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Summer is a time for tables to really come into their own, and you can do so much better than dragging a hardwood dining table and straight-backed chairs into the garden when you want to indulge in some al fresco dining. 

Here are five ideas of how you can put the right furniture to good use outdoors, whether you want to make a fairly formal outdoor food area, or a casual platform to keep items well clear of the ground.

1. Picnic prep

Just because you're going for a picnic, it doesn't mean you can't take a table and chairs.

Folding chairs are an ever-popular option when you need to fit a few into your boot, while our folding tables include our amazingly space-saving six-foot folding plastic table, which has the option of a folding top that collapses down to just three feet.

With these, you can cater for larger groups - including older relatives who need a proper chair to sit on - while also giving you plenty of table top space to put the food, and shade underneath to keep drinks cool.

Useful links to our relevant product pages:

https://www.trentfurniture.co.uk/products/all-chairs/folding-chair-557
https://www.trentfurniture.co.uk/products/all-tables/white-plastic-folding-table-593

2. BBQ buffets

Again, give some thought to who will be attending your barbecue. If you need to cater for vegetarians, for instance, you might want to choose a larger table, like our 6-foot plywood folding table, and set out some snacks that are kept well clear of the meat.

You can add a 3-foot folding table as a staging area for the raw meat, so it's kept to one side well away from the cooked food, while using the larger table as a counter top to put out the food as it's cooked and ready.

Useful links to our relevant product pages:

https://www.trentfurniture.co.uk/products/all-tables/6-american-style-trestle-folding-table-97
https://www.trentfurniture.co.uk/products/all-tables/3-american-style-trestle-table-602

3. Camping in comfort

It's useful to check what facilities are available on the campsite before you set off - you never know if they might have picnic tables, for example.

You might still want to pack some folding chairs if you want to make certain of having enough seats, as it can be awkward when some people have somewhere to sit, while others are cross-legged on the floor.

For ultimate portability, pack some of our banquet seat pads, which you can attach to any suitable seat using the Velcro straps, or just use as a cushion in their own right for a padded place to sit at short notice.

In this way, you can take a cushion for everyone in your party, while taking up the bare minimum of space in your car boot or in your rucksacks - which leaves more room to take some outdoor games like cricket or tennis to enjoy in the summer sunshine!

Useful links to our relevant product pages:

- https://www.trentfurniture.co.uk/products/all-chairs/banquet-seat-pad-505

4. Brunch on the beach

Beach trips can be surprisingly furniture-friendly, as unlike most rough outdoor ground, you can always get a table level on sand - just push each leg down into the sand a little to level it out, and use a cup of water as a makeshift spirit level if needed.

We've already mentioned our folding tables, but if you have a bit more space - in the back of a mobile home or a van, for instance - why not pack one of our Strassa outdoor tables?

The spiral legs are easy to level out on sand and as an outdoor table, it's designed to withstand the elements when used in the open air.

Many of our outdoor chairs are space-conscious too, so again, if you're travelling in a van you might find you have room to pack a few stacking chairs, or you can opt for folding chairs again instead.

Again outdoor chairs are designed to resist all kinds of substances, so you don't have to worry so much about getting sunscreen on them - and you can always throw a towel over them if you prefer to shield them against any sun cream transference.

Useful links to our relevant product pages:

- https://www.trentfurniture.co.uk/products/all-tables/outdoor-tables/1
- https://www.trentfurniture.co.uk/products/all-outdoor-furniture/outdoor-chairs/1

5. Summer of sport

Last but not least, the summer of 2018 is a big one for sport, with early July bringing Wimbledon, the British Grand Prix and the Football World Cup from Russia too.

If you're planning to attend any outdoor sporting events where seating isn't provided as standard, our M Stools are a stylish and lightweight option with an attractive light oak finish, for an instant seat wherever you need it.

They're pretty portable too, so if you and your friends are taking it in turns to host on match days, it's easy to transport your stools to wherever they are needed - you might want to each represent a World Cup host city, for instance, before choosing the best location overall for the big party on grand final day.

Folding tables are a storage-friendly stalwart of wedding buffets and Christmas dinners, but there are plenty of more innovative uses for even the most basic trestle table.

Here are five of the best ways to use folding tables around the house - from the more familiar to some fun and even surprising alternatives.

A versatile addition

First of all, it's worth taking a moment to appreciate the versatility of folding tables for the most common uses.

With legs that fold flat to the table top, they can be stored away against a wall, under other furniture, or anywhere from a good-sized store cupboard to a garage or shed.

On commercial premises, table trolleys allow for several folding tables to be placed in position quickly and easily, with minimal manual lifting required.

Clubs and games

A folding table makes an excellent platform for all kinds of board games, card games and war games like Warhammer 40,000.

Round tables let everyone face each other, with smaller diameters of 90-120cm when you want to get up close and personal with your opponents.

