How to stay warm when dining outside - 9 tips for dining al fresco on chilly summer nights, according to experts

Keep the party going after sundown with these expert tricks for staying warm outside

Decorated dining table and chairs on patio area outside of house
(Image credit: Future PLC/Emma Lee)

As the days get shorter and the nights get longer, knowing how to stay warm when dining outside is something that will especially come in handy to make the most of your time spent outdoors this summer and keep the party going – even after sundown.

We don't know about you, but just a glimpse of the sun is enough for us to start thinking about the many outdoor dining ideas we can't wait to flesh out come summertime.

While it's easy enough to stay motivated to bask in the sun dining al fresco during the daytime, we're only willing to do it all the way to the later chillier hours of the night with the right cosy garden setup. Luckily, there are a lot of simple ways to enjoy your garden for longer despite a drop in temperature.

Outdoor dining area with plants and set tablemats, white painted garden fence with blue embellishments

(Image credit: Future PLC/Chris Snook)

How to stay warm when dining outside

There are many ways you can implement methods of staying warm when dining outside, which can encompass everything from investing in one of the best patio heaters to adding warmth by incorporating a couple of clever patio decor ideas that double in style and function. However, apart from the usual outdoor heating ideas, what options do you have?

We asked experts for their best tried and true methods of staying warm when dining outside – and here are the top 9 tips to consider adding to your outdoor space, to make the absolute most of this well-anticipated British summer.

1. Cosy up with soft furnishings

Outdoor seating area on patio decorated with plants and throws

(Image credit: Future PLC/Susie Lowe)

This is probably one of the oldest tricks in the book for staying warm when dining outdoors, but it's stayed that way for a reason. Not only is it an affordable way to decorate a garden and spruce up the look of a dated space, but it's guaranteed to keep you and your guests cosy in the evening summer chill.

'Soft furnishings, like blankets and cushions, are the perfect way to add both style and comfort to your outdoor space. Blankets offer the perfect amount of warmth when dining outdoors on chilly evenings and they are far more budget-friendly than an outdoor heater. Plus they provide the perfect opportunity to incorporate a touch of personality into your garden using different colours, patterns and textures,' agrees Tom Clifford, garden design expert at Gardenstone.

2. Layer outdoor rugs

A sheltered outdoor seating area on a decking terrace with a wicker chair, coffee table and ottoman with straw hat on a cushion with zigzag patterns

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

Similar to the last point, we love an outdoor rug as much as the next person as a core accessory for a cohesive outdoor living room idea that also delivers on amping up the cosy factor.

Explaining further, Sue Jones, co-founder and creative director at OKA says, 'One of my favourite ways to help an outdoor space feel cosy and bring a layer of warmth is to add an outdoor rug under your dining table or your garden sofa – it will keep the cold of the patio away from your toes.'

3. Zone off your dining area

Decking area with outdoor dining table and chairs laid for breakfast with a palm tree in the foreground

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Another great way to stay warm when dining outside is to strategically place your patio furniture in a way that creates a barrier against the elements.

'Cleverly placed outdoor rugs, fencing, and furniture is a great way to zone off the dining area from the rest of the outside and help to create a cosy barrier from the wider outdoors, while also preventing any gusts of wind,' says Rikke Blaeside, design and range manager at JYSK.

4. Surround the area with appropriate shelter

Black pergola with strings of light bulbs, sofa with cushions, rug and table with plants in pots

(Image credit: Future PLC/Joanna Henderson)

This tip goes hand in hand with zoning areas in your outdoor space, but if you've had your eye on implementing some garden structures, consider this the perfect time to do so. For example, Tom suggests looking into pergolas as a stylish yet practical shelter that will offer protection and a touch of luxury to your space.

However, even if you choose to build your own pergola, it can still be a bit expensive to achieve. For an alternative affordable shelter option, Tom suggests planting hedges or tall trees to trap heat and add greenery to your outdoor space.

Better yet, adding the likes of fast-growing hedges or fast-growing privacy trees will also double as a nifty garden screening solution to increase privacy in your garden – which is a win-win.

5. Dress up a pergola

White curtain draped over timber structure with striped garden loungers

(Image credit: Future PLC/Tim Young)

Following the last point, if you've already got a pergola in need of a revamp for the summer, this tip is great for a garden refresh as well as keeping you cosy in the evening.

'For those with a pergola, design an attractive focal point by draping fabric over the beams to create an intimate dining area. By framing the space, you can accentuate the beauty of your carefully chosen furniture and meticulous matching accessories such as glassware, ceramics, cushions and even throws for chilly nights,' advises Caron Grant, brand manager at Bridgman.

