‘Tis the season to dine outdoors – whether it’s a sunset dinner or a late morning brunch, food just seems to tastes better and life is more fun when eating alfresco. Another benefit to entertaining outdoors is taking advantage of the extra square footage you’ve just added to your entertaining space – presto! When the weather cooperates it’s time to use those outdoor spaces as an addition to your living room, dining room, kitchen – best part: the mess is outdoors.
When planning a party, gathering or even a simple dinner for two, these are my tips for making your outdoor entertaining easy, beautiful and fun.
1. Find Inspiration in Nature.
Part of the fun of being outside is connecting with nature and the organic elements around you. Enhance the experience by using fabrics, textures and products that are rustic and romantic but environmentally-friendly as well. Materials and products made from wood, metal, cotton, paper will be harmonious with your surroundings and lend a casual elegance to your gathering.
2. Bring on the Burlap.
Burlap by the foot, yard and bolt is one of the best ways to entertain outdoors and green as burlap is 100% organic, dye-free, recyclable, bio-compostable, reusable, and best of all inexpensive. It comes in many colors and weaves easily creating looks that go from rustic to chic. Add drama by hanging swags of burlap as drapes to create shade and define a space, or simply use it as a tablecloth or runner. If the table cloth gets dirty just chuck it in a compost bin!
3. Groovy Paper lanterns.
Paper lanterns can provide a fantastic pop of color when entertaining outdoors. Look for a bright cheerful colors like orange, bright green or turquoise. Then pick different sized lanterns and hang them over your dining table at staggered lengths with fishing wire to create a focal point. The lanterns will take on a life of their own when summer breezes gently bob them from side to side. After the party the lanterns can be folded back to size and stored for the next summer fete.
4. Go for the Glow.
Unless you have your exterior lights on a dimmer – turn off the lights altogether. Go into your attic and grab some white twinkle lights and hang them crisscrossed overhead for an enchanting starlit sky or around your outdoor space for a soft, magical glow. And use candles – plenty of them. One rule: stick to one color – preferably cream or white and make sure they’re unscented. Candles are like pixie dust for any outdoor affair – and guess what, they’re not just for nighttime.
5. Create Fuss-Free Centerpieces.
Keep center pieces simple and beautiful by using tree cuttings, tall potted grasses (like wheatgrass), or fruit tree branches in glass containers, metal pails or terra cotta pots. Unstructured and free-flowing arrangements mimic the growth of flowers in the wild – no need for a florist here. Put them in abundant clusters in your containers and call it a day.
Once you have selected your space and created your design, it is time to add the final touches.
Here are some of my staples and must-have accessories for outdoor dining:
1. Grab These Glasses.
I am a huge fan of the Govino stemless multipurpose wine glasses – love, love these fabulous glasses made from recyclable and reusable polymer. Not only are they chic, they are perfect for wine, beer, cocktails, lemonade or water. They even have a nice thumb indent so they are easier to hold and don’t slip….nice. ps. they make them dishwasher safe now too.
2. Stock Up On All-Purpose Tubs and Buckets.
My dear friends do yourself a favor and start looking at the hardware store as your secret party store! I find loads of design treasures in the aisles of a hardware store. My all-time favorite find is your run of the mill metal bucket – most commonly used for the garden or mopping the floor – really. Pick up a few metal tubs and buckets in assorted sizes and turn them into ice buckets, shucking buckets, ice coolers, candle holders, and centerpiece containers. They add an old fashioned and rustic feel that works beautifully even with the most elegant of parties.
3. Don’t Forget the Twine.
While you’re at the hardware store, pick up some small gauge rope or rough twisted twine. Wrap the rope around a rolled napkin, tie it in a bow or slip not and voila – you have an instant napkin ring. Step it up a notch and tuck in an herb sprig such as rosemary, lavender, fresh mint or add a splash of color with a stemmed flower like a daisy – of course they’re perfectly lovely on their own. The rope or twine also serves as instant tie-backs for your burlap drapes. Or you can wrap it around centerpieces to carry the outdoor elements throughout your design theme.
4. Skip the Paper Napkins.
White cloth napkins instantly upgrade an outdoor party. Invest in a dozen or so white 100 percent cotton napkins and you will not only save yourself a bucket-load of cash from not buying paper towels, but you will reduce your guests’ need to keep reaching for more napkins as the fabric napkins won’t ball up or stick to their barbecue sauce-covered fingers. No need to iron them – fold them fresh out of the dryer for that shabby chic beachy feel.
5. Go for a White Tablecloth.
An all-purpose white cotton rectangle or square tablecloth makes a perfect base for additional cloth overlays. It works especially well with the burlap as it gives the table wonderful contrast and texture.
Outdoor entertaining is a real treat for you and your guests and the perfect way to enjoy summer…just remember keep it simple, focus on quality and beauty – most of all, have fun and your guests will too!