The choice of outdoor dining sets is vast, so it's a good idea to initially decide on what material you favour and is most suitable for the surroundings. Metal, timber, rattan and plastic are all well represented and each one will have the durability that is demanded by outdoor use and particular characteristics that will appeal to individual preference.

Metal, normally powder coated aluminium or steel, is guaranteed to be hardwearing yet lightweight. Alternatively, the beautiful natural appearance of wood has the ability to create a contemporary or rustic ambiance; rattan is innately stylish and exudes quality, while modern plastics have transformed the quality and range of this sometimes maligned category.

A combination of materials is always particularly attractive, such as a table designed with a metal frame and teak top, or wooden chairs with fabric seating and cushions, the appearance and durability of your furniture benefiting from their individual qualities when they are in unison.

Rattan Beige 4 seater round set

Formality is another judgement call, you might only arrange relaxed dinner parties among friends, and these demand an informal arrangement as opposed to entertaining business contacts regularly in a grander environment.

The number of people likely to share your outdoor dining experience is a further consideration, a cute bistro set simply made up of a table and two chairs might be sufficient for sharing breakfast or afternoon tea, but Sunday lunch with friends will obviously demand a larger table and more chairs.

Comfort can be taken for granted with dining sets that are so well designed some are fitted with cushions and any modern fabrics that are used such as Textilene, Sunbrella and Olefin are remarkably durable, stain resistant and easily wiped clean.

All the major manufacturers realize that bistro sets are both decorative and practical. As an example, Charles Bentley's Steel Heart 3 Piece Set will transport you to a Parisian boulevard whether you are breakfasting on coffee and croissants or enjoying tea and scones in the afternoon.

Handpicked Zari and Royalcraft's Monaco Egg sets are a retro take on the bistro arrangement, and the latter's Cannes Ebony and Mocha versions are delightfully made from rattan. Alexander Rose's Portofino furniture is based on modern wire mesh and woven designs while Charles Taylor's 2 Seater Dining Set is a far more chunkier style.

Barlow Tyrie Aura 8 Seater Dining Set

More substantial arrangements such as the Charles Taylor 6 Seater Dining Set make use of benches to increase the number of people who can be accommodated.

An indication of how plastics have developed in sophistication is the Rose Arm Chair Patio Sets from Gablemere which have an antique style with a gun metal grey or bronze finish, and are great deal lighter than their classic wrought iron equivalents.

Zest's wooden furniture has undoubted appeal and ranges from a rustic Bavarian style Harriet Table and Two Bench Set to the more classic Emily Table and Bench Set and the angularly modern Phillippa Set, they are all marvellous designs that are sturdily manufactured.

Charles Taylor and Churnet Valley are other companies specializing in timber furniture, this time made from slow grown Scandinavian redwood and arriving ready assembled.

Their ranges stretch from 'Little Fellas' children's furniture through to dining sets that are eye-catchingly substantial and cater for up to eight people.

Barlow Tyrie have been making outdoor furniture for a very long time and are renowned for their teak products. However, they offer dining sets in variety of other materials, blending high quality timber with fabrics, metal and ceramics to create stunning furniture that's perfect for any contemporary location.

All their teak is FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade) certified which means that the timber has been sourced sustainably and tracked all the way through the supply chain to combat the environmental and social damage caused by illegal logging. Other suppliers of timber furniture are FSC certified, this carries the assurance that the Forest Stewardship Council has the same commitment to preventing deforestation.

Churnet Valley Outdoor Wooden Table and chairs with benches

Their extensive range encompasses everything from bistro sets and high diners to the magnificent Aura 12 Seater Dining Set that utilizes the various textures of teak, aluminium and Textilene, and the interesting blend of styles that make up the Ascot & Arundel, Apex & Horizon and Monterey ten seater dining sets.

In between there is a huge choice of designs, variations and combinations, minimalist Titan sets, the slatted Chesapeake with stain resistant Sunbrella fabric cushions, and the high seat version of the Aura collection are all representative of the interesting diversity that's available from this top class maker.

Alexander Rose is another manufacturer of high end outdoor furniture, employing a similar mix of materials together with rattan to produce outstanding results in a selection that encompasses many different styles, informal dining for two alongside splendid formal sets that can seat eight in comfort.

To show the extent and diverse nature of their collection, the San Marino bistro style dining set is crafted from lovely red pine rose fibre weave whereas the much more substantial Old England Table and Bucket Chairs Set that seats six showcases Vietnamese acacia coated in grey polyurethane paint.

2 Benches and a picnic table zest emily set

Their Tea For Two Balcony Set is a simple design crafted from Bolivian roble hardwood and, at the other end of the scale, the Richmond Corner dining set features superb Filipino basket style weave and Olefin fabric cushions. So it's perfectly clear that there's got to be something in the Alexander Rose collection to suit everyone's taste.

Royalcraft's range of wicker outdoor furniture is second to none. From bistro and breakfast sets, their collection encompasses a fabulous selection of dining furniture upholstered with high quality weatherproof synthetic rattan, with the seating in various configurations made even more comfortable by plump cushioning.

If you consider that respected furniture makers in addition to those already mentioned, such as Florenity, LIFE and Signature Weave, also create tremendously attractive dining sets, you'll soon realize that choosing the right one for your home is going to be hard, but the good news is that, with such a wide choice, you'll eventually find one with your name on it.