7+ ideas for creating an outdoor space that’s great for guests and entertaining

08 Dec 2020

As the temperature rises so too does the demand for parties and social gatherings.
By using a few fundamental design principles, you can transform your outdoor space into an area that’s easy for entertaining and comforting for guests.
Here are some key considerations for making your outdoor space ready for your upcoming occasions.


Dee McQuillan of garden design studio Ivy & Bloom created multiple entertaining and seating zones in homeowner David Lewis’ courtyard garden. Zones are demarcated using colour, paving, grass and structural features such as planters and walls. Raised planter beds, boundary walls and seating painted in Resene Tapa complement the large paved area and existing fireplace. The 100-year-old riveted bench seat, painted in Resene Pioneer Red, is a family heirloom and has its own alcove in the garden.  

Divide and conquer

Similar to an open plan layout indoors, many outdoor spaces don’t have fixed structural walls to divvy them up – and nor would you want them to. You will, however, still want to build a sense of intimacy and ambience. Therefore, the best approach is to apply the same strategy to your outdoor entertaining space as you would inside: divide it into zones for different tasks.

Break your space up into key spaces:  you’ll likely want a zone for preparing food, a zone for eating and one or more conversation zones.


An old car tyre is unrecognisable after being upcycled into an outdoor ottoman, which is painted Resene Double Pravda. The v-grooved wall is in Resene Half Villa White, the deck is stained Resene Woodsman Mid Greywash, the side table is in Resene Double Pravda, the tray is in Resene Peace, the vase and small pot are in Resene Bi Hoki and the large plant pot is in Resene Kandinsky.

Flexible furnishings

Different people will find different types of seating more comfortable than others. Having a range of different types of outdoor furniture will not only make it simpler to add or remove seating as your headcount expands or contracts, it also means that guests have a choice where they sit.

If you’re holding a larger gathering, unless you’re putting on a true al fresco dinner party, you likely won’t need a seat for every guest. Many people prefer to stand while they chat and mingle with others.

Make your own outdoor ottoman | Habitat by Resene


Guests often need a place to rest their plate or glass so it’s a good idea to have some tables at a height to suit the seating type. Look for items that can be upcycled to be smaller table surfaces like wooden crates, old fashioned suitcases or even a section of tree trunk.

Wall in Resene Triple Merino, deck in Resene Woodsman Tiri, ombre screen in (from top to bottom) Resene Ebb, Resene Soothe, Resene Paper Doll, Resene Coral Tree and Resene Merlot, plant pots in (from largest to smallest) Resene Ebb, Resene Alabaster, Resene Coral Tree, Resene Paper Doll and Resene Merlot and pendant lampshade in Resene Alabaster. Sofa and coffee table from Outside Space, cushion from Collect Living.

Top tip: If your timber deck, patio or furniture needs a refresh before you even dream of inviting over visitors, clean it with Resene Timber and Deck Wash then finish with Resene Woodsman or Resene Kwila Timber Stain.  For furniture you can also use Resene Timber and Furniture Gel.

Screen time

Lattice/trellis is one of the most useful materials that can be leveraged to carve out distinct zones and create visual interest within a greater outdoor area. Plus, it’s affordable and lightweight so it’s great both for more permanent and temporary uses. You can buy it in framed as trellis or as unframed sheets and turn it into a whole range of fun and practical DIY projects.

Attach two or more framed lattices together using hinges and paint in coordinating Resene paint colours to create a folding screen divider that can separate spaces within a larger outdoor space. It’ll add to the sense of intimacy, create privacy and the colour will complement your home and deck. Dress up lattice on special occasions with strands of fairy lights. Framed lattice can also be used to create an affordable pergola which looks gorgeous with a canopy of greenery and twinkling lights.


Wall in Resene Triple Merino, deck in Resene Woodsman Tiri, screen in Resene Bounty (frame) and Resene Big Stone, large ombre plant pot in Resene Gull Grey and Resene Balderdash, medium plant pot and pendant lamp shade in Resene Alabaster, small plant pot in Resene Bounty. Sofa and coffee table from Outside Space, cushion and throw from Collect Living.

Top Tip: Outdoor furniture in good condition can be easily refreshed using Resene Lustacryl semi-gloss waterborne enamel or Resene Enamacryl gloss waterborne enamel to recoat it in a new colour. If your new colour is on the dark side, choose a Resene CoolColour version of your paint to keep the surface cooler.

