements of interior design and we have already seen this at many boutique and luxury hotels. Using these elements as a key feature will help the clients and their guests feel at ease and solidify their connection to the surroundings’.   

2. Create a sanctuary space enveloped by greenery

Those who are looking for garden party ideas may want to focus on creating an enclosed, enchanting grove-like space. ‘If you are hosting a dinner party, a great view is always nice to have, but we do not all have great rooftop views across the city, or views of the sprawling hills of the countryside,’ acknowledges Dale. If you have an urban garden, ’envelop the space with greenery. People love to be surrounded by flowers and plants.’  Not only does a dense green fence or canopy look alluring, but it also has a powerfully positive effect on how we feel in an outdoor space. ‘More and more people are looking to evolve their homes to create their ideal sanctuary,’ explains Dale. ‘This word is key and I have seen it used many times over the past year, as we want and need more and more, to feel safe and protected.’

3. Incorporate extra outdoor lighting

Great outdoor lighting ideas are essential in any garden, but if you are going for hotel-style decorating, you’ll really want to invest in outdoor lighting that has a bit more oomph. If you are going for string lights, then more is definitely more. Dale explains, they ‘can be quite romantic and wrapped around you plants and trees, [and] this can create a truly remarkable space.’  For the true hotel look, however, Dale recommends ‘purchasing some rechargeable exterior rated table lights’, calling them ‘a wise investment to light the offerings in the middle of the table.’

4. Create a considered and coherent dining look

Paying attention to the smaller hotel decoration details such as the table setting and any accessories you’ll be using in your outdoor area will really make or break your hotel-style design.  Dale summarises: ‘We would always advise purchasing wool throws and blankets that match your table setting and furniture to create a set-up that appears fully considered.’ This way, even if you’re using your outdoor dining area on a cool spring night, you can still enjoy the benefits of a well designed space. 

5. Hotel decoration needs shelter and privacy, too

Hotel outdoor dining areas often feel very intimate – even when they are catering for dozens of people. You can create the same atmosphere by including both garden privacy ideas and garden shade ideas.  Both will shelter you from the prying eyes of neighbors and, whether good or bad, the weather, and can be achieved in a number of ways, including planting, as mentioned above, a structural feature, a roof – permanent or not – over a pergola, and simple sun shades.

See: Patio cover ideas – to create shelter, shade and privacy in the garden

Dale concludes his list of tips on a note of optimism about sharing our outdoor space with loved ones very soon: ‘Now, let us prepare with optimism for the “new normal” and hopefully soon we can all rejoice with our friends and loved ones!’