7 simple ways to create a Scandi-style retreat in your outdoor space

Whether it’s secrets to living a happier life or how to create a cosy, minimalist aesthetic in our homes, our love affair with all things Scandinavian has certainly picked up momentum in recent years.

Looking to refresh your garden or balcony? Why not consider tapping into a pared-back Scandinavian style. Our outdoor spaces have become much-needed places of refuge as of late, so now is the perfect time to transform yours.


‘In Sweden, we spend a lot of time outdoors. Especially in summer, when daylight hours are longer, and evenings are warmer,’ says Catharina Björkman, lifestyle expert at Contura. ‘There are numerous benefits to being out in the fresh air, and by creating a secluded outside retreat you can immerse yourself in nature whilst still enjoying the comfort of your own private space.’

But there are some key considerations to make. ‘Treat your secluded spot as a digital-free zone and as somewhere to relax and de-stress away from gadgets and screens; this is crucial to boost happiness and wellbeing,’ Catharina explains. ‘For the design, look to Scandi interior inspiration and embrace the principles of lagom for a sense of balance. Think minimalist furniture, plants, faux-fur throws, bunting and soft lighting.’

Get some inspiration below…

1. Choose your spot outside

Scandinavian design is one that’s celebrated by many, thanks to its inviting, calm and simplistic feel. To get started on transforming your space, choose which area outside you want to work on (if you can, opt for a spot that catches the sun). Next, define the space using seating, flooring, cushions and large outdoor plant pots.

7 simple ways to create a Scandi-style retreat in your outdoor space

Catharina adds: ‘If you are using a wall or garden fence, you could add artwork (metal or stone is best to withstand the elements) to further enhance the feeling of an extra room. Don’t forget to add some form of shade for hot days; a canvas awning or sail shade are inexpensive, yet stylish options.’

2. Patio or paved areas

If you are lucky enough to have a patio or raised decking area, make the most of it. Choose a corner to place cosy cushions, warm throws, fairy lights, garden hammocks or lanterns to easily transform it into a charming seating area.

Remember, with Scandinavian design, minimalism is key; don’t go overboard with accessories but also don’t be afraid to experiment with textures and neutral colours.

Alternatively, if you have a smaller garden without a patio, you can create your own seating area using cost-effective pallets or wooden crates. These can be purchased from hardware stores and some online garden retailers.

7 simple ways to create a Scandi-style retreat in your outdoor space

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3. Transform your shed

Got a shed in need of some TLC? ‘The humble garden shed can be easily updated to create a Scandi retreat, but this does mean you can’t use the shed for storage,’ says Catharina.

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If you want to transform yours, first give it a good deep clean to get rid of dirt, dust and cobwebs. Next, paint the walls in a light natural colour, then hang bunting (this can be purchased online or easily made yourself using excess fabric). Fairy lights, cushions, blankets and throws will create a cosy atmosphere, too. The only problem would be having to come back inside at the end of the day…

4. Upcycle old furniture

If you’re on the hunt for a creative project then why not upcycle second-hand or tired-looking furniture? You don’t have to spend money on new items to achieve the shabby-chic Scandi look in your garden.

‘Wooden crates make excellent coffee tables, sand down and repaint any old garden furniture, and look for second-hand decorative items such as lanterns or rugs,’ suggests Catharina. ‘You could make your own bunting and soft furnishings (such as cushions and throws) and design your own artwork if you’re a keen crafter.’

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5. Lighting

Hang fairy lights or festoon lighting around your seating area to create a welcoming atmosphere. Instead of harsh bright lights, opt for a softer, warmer hue (such as yellow lighting).

Catharina adds: ‘Add candles to the table and choose an array of candle sizes and styles, avoiding anything too matchy-matchy. You can also get outdoor solar-powered fairy lights, which come on automatically when it gets dark and will glow for several hours.’

7 simple ways to create a Scandi-style retreat in your outdoor space

Shop decorative outdoor lights at Lights4Fun


6. Incorporating natural textures

Much of Scandinavian design is inspired by nature, Nordic forests and the sprawling green spaces they have around them. When creating your own Scandi retreat, incorporate natural textures such as rattan, wicker furniture, cotton, stone, leather, linen and faux-fur throws. Keep the colour palette cool and calm: white, greys and soft hues of beige will tick all the right Scandi boxes.

7 simple ways to create a Scandi-style retreat in your outdoor space

7. Update your balcony

If you’re a city-dweller with a balcony then why not transform your space with fairy lights, a small bistro table, plants and delightfully soft cushions.

Catharina suggests: ‘Get creative with how you style your plants; an old step ladder can provide great shelving to display plants in a stylish way, for example. You can also grow culinary herbs (rosemary, mint and sage) on a sunny balcony in zinc pots, which look decorative and are useful for cooking.’