5. Be intentional with lighting

Decorated dining table and chairs on patio area outside of house

(Image credit: Future PLC/Emma Lee)

It's a given that one of the easiest ways to make an outdoor dining area feel cosier is to be intentional with your garden lighting ideas – and opting for solutions that not only illuminate but also add actual warmth is super attainable.

That said, simply opting for candles as a centrepiece to your outdoor dining table is really easy to add. Chiming in, Sue even recommends scattering in 'plenty of hurricane lanterns lit with candles as they'll provide warmth as well as a flattering glow'.

6. Dine around a firepit

Patio area with built in seating, plants in the raised bed behind

(Image credit: Future PLC)

We think some of the most memorable summer memories are those where you're sat curled up around a fire at night – so why not consider investing in one of the best firepits to relax and dine around as often as you please?

'It's a simple addition that brings warmth and atmosphere, perfect for gathering around with loved ones on chilly evenings,' assures Charlie Alexander, founder of Oxenwood.

'When choosing a firepit, prioritise durability. Look for options made from tough materials like steel, iron, or stone, ensuring they'll last and keep everyone safe. Pay close attention to stability, especially around the base.'

7. Up the ante with a firepit grill

Garden terrace area, with patterned paving, firepit and outdoor lighting, bamboo and foliage plants, garden chair and table

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

If you're dining al fresco this summer, chances are you've got your best BBQ rearing to be set up for a delicious cookout in a gorgeous outdoor kitchen connected to your dining area.

However, with multi-functionality and versatility being one of the most notable garden trends lately, why not make your firepit purchase worthwhile by doubling it up as a grill?

'Opt for a design with carry handles on each side for easy transportation to any party and ones with a stainless-steel grill, which simply clips onto the outer bowl, so you can barbecue in style too. Make sure to take care and only move the firepit when it is not in use however and has completely cooled down after use,' cautions Victoria Fletcher, senior buyer at Garden Trading.

8. Go rustic with a wood burner or chimenea

Garden deck chair, gravel surface, outdoors furnace heater

(Image credit: Future PLC/Jonathon Jones)

As far as traditional garden heating solutions go, a wood burner or chimenea is the perfect little alternative for usual firepit ideas if you want to hone in on the cosy, rustic vibes in your outdoor dining area.

'An outdoor garden heather in the design of a classic wood burner is a great way to achieve a cosy ambience and timeless style, bringing the indoors, outdoors. Alternatively, a more affordable solution is adding a chimenea to inject distinct character and rusticity into the garden,' says Jon Butterworth, director at Arada Stoves.

9. Invest in a patio heater

Patio heater on decking

(Image credit: Getty Images)

We already lightly touched on this earlier, but of course, you can't go wrong with investing in a patio heater to stay warm when dining outside. So long as you avoid the worst places to put a patio heater in your outdoor space, you're pretty much covered with how flexible this purchase is.

'Patio heaters typically use infrared technology to emit heat in waves, completely bypassing the air, which means warmth isn't lost easily,' explains Stephen Hankinson, energy efficiency expert at Electric Radiators Direct. This makes them great for those late summer nights cosied up in the garden.

Patio heaters come as both freestanding options for portability (which yes, you can put on patio decking) or for a more permanent solution, you can hardwire a heater to the mains and mount it to the exterior of your home so it's always on hand when you need it.


How can I keep warm outside at night?

There are multiple ways you can keep warm outside at night, especially when dining outside.

'To create the ultimate alfresco dining space, use furniture and accessories that are not traditionally associated with outdoors, such as soft furnishings and décor items. Then consider adding a warm throw for when the night gets chilly, a soft cushion for comfiness and a fringed tablecloth on the table for added texture,' suggests Rikke Blaeside at JYSK.

'Opt for using lights or candles in a warm tone help to create a warm, inviting atmosphere in a usually cooler environment.'

What temperature is warm enough to sit outside?

To be honest, this is something that completely depends on the person as some have more of a tolerance for the outdoors than others.

Considering the ideal room temperature sits between 18°C to 21°C, you can probably take that as a good foundation to test the waters for outdoor dining.

However, with the right clothing, garden design, and location in the sun, you could get away with sitting outside at around 16°C (and even lower with the appropriate heating measures in place).

Having combined all these ways to stay warm when dining outside, you should hopefully be able to extend the period you spend outdoors and truly make the most of the long-awaited summer ahead.

Jullia Joson
Junior Writer

Jullia Joson is a Junior Writer at Ideal Home. She's always loved all things homes and interiors, graduating with a bachelor's degree in Architectural Studies from the University of Nottingham where her love for journalism blossomed following her internship at ArchDaily. Now focused on home tech, Jullia works on writing features and explainers to help people make the most of their home appliance investments. When she isn't writing, she loves exploring the city, coffee shop hopping, and losing hours to a cosy game.