With longer days, lighter nights and warmer weather just around the corner, alfresco cooking and dining are very much back on the menu. Make the most of your outdoor space by building an outdoor kitchen and dining area that will not only see you through the season, but provide a little haven of happiness all year round.

If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that being outdoors is wonderful for wellbeing and as the rules gradually begin to relax, summer is the perfect time to draw family and friends back together for a relaxed and informal dining experience. As we naturally gravitate towards the garden when the sun comes out, it makes sense to seamlessly extend your living space outwards by building an outdoor kitchen.

Cook, designer and mother of two, Sophie Conran, who has just created two new beautiful collections for Portmeirion, has her heart set on building an outdoor kitchen in her vegetable garden. She explains: “I love the idea of eating things straight out of the ground and being surrounded by nature and sharing that with my friends and family.” And we couldn’t agree more.

While we’ve seen some truly incredible examples of outdoor kitchens incorporating built-in appliances, fridges, roof structures and even sinks, our advice is to start small and make sure you have the basics – we’re thinking a table and chairs, lighting, somewhere to cook, and of course, a great view. You don’t have to spend a lot to create a warm and welcoming outside space and you can always add to it as time goes by.

If you don’t want to be stuck indoors and miss out on all the fun, while the conversation (and the wine) is flowing outside, then think about creating a small preparation station. As outdoor kitchen ideas go, this is one of our favourites. All you need is a small storage unit with a weatherproof worktop. Buy a ready-made unit, ask a joiner or do it yourself. Not only is it perfect for chopping and prepping as you chat, but the extra cupboard space will always come in handy for storing utensils, tableware and cutlery.

Food Comes First

We’re firm believers that food tastes better outdoors so why not invest in a smoker (great for pulled pork), a BBQ or even a simple fire pit if space is limited – they’re stylish, warm and brilliant for homemade burgers. Or if you’re a fan of Italian food, then go for a crowd-pleasing pizza oven. What could be easier (or tastier) than firing a few pizzas and throwing together a fresh salad using produce straight from the garden. Get the whole family involved choosing pizza toppings and creating new flavour combinations for a delicious alfresco meal that will be ready in minutes. Have you tried chocolate pizzas yet? Load up the dough with Nutella, toasted marshmallows and chocolate ganache and top with fresh strawberries and sweetened whipped cream for a heavenly treat.

Take a moment to consider the best location for a BBQ or fire pit. You don’t want to have your back to guests while you’re cooking, and you need to be careful to keep smoke away from diners. And don’t forget to bring your washing in before you cook! Nothing beats the smell of woodsmoke, but not when it’s lingering on clean sheets.

Add an Accent

Elevate your space with stylish and colourful finishing touches and make it a place where people will want to stay for longer. Dress your walls with an inspired vertical garden or place some pretty planters around your alfresco dining area – herbs work well, smell amazing and are handy for adding freshly-picked flavour to even the simplest of dishes. Comfort and warmth are a must so add plenty of cushions and throws and cosy up with a rug when it gets chilly. When it gets to winter, keep your blankets handy and head outdoors for a hot chocolate.  Good lighting is essential as the sun goes down so add some festoon lights for a festival vibe and make sure your cooking area is well lit. Overcooked food is never a good look.

Bring Nature to the Table

When it comes to tableware, the stylish new Sophie Conran for Portmeirion collections, Arbor and Floret, work perfectly in a relaxed outdoor setting and blend seamlessly with the elements.

The collections, which are available in two subtle shades, Dove Grey and Creamy White, have been inspired by Sophie’s innate love of nature and her garden.

“Nature is the eternal provider and has inspired the graceful shapes and organic contours of this collection which, like nature, is perfectly imperfect, fluid and multifaceted,” says Sophie.

“My garden is my little piece of heaven. I often sit on the warm stone steps and soak up inspiration; the sounds and scents of my kitchen garden, taking time out from the modern world to enjoy its natural rhythms, forms, shapes and sounds.”

Although the beautiful earthy stoneware range has been designed to bring an element of nature into your home, it’s also durable and sustainable, and works just as well for alfresco dining.

At Portmeirion we believe the key to outdoor dining, is to keep it casual and with a full range of tableware from dinnerware sets to serving pieces, this new mix and match collection is suitable for both everyday eating and special occasions.

We’d love to see our new collections in your outdoor kitchen so tag us on Instagram using the hashtag #SophieConranForPortmeirion