With Wimbledon commencing thoughts have to be turning to strawberries, cream and Outdoor dining, interior designer Jamie Hempsall creates the perfect environment.
When it comes to the summer, we Brits are a hardy lot and venture out when many would be tucked up indoors. The secret to our adaptability has got to be jolly thick skin and a great deal of preparation so we can drop everything and create an outdoor spectacle at a moment’s notice.
With this in mind, I thought it would be good to look at some options to create the perfect setting for a summer picnic (even if it does end up having to be taken on the sitting room floor!). So here goes…
No picnic worth it’s salt looks right without an attractive rug as its centrepiece. For convenience opt for a rug with an integrated ground sheet, however I have found the majority of these have very traditional designs. If you visit your local camping specialist you can get a relatively cheap ground sheet to go under your rug or throw which enables you to use anything you fancy and opens you up to a world of design opportunity.
When it comes to seating avoid scatter cushions an opt for thicker cushions made specifically for sitting on the ground such as the Ellora Floor Cushion from Oscar & Eve (£44.95; www.oscarandeve.co.uk – 0208 993 7639). These are also ideal to take to summer concerts to avoid the chill setting in.
However, if you want something a bit more Mad Hatter, then the UK designed Tea Cup Stool originally inspired by Alice in Wonderland is definitely the one for you. It stands 41cm high (at 5kg in weight is probably one for the garden, rather than a trip out). It is made from PVC and comes in six different colours, so you can create a multi-colour harlequinade of seating (£140; www.great-british-designs.co.uk – 0800 148 8307)
Tea Cup Stool from Great British Designs
I have to say that my choice of eating dishes depends entirely upon location. If I am holding a garden picnic then I revel in the opportunity of using vintage china. We are not talking fine family heirlooms here, this is an area where a good Charity or Junk Shop rummage can lead to wonderful assortment of fine china with florals and light patterns, maybe even a bit of gold detailing, for a very minimal price. You can have great fun putting together an eclectic set and will not need to worry if anything gets broken given the price points. Combine this with low, wide flat-based tumblers (whatever your tipple) as these are less likely to fall over.
If your trip is going to take you to the great outdoors, then I would opt for enamel mugs, plates and bowls. They are lightweight, durable and very easy to transport. Your local camping shop should be able to help you or you can head over to Baker & Bell to sample their range of traditional designs starting at £3 for a dinner plate (www.bakerandbell.com – 01962 841100).
Enamel mugs and teapot from Baker & Bell
As the evening draws in a tea-light in a Rose’s Lime Marmalade Jar makes a lovely, homely mini-lantern. However if you desire something sparklier then you might want to opt for a beautiful patterned glass lantern. The etched opaque glass design shown adds shimmer and makes for perfect romantic evening lighting – ideal for a summer proposal! (From £16.96; www.tellingtales.co.uk – 0844 800 9891).
Patterned glass lantern from Tellingtales
We would not be British though if we did not hope for the best, but plan for the worst. So whatever your outdoor plans, you may want to ensure that you have some sort of rain (or sun) shade close to hand. A particularly stylish option is the Portable Pyramid Ivory Shade Sail Kit. The beautifully different design is more gazebo than tent and packs away neatly into a handy carry bag (£129.95 – www.primrose.co.uk – 01189 035210).
Portable Pyramid Ivory Shade Sail Kit from Primrose
Flying The Flag With Pure Wool
My favourite throw this season is from renowned hand-embroidery designer Jan Constantine. She is famous for her patriotic designs and has collaborated with Pimms, the drinks company synonymous with summer, to create a Union Flag based design in pure wool, which features a rather delicious looking strawberry and the company’s logo. It would be difficult to get any more quintessentially British than this combination.
Much like the availability of sun this year, the limited edition appliqued wool throw will only be available for a very short time (£200; www.janconstantine.com – 01270 821 194).
Limited edition Pimm’s Throw by Jan Constantine
Jamie Hempsall is a multi-award winning interior designer.