Grab a book and while away a lazy Sunday afternoon…

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20 garden bistro sets perfect for alfresco dining (and a spot of relaxing)

Best wooden bistro set

Roma bistro set

Best compact outdoor bistro set

Tice Garden Compact Bistro Set, Green

Perfect for urban spaces, we love the soft, rounded design of this garden bistro set, and the chairs tuck perfectly underneath the table when it’s not in use. It’s perfect for compact spaces, especially a balcony or small patio, and is available in several colours including green, chartreuse, grey and teal.

Best contemporary bistro set

Outdoor Bistro Set – White

Crafted from FSC certified teak, the chairs are topped with a plastic seat and back rest, while the table boasts a timeless slatted design. The white colourway makes it ideal for a contemporary garden. 

Best sustainable bistro set

Duraocean Bistro Set

This hard-wearing, fully recyclable and stylish garden bistro set is perfect for the eco-conscious shopper, and it’s a great sustainable buy. The chairs are made with 100% recycled plastics from marine debris, and the table is made from FSC approved Eucalyptus.

Most relaxing garden bistro set

Aruba 3 Piece Bistro Rocker Set

This is a bistro set with a difference! These rocking chairs are made for relaxing, and sipping on a drink or two. The set includes two rockers and a matching table, with tempered glass top. 

Best mosaic bistro set

Morocco Garden Bistro Table & Chairs Set

Enjoy alfresco dining with this Moroccan-inspired bistro set. With an intricate tile detailing, soft padded cushions and powder-coated steel frames, this weather-resistant style is great for adding some character to your garden. 

Best holiday-inspired bistro set

Garden Gear Leon String Bistro Set

thompson & morgan


Relax in style with Thompson and Morgan’s modern bistro set. The chairs have been inspired by 1950s Mexican furniture and aims to be as comfortable as possible. 

Best bar bistro set

vidaXL 3 Piece Bistro Set Solid Acacia Wood

This outdoor bar bistro set is perfect for enjoying drinks and a quick bite to eat. With a high-quality acacia wood construction and a natural oil finish, this durable bar set is weatherproof and easy to clean. The tabletop even has a parasol hole if you want some shade when the sun’s out.

Best bistro set for a balcony

2 Seater Balcony Bistro Set

We love this space-saving bistro set for a balconies, which is perfect for those of us who live in the city. Both the table and the chairs fold away easily, so you won’t have to worry about it taking up too much space. 

Rustic garden bistro set

Cabo bistro set

Gardens are a place of refuge, so it’s important we make them as inviting as we can. We love this rustic-style bistro set from Cox & Cox which has been hand-woven with a unique synthetic roped weave. It has also been made from rust and weather-resistant materials, so it’s suitable for the outdoors all year around. 

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Best bistro set for the family

4-Seater Bistro Set

Easy to clean bistro set

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vidaXL 3 Piece Folding Bistro Set Plastic Green

Made of durable plastic, this bistro set is weather resistant and easy to clean too. The table and the chairs can be folded and stored when not in use.

Best budget bistro set

Helsinki Bronze Bistro Set

Keep it simple with this stylish bronze bistro set, perfect for any size garden. The chairs are foldable too.

Best foldable bistro set

Eve 2 Seater Bar Bistro Set – Sage

Looking for a bar style bistro set? This 2-seater from Argos is a great budget buy. Slimline and made from durable metal, the high table and chairs fold down easily and simply for storage.

Most stylish garden bistro set

Faro Bistro Set in Grey

On the hunt for a more modern style? This smart grey set from Cox & Cox features two comfortable chairs and a small round table for for drinks. It’s also available in blue, too. 

Indoor/outdoor bistro set

Pack of New Acapulco Chairs (x2) & Table (x1)

Available in a range of bright colours and with a metallic iron structure, this bistro set combines design and comfort and can be used outdoors. Store away safely during winter.

Best rattan bistro set

Tara Natural rattan side table and two chairs set

If you’re looking for a modern rattan style, then this bistro set is worth the investment. Both the table and chairs are made from synthetic rattan, which means they can be left outside all year round. We love the unique Insta-worthy round table, too. 

Slimline outdoor bistro set

Georgia FSC Eucalyptus Wooden Bistro Set

Slender bistro set

Cote Bistro Set

With slender, hand painted grey frames and a decorative curled finish at each arm, this garden bistro set is rather charming. The granite topped table adds an elegant touch, while the chairs are topped with grey water repellent cushions.

Best metal bistro set

Folding Metal Bistro Set Orange

This foldaway bistro set in vibrant orange is brilliant if you want to add a pop of colour to your garden. Best of all, it’s lightweight and is easy to store away when not in use.

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