Larger tables can suit more ambitious war game maps or accommodate several laptops for LAN parties, with diameters up to 150-180cm.

Sales and fetes

Few people really sell directly from a car boot anymore, and a folding table will often fit in your vehicle so you can set up a proper display on arrival.

You can use trestle tables for other kinds of sales too, such as books, clothing and general jumble sales, lemonade stands and bake sales.

For food and drink sales, a rectangular trestle table with a plastic top makes good sense, as any spillages are easily wiped away in an instant rather than soaking into exposed wood grain.

DIY and decorating

Around the house, folding tables can do more than just Christmas dinner, as a larger rectangular trestle table gives you a four-foot plywood top suitable for use in wallpapering and other household DIY jobs.

Smaller tables are a good way to keep all your tools and materials for a specific job in one place and in easy reach, and can be brought out in moments when the kids want to turn their hand to arts and crafts in a confined space.

If you're running out of room in a property where the children rule the roost, consider a small folding table as a way to reclaim some floor space and encourage them to keep it clear for when the table is needed.

Shovelling snow

And finally, one Canadian man went viral after appearing in a video posted online that showed him using a square folding table to clear snow from his driveway.

Although he eventually fetched a shovel to finish the job, the video proves that a square table works pretty well to clear a fixed width of pavement all at once.

It's just one example of a truly innovative use for folding furniture - and hopefully offers some inspiration for how you might use folding tables in the future too.

Whether you have a permanent table you use for work, a dining table that's heaving with paperwork when it's not dinner time, or a folding table that you just call into action when it's needed, there are always ways to use your table space more effectively for peak productivity.

1. Home office desk

More and more people have the option of flexible working, so make sure you're equipped to be productive when working from home - especially if it's something you do regularly.

That doesn't have to mean getting a boring desk - your home office doesn't have to look corporate - so opt for something that maximises your workspace without stifling your creativity.

2. Tech tricks

You can pay through the nose for a modern desk with holes cut out for cables - or you can save a packet by doing it yourself.

Buy a simple wood-topped table and you can drill the right sized holes wherever you need them, so if your workspace is a forest of gadgets and gizmos, there's no need to trail all the cables to a single hole in the far corner of the desktop.

3. Writing table

If you have a lot of correspondence to keep up with, it's smart to equip your desk for this with the addition of stationary holders, in-trays and a couple of box files to keep loose papers organised.

You might even want to add a groove in the desktop using a router (the woodworking kind, not the networking kind) so you have somewhere to put your pen without it rolling away.

4. Sensible storage

All kinds of tables can be augmented with the addition of storage space, for example by attaching shelves to the underside of the tabletop.

When you have a dedicated desk for crafts and creativity, you're free to install the specific storage that suits your needs, so everything you need in easy reach has its own place to live.

5. Mood board

If you're into crafts or work in a creative role, why not keep a table laid out on a mood board? A simple square table doesn't take up too much space but gives you a worktop on which to put anything that's inspiring you right now.

This makes it easy to pair up different influences, whether to combine contrasting elements to create something new, or to work out colour schemes you want to include in your work - all at your fingertips whenever you need it.

The Trent Furniture team invited a local photographer to take a look at the team in action and here is the end result.

Exclusive insight into the Trent Furniture team...

In this section of our site you get an exclusive snapshot into some of our latest furniture snapshots as well as a sneak peak into our furniture specialists daily lives

Our expert furniture team finishing a new wooden chair order:

Expert upholsterers in action - Rob from Trent Furniture

An insight into our furniture storage facilities and warehousing in Leicester:

Trent Furniture warehouse and storage facilities

Some of the tools of the trade:

Upholstery tools – tacks and hammer

Brighten up any space with some of our customer furniture favourites (in this case metal stacking chairs in stunning colours):

Stacking chairs in various colours

The finishing touches that make our furniture perfect for any occasion: 

Expert building and finishing a wooden chair

The chairs of choice for many a cafe and bistro business: 

metal stacking chairs - modern design

 

Ever since  Starbucks opened its first UK branch in 1998, on London’s King’s Road, our high streets have become overwhelmed by the big chains: Costa, Caffè Nero, Starbucks and Pret a Manger. 

There is no doubt that these chains have changed our drinking habits for the better, introducing us to a wider range of coffees and beverages, and bringing swift American-style service to the British high street. Twenty years ago, few of us would have been asking for a “latte to go” or ordering an Ethiopian-blend cappuccino. Ten years ago, according to the BBC website, there were fewer than 10,000 places to buy coffee in the UK and fewer than a third of those belonged to the big chains. By the end of last year, there were more than 22,000 coffee shops, and branded outlets had doubled in number.

Corporate uniformity for coffee shops and cafes

But the big chains have also brought with them a certain corporate uniformity: everywhere, we see the same logos, the same brands, the same chairs, tables and stools. Another high street, another Starbucks. And then there are the complaints that the owners of these chains don’t pay their fair share of tax, which adds to the sense that they have become too big and too powerful. 

