How can I make my outdoor dining area look more expensive? 5 ideas you always see in the most elevated backyards

Dining alfresco doesn't have to mean roughing it outdoors - the best outside eating spaces are refined and elegant, and this is how designers create them

An outdoor dining room with mood lighting
(Image credit: Jaque Studio. Photo credit Cesar Bejar)

Whether you have a sprawling garden with expansive acreage, or small exterior spots that allow for outdoor socializing, any area can be made to look luxurious with a few design tricks. If you love to host friends and family, give your outdoor dining some love, and make it as high-end as your interiors. 

We spoke to top designers to help us out with it and they offered up their design tricks that can transform backyard dining into a refined experience. 

1. Create a lush landscape around it

An outdoor space with lush landscaping

(Image credit: Reid Rolls. Studio credit BHDM Design)

One of the easiest and most effective ways to make an outdoor space instantly stand out is with a carefully planned landscaping ideas. Tall, impressive, shade-giving trees, a carpet of greenery, vivid flowers, and more can add to your home's curb appeal.

'Our home renovation project focused on the outdoors, with a new patio, and landscaping,' says Dan Mazzarini, creative director and principal of BHDM Design. 'Having lived through all the above, I can tell you that the landscaping was the most instantly-gratifying part of the project – a carpet of grass overnight. Our insta-patio and yard were set almost immediately with an outdoor dining table for lunches and dinners, and our little front porch was the sight of many morning coffees, while we watched boats leave the nearby marina.'

The effect is lush and full, and though using a simple palette of materials and colors, it clearly makes for an elevated yard. 

2. Install recessed lighting to create a mood

An outdoor dining with recessed lighting

(Image credit: Jaque Studio. Photo credit Cesar Bejar)

Elevate your outdoor dining area with recessed, mood lights that create an inviting, dreamy vibe, and throw a gentle glow around the area, making it feel luxe. 

'This outdoor dining space was initially designed as the main hallway, which connects the entire house,' says Jesus G Acosta Martinez, founder of Jaque Studio. 'At the same time, it also serves as a large terrace, reminiscent of Mexican haciendas and country houses where this type of space typically functions as an outdoor living or dining area. The corridor of the house becomes an extension of each of the interior spaces it connects, such as bedrooms, dining areas, and living areas. To illuminate it, we added warm ground lights to the base of each column on the terrace to emphasize the rhythm of the veranda. It is also complemented by the indoor light that extends to the terrace through the glass doors.'

Mood lighting apart, 'different types of lighting can help with making an outdoor space look more luxe,' says Linda Hayslett of LH.Designs. 'But, having different heights and sizes of lighting such as hurricanes with flameless candles that are at ground level, on countertops, and outdoor tables can set the mood and ambiance for the outdoors. If you're able to also have sconces hardwired during construction, then having stylish wall-mounted lighting can make a difference as well. Just like indoors, you want to set a mood and the type of lighting really can help that out.'

3. Combine with an outdoor kitchen

An outdoor dining with a grill next to it

(Image credit: NOVA)

An outdoor kitchen will not only add functional value to your exteriors and make dinner time more convenient, but smart, high-end grills are also a status symbol. 

While setting up one next to your outdoor dining, consider keeping it at least a few feet from the home exterior, so the smoke doesn't collect near the door. 'Similarly, keep hedging away from the back of the grill so that the heat doesn’t harm the hedges,' say Kate Anne Gross and Ryan Gross, founders of Kate Anne Designs. Make sure you choose the right materials for the countertop for the grill, as there should be a balance between using natural materials which are beautiful but inherently stain-prone and man-made materials such as porcelain slabs which can be more elegant and stain resistant yet pricier.

'We always recommend that you order stainless steel sleeves along with their appliances for a cleaner look,' say Kate and Ryan. 'If you live anywhere near the coast we recommend marine-grade appliances.' These tricks will keep your outdoor kitchen looking its very best for longer. 

4. Choose an eye-catching table shape 

An outdoor dining with oval table

(Image credit: YSG Studio)

Experimenting with different shapes and colors is a big outdoor furniture trend, where this space has been traditionally been starved of good, forward-thinking design. 

As opposed to interiors that generally have a more formal and curated look, the outdoors can be more experimental and fun. One great way to bring in a unique flavor is with an oval outdoor dining table.

These pieces without sharp edges give the space a soft and welcoming look and instantly elevate any outdoor space. Their shape also makes it easier for them to adapt to different areas and design combinations. Consider a plush tabletop in marble, quartz, or natural stone, and watch how your outdoor is transformed.

Concrete Outdoor Dining Table, Wayfair
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Concrete Outdoor Dining Table, Wayfair

Bring in this artistically-crafted round base and hand-poured top to decorate and elevate your outdoor seating.

5. Make casual dining more luxe

An outdoor dining with kitchen and livign room

(Image credit: Justin Miers Photography. Studio credit Bockus Payne)

Luxurious dining doesn't have to mean a dining table, and a well-equipped outdoor kitchen or garden bar can be just as effective. The secret? Investing in the best outdoor bar stools that are comfortable enough for extended periods, like these upholstered designs in this Oklahoma backyard. 

'Outdoor living spaces are popular in Oklahoma because all four seasons give us days in which the weather is conducive to enjoying the great outdoors,' says Bruce Bockus, AIA, LEED AP, Chairman & Architect at Bockus Payne. 'The owners of this home took outdoor living to a whole new level. The outdoor kitchen includes a covering for shade and a range of versatile seating and dining options. Entertaining and cooking are an artform at this home and the space is enjoyed all year long as a natural extension of the residence.' 

Design Editor

Aditi Sharma Maheshwari is the Design Editor at Livingetc. She is an architecture and design journalist with over 10 years of experience. She's worked at some of the leading media houses in India such as Elle Decor, Houzz and Architectural Digest (Condé Nast). Till recently, she was a freelance writer for publications such as Architectural Digest US, House Beautiful, Stir World, Beautiful Homes India among others. In her spare time, she volunteers at animal shelters and other rescue organizations.