Outdoor Dining – The Essentials

Outdoor Dining – The Essentials

What do you think of when you hear the phrase outdoor dining? For me it’s Fabulous views, great food and drink, lovely scents, a relaxed atmosphere and excellent company. But what is it about outdoor dining that leaves you feeling fantastic? Wouldn’t you love to enjoy that kind of outdoor dining in your own garden? In this blog we look how the magic is created.

I blogged about the design elements of creating an outdoor dining area a few weeks ago. You can read that blog here. In this article I’m going to look at the thinking behind landscaping, why we do what we do and why having a beautiful outdoor space where you can dine, entertain or just chill, makes you feel so fantastic.

outdoor dining area

This outdoor dining area in a private garden near Colchester has a terrific feel good vibe. It’s close to the house and offers tantalising views from the window. The garden is secluced, private sheltered from the elements and surrounded by beautiful plants. Just like going on holiday without leaving home!

Landscapers are not just people who lay slabs and get dirty fingernails. A trained, experienced landscaper knows how to make things happen. The best landscapers are a cross between a garden designer, an engineer, a builder and a nurseryman. They are also scientists – although most of them don’t realise it. When a landscaper is bringing your garden design ideas to life, he (or she) is subconsciously helping you to reach the pinnacle of self esteem.

Why an outdoor dining space has a feelgood vibe

I’m going to go all scientific on you for a moment. Back in 1943, an American scientist named Abraham Maslow  published a paper. And this paper has been widely used and quoted ever since. What Mr Maslow did was to offer up a theory that every human has a similar set of needs to every other human. The more of those needs that contribute to pyschological health. In other words, a recipe for wellbeing. Most of us feel happiest when all of those needs are met – for example when we are on holiday.

How is this connected to landscaping or outdoor dining? Well, at Holland Landscapes and Tapestry Design Studio, we think that a beautifully executed garden with an outdoor dining area, fulfils just about every one of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and therefore is great for wellbeing.

maslows hierachy of needs

Maslow’s hierachy of needs. The higher up the pyramid we look, the more our needs are associated with feeling good rather than just surviving. To meet all of the criteria of the bottom two layers, all you need from outdoor dining is to eat a service station sandwich in the car and have a snooze. I’ve done that a few times. I can vouch for the fact that sitting in a beautiful surroundings outdoors whilst enjoying the company of freinds and family places me at the very top of this diagram.

Our most basic needs are food and water. If you were stranded on a desert island, those are the first things you’d want to secure. So eating satisfies a primal need – no secrets there. Why then does outdoor dining feel so much better than almost anything else? (apart from Christmas dinner of course)

It’s because eating out of doors, in a beautiful place and with good company lifts you up another couple of levels on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

When a landscaper builds a space for outdoor dining, he’s fulfilling your need for:

Shelter and safety:

Shelter from the elements is of course provided by your home, but in the garden it could relate to a pergola, a sail or a simple parasol over your dining table to keep you safe from sunburn.  Safety – that could be a boundary fence, a hedge, a privacy screen or some or other garden design feature that makes you feel less exposed, more private and safe from the outside world

Any landscaping work should be unique to you. This small, intimate outdoor dining area has a timeless, traditional feel to it.
Plants in pots can be changed with the seasons to ensure all year round interest.

A sense of belonging:

When you are with friends and family it satisfies a psychological need for social contact. Humans are essentially pack animals, we are hard-wired to share our space with like-minded individuals. Going back to the previous layer from Maslow, your home and garden should be a place where you can be comfortable spending time with those you have invited into your life – not any Tom Dick or Harry to happens to wander past and take a fancy to your barbeue.

The higher you climb up Maslow’s pyramid of human needs, the more you are satisfying your psychological needs as well as your physical needs. We none of us could survive without food and water. Shelter is pretty vital too. Especially when you think about Essex weather. Technically we can still exist without human company – but quality of life is depleted. Ditto for a sense of pride in our own surroundings.

lifestyle example

A good example of being at the bottom of Maslow’s hierachy would be fictional couple Wayne and Waynetta Slob, ably characatured by comedian Harry Enfield. The couple have adequate amounts of pizza and beer, they have a roof over their heads, yet their lifestyle is hardly aspirational. Inviting the boss round for a barbecue in those conditions is not likely to earn you the promotion you want.

 Pride in your surroundings boosts self esteem

So the next layer in the hierarchy is pride and self esteem. Its that intangible feeling you get when you stand with your hands on your hips, survey your situation and think “yes! this is where I want to be” That’s the feeling that your landscaper is trying to create for you. Your landscaper is using all of his skills to craft a quality space that is safe, beautiful and most of all, makes you feel proud.

Getting involved with the garden design, helping to choose colour schemes, styles and materials and knowing that your garden is totally unique and bespoke to you is a great feeling. Especially when you know it’s been built to the highest possible standards. It allows you to stand and survey your surroundings, hands on hips and feel as though you have really accomplished something – which, of course, you have!


This has been a bit of a rambling blog. And well done if you’re still with me. You wanted to read about outdoor dining and so far all you’ve had is a psychology lesson. I hope though it has inspired you to look at landscape gardening in a different light.

Applying Maslows Theory to your own garden

Now I want you to think about your own outdoor dining experiences in your own garden. Do they fulfull Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? Does your outdoor dining space make you feel good every time you use it? Is it somewhere you feel safe? Comfortable? Proud of your surroundings and how you’ve improved them? No?

Maybe it’s time to do something about it?

Designing a space for outdoor dining

Reasons to have your outdoor dining area built by a professional landscaper


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