With the first glimpses of spring suggesting warmer months ahead, you may find yourself dreaming about days spent lounging in the garden, dining alfresco and entertaining outdoors until the sun goes down.

To help you make the most of the good weather, Victoria Jackson, furniture buying director at Norfolk's Aldiss department store, shares her advice on how to create a stylish and functional outdoor seating area.

What types of garden furniture are available?

Outdoor furniture can transform even the most uninspiring patio or decking area, but with so much choice on offer – from wood and wicker to metal and plastic – it's difficult to know which to go for. “When choosing a material for your furniture, it’s mostly down to personal preference and what suits your garden,” says Victoria. “Generally speaking, you get what you pay for – if you purchase a good quality set, it should stand the test of time.”

Victoria advises to shop with care and look for pieces that are durable, low maintenance and ideally, can be left outside year-round (though it’s worth investing in a furniture cover for the winter, she says). “Most garden furniture sets come in a range of sizes and uses, so you don’t have to compromise on style for the sake of practicality,” she adds.

What’s trending in garden furniture?

Now we're all spending more time at home for work and leisure, gardens have become extensions of our indoor living areas where we can relax and spend quality time with friends and family. “Recently, we’ve seen a big trend towards corner garden sofas and coffee tables to create sociable outdoor living areas, perfect for entertaining guests,” says Victoria.

One of the best-selling garden sets at Aldiss is the rattan style Ciara corner dining furniture, which comes with either a luxurious fire pit or you can choose the adjustable height table option. “Rattan look garden furniture is a favourite style, but functionality is equally important,” says Victoria. “The built-in fire pit allows you to spend more time outside, while the adjustable height table option allows you to effortlessly switch from dining to lounging.”

Victoria adds that sustainability is on people’s radar more than ever, with eco-friendly furniture growing in popularity. “At Aldiss we stock a range of environmentally-friendly garden furniture, including the DuraOcean bistro set, which is made from 100 per cent recycled plastics recovered from the ocean.”

What outdoor furniture should you buy?

When choosing furniture for your garden, Victoria suggests considering the space you have available and how you use it. “If you have a spacious garden and regularly host friends and family, a large garden table and chairs or a corner dining set are ideal for alfresco meals and gatherings,” she says. “If you have a small outdoor area or balcony, or prefer a more intimate dining setting, go for a four-seater table or garden bistro set.”

It’s not all about outdoor dining and entertaining though. Our gardens can also be a peaceful retreat – somewhere to kick-back with a good book or spend a lazy afternoon soaking up the summer sun. “You can create a quiet corner for relaxing with a Skylar lounge set or a choice of sun loungers and a side table for drinks,” suggests Victoria.

To finish the look, accessorise your patio furniture with outdoor cushions, garden lights and a parasol to provide shade from the sun. Storage boxes can also be useful for keeping your cushions, covers and throws in when not in use.

When is the best time to buy garden furniture?

While most people wait until the warmer weather to go garden furniture shopping, Victoria recommends starting your search now. “It’s a good idea to get your garden seating ordered before stocks start selling out towards the summer,” she advises.

“Garden furniture and accessories have been in high demand over recent years, and there are no signs of that slowing down – ordering now means you’ll have a wider choice and are more likely to get the set you want.”

To browse the full range of garden furniture and accessories from Aldiss, go to aliss.com or pop into their stores in Norwich and Fakenham.

Read more at aldiss.com/article/205-5-things-to-consider-when-buying-garden-furniture.