How to bring a festival atmosphere to your summer garden

Come summertime, it can feel as if almost every great country house or city park has been taken over by musicians and glitter-covered crowds. If you haven't scored your festival tickets – or simply are sitting this year out – why not bring the festival to you? We've gathered our at-home festival favourites, from fairy lights to speakers to giant tasseled tents so you can party on in style

We are well and truly into festival season, but for some of us the allure of live music and days of partying is cancelled out by the huge crowds, shared facilities and mandatory camping. So why not bring that festival back home and create a wonderland in your garden for entertaining friends and relaxing, far away from the madding crowd?

“Festivals are about creating a warm, comfortable destination outside with some luxuries that encourage you and your guests to linger and make the most of long summer evenings,” says garden designer Emily Erlam. Comfort is, of course, absolutely key but so too is an element of surprise to spark the party mood, whether it’s hidden seating, an outdoor bar or playful lighting. “I like to inject just as much colour and pattern in the garden as anywhere else in my home,” says designer Molly Mahon. “Pile the cushions high, use plenty of jaunty bunting and choose colour combinations that make your heart sing.” Interior designer Jo LeGleud of Maddux Creative suggests “creating zones with obvious purpose,” while making sure you have access to power where you need it. Once you’ve worked out the rough positions of where you'll want to sit, cook and be entertained with games or music, you can start to get creative.

Rugs and cushions

Lounging is very much part of the festival atmosphere, so plan to get as horizontal as possible for a laid-back feel. “Low level seating and rugs with cushions give a Moroccan vibe which is always quite fun, allowing people to mingle and move around rather than feel stuck in a chair. If you are in the countryside buy some hay bales from the local farmer for a rustic look,” says Emily. There are a host of outdoor rugs and cushions out there which are made from things like recycled bottles or polyester; these are great because they are water-resistant, mould-proof and washable but don’t feel you have to only use these. “I’m not precious about taking soft furnishings outside for a casual garden party,” says Molly, who recommends taking out handmade quilts “for when the sun goes down.” The secret here is more is more, so don't be afraid to layer up.

Chunky cotton pink rug
Molly Mahon
Peggy blue quilt
Molly Mahon
Nomad Atlas rug
Weaver Green
Coral Suzani cushion
East London Parasol Company
Courtyard Dianthus Outdoor Cushion
Andrew Martin
Outdoor Savine Cobalt Box Cushion
Designer's Guild
Printed seat mats
Graham and Green
Indoor Outdoor Beanbag Lounger
Cox & Cox

Rockers and hammocks

There is a reason that hippies and Keith Richards like hammocks; they are the ultimate place to just hang out. For those wanting to be more sociable but who also enjoy the rocking motion, look no further than ODD’s “Old Rocker” a charming, upholstered, swinging sofa which can be customised in array of different fabrics and finishes. This ticks the boxes of being cool and unbelievably comfortable. Tuck it away in a hidden nook to add a surprise factor or position it in a place where you can swing back and enjoy a view.

ODD Limited
'Organic' Yellow Double Hammock
Hammock Giant
Strawberry white garden hammock
Oliver Bonas
Artissanos, Colonial Navy Blue Cotton Hammock With Tassels
Wolf and Badger

Tents and parasols

Forget the trusty, polyester dome tent and invest in something a bit more decorative. Opt for beautiful linings, drapes, scalloping and flooring for the full effect. We love the Raj Tent Club’s collaboration with the V&A: make sure to check out the Pergola Tent with its beautiful chinoiserie lining. Fringed and lined parasols are another way of adding charm to the garden. Also, think about hitching a tasselled canopy or a spare curtain to some trees or a pergola for a more ad hoc shaded area.

2.8m Pergola Tent
Raj Tent Club
Tasseled Canopy
Cox & Cox
Riviera parasol
Raj Tent Club
Le Sireneuse – the premium beach umbrella
Business & Pleasure Co.
Cosima Round Bamboo Parasol
East London Parasol Company

Fire pits

“A fire pit provides warmth, a focal point, and a place for people to gather around,” says Jo. There is something primeval about gathering around a fire outside whether chatting, listening to music or toasting marshmallows. Some of them can be turned into barbecues by adding a steel grill, making them well worth the investment.

Yanartas Fire Pit
Arpe Studio
Outdoor brazier
Cox & Cox
Ivyline Norfolk Square Firepit Basket, Rust
John Lewis

Lighting and candles

Getting the lighting right is key for creating a festival feeling. “If you have garden lighting, turn it down and rely on non-electric light sources,” suggests Emily. Think about making a trail of tea lights in jam jars along a pathway and put hurricane lamps, coloured, novelty and scented candles in seating areas. “I’m always a fan of fairy lights and I'd emphasise how joyful a row of brightly coloured lightbulbs can be,” says Jo. Invest in some solar balloon style lanterns and hang clusters in trees, or arrange festoon lights on interspersed sticks above a long table to create a magical feel. Finally, throw in some citronella candles to avoid insect bites.

Festoon Outdoor Lights
3 Lucena Tassel Solar Lanterns
Citronelle candle
Crisco Disco Candle
Discothèque Fragrances
Large fireside lanter
The White Company
Colourful tea lights
Lex Pott Twist Fluo Candle Set


Even if you are lounging on cushions and rugs you’ll still need glasses and tableware. “Mismatching glasses add to the charm,” says Emily. Colour is of the essence here. If you don’t want to risk your precious plates this is the perfect opportunity to bring out a stylish picnic set or use stylish enamelware or more robust ceramics. If you are going to be sitting at a table use a tablecloth. “My busy person’s hack, for a magical garden set up, is to get the tablecloth to do most of the work - it really takes minimal effort to throw one over the garden table, and yet it delivers maximum visual impact,” says Molly. Then of course there is the important job of keeping the drinks cool. There are a host of options depending on what’s being served decide between terracotta wine coolers and galvanised steel drinks tubs to a wheelbarrows filled with ice or, if you're feeling showy, a capacious wine bucket in silver or shiny stainless steel.

Calendula Table Cloth
Molly Mahon
Jackie tumbler
Cabana Magazine
Paddle Grand Vodka Set & Paddle
LSA International
Set of 4 glazed earthenware plates
Large enamel serving dish
Falcon Enamelware
Enamel plate
Coloured glasses
Refound Objects
Betsy Sunflower Rectangle Wicker Picnic Basket
Coco and Wolf
Drinks Box Cooler with Interchangeable Straps
Pavel Red Marble Wine Cooler, Soho Home
Liberty London

Portable amps and speakers

For a festival vibe all summer long, invest in a good portable speaker. There are many different sizes and styles out there but what you want to make sure is the sound quality can get people dancing. To keep the party spirit alive, why not go with one that looks like a guitar amp or if you have a guitarist in tow get a portable amp and speaker combined. If going for a more vintage, magical feeling what not trail Ebay and thrift stores for an old gramophone even if just for aesthetic value. Now all you have to do is dance to the beat.

Stockwell II Portable Speaker
Marshall Headphones
Beosound A1, 2nd Generation
Bang & Olufsen
Weatherproof Amp & Outdoor Speaker Set