But is the march of the high street chains coming to an end? It seems that we are seeing a fightback from independent coffee shops. Last year, Costa saw its share price fall on reports that its sales had been hit by renewed competition from independent cafés. Consumers, said Costa, are becoming “more demanding”. Market research and consumer surveys show that customers want more than just a cup of coffee in anonymous corporate surroundings: they want something individual, local, special, distinctive, authentic, real. In short, they are turning to independent shops and cafés.

Coffee shop discerning customers

If you are the owner of a coffee shop, or if you are planning to open one, you will doubtless know your latte from your cappuccino – but as consumers become more discerning, you will need to think about broadening your offering and making your business stand out from the high street crowd.

The flat white, for instance, is a relatively recent arrival on the coffee scene – a shorter, stronger coffee that was introduced to the UK by coffee-mad Australian baristas. Is it on your menu? And do you have a variety of different coffee beans on offer? Be aware, too, that these days people expect to find alternatives to regular cow’s milk, such as oat milk and almond milk. 
And what about tea?

This no longer comes in two varieties – with or without sugar. Green tea is increasingly popular, especially among younger customers, as are herbal infusions. Last year, research by Mintel showed that 37 per cent of British consumers aged between 25 and 34 had drunk five to six different types of tea over the previous month. The choice of drinks in your offering will help to distinguish you from the big high street chains. If food is part of your offering, handmade cakes and pastries will add an authentic flavour.

Cafe decor to be proud of

Likewise, you can make your café stand out from the high street crowd with your decor. Take time to visit some of the high street coffee shops in your locality, and ask yourself: how can I make my café look and feel different from these? As an alternative to bland, blank walls, you could source some vintage prints of your neighbourhood or local high street and get them framed and hung on your walls.

These will add individuality and would also be a talking point. Or you could feature the work of local artists. And do you have space for a bookshelf or two? In which case, you could become a mini-library, operating on trust, with customers free to borrow and return books at their leisure. Fairy lights trailed around the bar area add personality and a quirky touch to an interior. A handwritten chalkboard menu on the wall adds a personal touch – and also makes it easier to change things around and add new offerings. 

Tableware for cafes

Cups and saucers can help your café stand out. Do they all have to be exactly the same? Mixing things up can help create a homelier atmosphere. If you serve tea in pots, an array of different decorative teapots can add interest to your tables – and look attractive stored on shelves. Your takeaway cups are also an opportunity to offer something distinctive: branded cups will cost a little extra, but they are unique to your café – and they function as a little travelling advert every time someone takes one out.

Furniture...

And then there is furniture. This is perhaps where the big high street chains are at their worst: ranks of identical chairs and tables which vary little from one branch to the next. These chains will have a strict corporate identity, which will prevent them from introducing anything that looks too distinctive or different. But if you are running an independent coffee shop, the choice is entirely yours. 

Mix and match furniture for cafes

Why, for instance, should all your furniture look the same? Why not mix things up? Trent Furniture has a wide range of tables and chairs for use in cafés. Many of Trent’s chairs are upholstered in durable, easy-to-clean fabrics.

These offer a chance to add colour to your café – and they don’t all have to be the same colour; mixing and matching will create warmth and add to the sense that a human being rather than a faceless corporation is behind these choices.

Trent Furniture’s Italia bistro chair, for instance, is a classic design with an upholstered seat available in a wide range of colours and patterns. Or you could introduce a mix of wood and metal chairs and tables, combine traditional with modern, or source some vintage pieces to sit alongside new chairs and tables. Trent Furniture’s Bentwood Slatback side chair, for instance, could be used alongside Trent Furniture’s Dalton chair and its Napoli side chair.

How to arrange your cafe furniture

The way you arrange your furniture will also be important. Here again, you can stand out from the high street crowd. A typical high street chain café will have identical chairs and tables set out in rows, whereas a smaller neighbourhood coffee shop can set things out at different angles, as well as changing things around when the mood takes.

Mixing up furniture heights

Mixing high furniture with low is also effective: Trent Furniture’s Bella tall stool would look good at a windowside counter or alongside a Trent Furniture poseur table. Regular-height chairs and tables could fill the main space, while corners and walls could be occupied by low tables and chairs or perhaps even a sofa or two.

Finally, if you are independent and local, don’t be shy: shout about it. Publicity material and menus could be headed with a phrase such as “Your local independent café”. If you have a social media presence, make sure that you use it to emphasise your local independent credentials. 

Eco-friendly cafe products 

And with all the recent publicity surrounding the use of plastic cups and straws and their effect on the environment, perhaps now is the time to clean up your act and adopt more eco-friendly products such as paper straws and compostable paper cups with biodegradable lids. Again, if you are an eco-friendly café, don’t be shy: blow your own trumpet. Be proud of it. It will all help to make your café stand out from the high street crowd.

 

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