As the days get warmer and longer, the urge to dine alfresco increases exponentially. Whether your summer entertaining entails a table for two on an outdoor patio or backyard, poolside at a beachside retreat, under twinkling LED lights on a shared rooftop, or a small balcony or expansive terrace—creating an inviting atmosphere that exudes charm and comfort is key. Here are 5 easy-to-incorporate tips that will help you make the most of your outdoor dining space.
1) Find the Right Table for Your Space
No two spaces are made equal, so find a table that truly works for your space. Know the style and size you want, and then focus on materiality. Your dining table—whether for two or 12—should not only look good but be durable, able to withstand the elements, and be functional to boot. Beautiful design or not, if your guests are constantly bumping their knees or are struggling to find a place to set down their glass, the focus will shift from enjoyment to discomfort.
2) Invest in Beautiful Linens
Whether you inherited a table you don’t love or simply want to imbue an element of warmth, the right linens will always elevate your table setting. Invest in a gorgeous linen tablecloth or table runner—quality linens, especially French or Belgian linens, not only improve every time you wash them, but they extend a beautiful tactile and textural quality that will add depth and interest to your table setting. I recommend investing in a solid color or a warm neutral such as an ochre or a camel hue that plays well with everything and never goes out of style. Or one beautiful pattern that enhances rather than takes away from the design of your table. Likewise, linen placemats and napkins will upgrade the look of your table. For a bit of drama, employ material contrast. A dark wood table paired with soft burnt orange or sienna-colored linens will not only enhance the grain of the wood but will create a beautiful tablescape.
3) Create a Cozy Lounge Area
While not all of us will have the space to create a lounge area, if your entertaining tendencies run towards the more casual, don’t hesitate to forgo the more traditional dining setup for a lounge area. The key to creating a beautiful and intimate dining experience is to invest in soft, plush seating made for the outdoors. Comfort is paramount—and with comfort comes convenience. Quite a variety of companies make incredibly chic cocktail tables and side tables that can be left outside and in sizes to fit any space. Your guests should feel at ease and not worry about balancing their plates and glasses. If the nights tend to run towards the cooler temperatures, consider providing throws on the back of your seating options for an extra bit of warmth.
4) Dine Fireside
Similarly, consider the benefits of adding a fire pit to your cozy lounge area—or setting one up nearby. Quite a few companies now have a wide variety of firepits available for every need and budget. Sometimes, setting a more intimate mood creates an ambiance that encourages comfort and conviviality. Whether part of a lounge area or not, make sure ample fireside seating is available for all of your guests. Whatever your seating preference—from Adirondack chairs to lounge chairs—always ensure you have plenty of pillows and throws handy for the ultimate cozy comfort. Don’t have the space? Set up some twinkling lights overhead and add some fragrant candles—you’ll be surprised how much the smallest of details can add to an alluring ambiance.
5) Set the Mood with Thoughtful Details
It is often the host’s thoughtful preparation that makes all the difference in a successful alfresco dining experience. These can run from creating small bites and appetizers that are easy to eat and don’t require a mess to making sure your guests’ glasses are always full—whether its water, wine, or cocktails. In addition: show off your beautiful tableware! If you don’t feel comfortable using your fine china, the options these days are endless. Various companies have gorgeous melamine and bamboo plates, including the V&A Museum shop, the MoMA Design Store, and a plethora of great tabletop companies. Your guests will notice and appreciate the time and effort you took to make sure their presence was valued. In addition, always pay attention to lighting. From natural lighting to tea lights and more—shy away from too much or too little. Low lighting and warm shade always win the entertaining battle.
For more from Daun Curry, be sure to check out her tips to creating the perfect workspace.
Photography by Emily Gilbert.
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