Aesthetic agility

Design principles that are often used to make your interior look great should be put to work outside, too. Think of ways to create repetition through colours or textures.

Soft furnishings will amp up the comfort factor outdoors. Don’t underestimate the impact that the colour of the sofa and armchair cushions can make on how inviting the space looks. Make your sofa the focal point by playing up the colour of your squabs through décor and accessories painted to match and coordinate.

Be sure that your outdoor décor also takes the elements into account. Protection from the sun or rain in the form of umbrellas, pergolas or marquees are a must, as are heaters, fireplaces and throws for cooler weather and evening entertaining. Pick options that coordinate with the rest of your décor choices.

Colour wise, there aren’t many outdoor items that can’t be made to coordinate with a fresh coat of paint. Most Resene testpots are made with Resene Lumbersider, which is designed to be durable for outdoor use without the need for a clear coat. Use Resene Colour Match online (www.resene.com/colourmatchonline) or visit your local Resene ColorShop to find the closest colour or an ideal accent or complementary hue to go with your cushions, then paint up some plant pots and other small decorative accents for a cohesive colour palette. 

Squeaky clean

Hitting the beach or lounging by the pool? Building an outdoor shower will allow you and your guests to rinse off without having to set foot inside – which will help keep sand outside where it belongs. An outdoor shower is equally useful for rinsing muddy dogs and grubby gardening equipment.

But remember, placement is important. The closer your shower is to existing piping, the easier and more cost-effective it will be to install. Solar showers are another warm water option without the hassle of connecting it up to your pipes.

Consider where the water will drain. Be sure to seek advice from a professional plumber to sort out where your runoff will go to mitigate the potential water damage to nearby structures and the impact on ground surfaces to meet building codes and your local council’s regulations.


Building an outdoor shower is a great idea for keeping sand outside when guests need to rinse off. Wall in Resene Green Meets Blue, deck in Resene Woodsman Uluru, striped shower back in Resene Nepal and Resene Sea Fog, timber shower platform and shelf stained in Resene Woodsman Pitch Black, breeze block planter in Resene Sea Fog and Resene Green Meets Blue, hook rack and soap dispenser in Resene Nepal and mirror in Resene Breeze. Showerhead from Plumbline, chair from Cintesi. 

Design wise, there are plenty of creative ideas out there to dress up your outdoor shower. You could paint or stain it in your favourite Resene colours, either in a solid colour or an attractive pattern. Or, go for a rustic look with Resene FX Faux Rust Effect; it’s a waterborne coating used to create a rust style effect on both exterior and interior surfaces. Once applied, it looks like rust – a look that will continue to develop as the coating ages. 

Three ways with breeze blocks


Items with wheels or castors, such as carts or movable tables, will make it easy to adjust your layout to better suit your gathering. Wall in Resene Triple Merino, deck in Resene Woodsman Tiri, screen in Resene Kashmir Blue, trolley and tray in Resene Indian Ink, planter boxes in Resene Smokescreen with hand-painted patterns in Resene Indian Ink, breeze block bench seat in Resene Triple Merino, ottoman in Resene Settlement, large plant pot in Resene Alabaster and small plant pot (on trolley) in Resene Kashmir Blue. 

Strong and flexible, these landscaping staples can be used for much more than garden beds. Try one of these projects with blocks painted in a couple of coats of Resene Lumbersider to complement your colour scheme and protect them from the weather:

Use them as a barrier: have a builder or stone mason stack and grout breeze blocks vertically to create a barrier or divider for added privacy around an outdoor social space.

Use them to build a bench: line up a series of breeze blocks horizontally to form a decorative front base of a bench and cut structural plywood to size to create the rest of the bench.

Use them to build a raised planter box: stack and grout breeze blocks both vertically and horizontally to form a four-sided planter box lined with plywood cut to size.

Unless you are using them purely decoratively, be sure to choose breeze blocks that are structurally sound enough – and properly anchored and secured – for the project you’re making.

 

styling Kate Alexander, Laura Lynn Johnston, Vanessa Nouwens

images Bryce Carleton, Wendy Fenwick, Dee McQuillan

Do you have a home full of wonderful Resene paint and colour? Send us some snaps by emailing [email protected].

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