Monday, 23 May 2011

Moroccan Flavour to Outdoor Eating


WITH the prospect of balmy evenings returning, interior designer Jamie Hempsall considers an alternative for al fresco dining.

We Brits have embraced the idea of dining outdoors. However, it is often still in a formal fashion – the equivalent of taking your dining suite outside and sitting properly at the table.

Cultures that regularly experience hot evenings have a much more relaxed attitude to the whole situation, recognising that long evenings of happy chatting, drinking and dining can be better facilitated if revellers are totally laid back. So why not throw caution to the wind and embrace a bit of Eastern culture? Forego the table, forget the chairs and instead look to lounge in comfort.

This season sees an array of Moroccan inspired outdoor offerings which are perfect for creating your ideal dining experience. Think picnic with a twist and you are half way there.

Base everything around a central carpet area where you can put out your food and drink. Kilims are purpose built for this; they are incredibly hardwearing and fold up easily so that you can store them in a relatively small space. Specialist rug sellers often have them at reasonable prices and ebay usually have a good selection available (remember to check the size of the rug you are buying).

You might also want to consider the likes of the Acapulco Picnic Mat which is made from recycled plastic and fashioned to look like a traditional rug. It may not be as comfortable as a kilim, but is incredibly practical and the price point makes it a worthwhile alternative. (£19.95 in a variety of colours from – 0208 746 2473).

Surround the edges of your carpet with masses of cushions and Moroccan pouffes. The more the merrier is the name of the game – think of falling back into a generous pile of cushions, rather than balancing precariously on one. Homesense have faux leather Moroccan inspired pouffes for those who would prefer something more upright (from £19.99; – 01923 473000 - see main picture).

To light up your evening forget patio lights and opt instead for the gentle glow of candlelight. Moroccan style glass lanterns are perfect for countering our rather windy weather. Tesco has wonderful white lanterns with coloured glass at £11 each ( – 0800 505555), while Homesense claim that they will be selling the biggest range of Moroccan lanterns on the high street this summer with prices from £14.99. Add intimate lighting around the dishes of your feast with an assortment of tea lights in patterned holders which will cast exotic shadows.

Two of my favourites are the Etched Glass Candle Holder finished in silver (£4; – 0560 311 3405) and Bangle Tealights fashioned from recycled Indian Bangles (also £4; – 01432 274805).


DRESS your area with earthenware pots and vases to create a rustic Bedouin atmosphere and serve dates and mint or apple tea poured from a coffee pot into small glasses for an exotic after dinner digestive (the set here were purchased in the Souk at Marrakech).

To ensure that you can enjoy lounging until late invest in a firepit which you can keep close by and then regroup your cushions around to end the evening in a warm and welcoming glow.

Jamie Hempsall, BIID, is an award-winning interior designer. Visit him at or call 0800 032 1180

This article was originally published in the Yorkshire Post on Weds 18th May 2011

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