The Perfect Outdoor Room

paper-lantern-party-decorationsSummer is here and you can almost smell the barbeques and grills all over town working on overdrive. The ritual of summer entertaining brings together friends and family to share a meal, enjoy some cool drinks, and swap stories and laughter on a warm afternoon or evening. If you’re hosting an outdoor meal, it’s fun to put in a little extra effort and really make it a special occasion your guests will enjoy.

Along with serving great food and drinks, there are a few things you can do to make your outdoor entertaining space look great in unexpected ways. Putting together a simple outdoor “room” is easy but amuses friends and family.

Here are some tips to making your outdoor entertaining a little bit of an indoor delight:

1.    I set up an intimate sitting area by using my living room furniture. With the help of some friends, we carry out a seagrass rug, a sofa, and a cluster of indoor chairs. I place little tables all around the sitting area so that each guest has a place to rest their drink or a small plate of food. Garden stools are very popular now, and they are easy to find. They make for great side tables indoors and out, and are fantastic for extra seating!
2.    I have an old farm table that also gets carried outside and it serves as a perfect buffet for guests to help themselves to that delicious food. It’s quite unexpected when your kitchen table is on your lawn!
3.    For a pop of color, I use bright paper lanterns in different sizes and colors found at any import or party supply store – they can be strung up and scattered around your backyard. I like hanging them at different heights on our pergola, but they can even be strung up below the eves of a roof.
4.    Lighting white votive candles for parties indoors are a beautiful way to add sparkle to your occasion, so why would your outdoor party be any different? I spread votives throughout the entertaining area for a special and subtle glow as the sun goes down. Torches are also a great way to provide lighting around the perimeter of a yard.
5.    Plaster clam shells are a clever way to serve beverages, and more fun than the typical cooler. Add some ice, fresh lemons and limes for color, and your guests will love getting their own drinks.
6.    To create a designated sitting area, or to hide unsightly cement block walls in the backyard, lattice bought at a hardware store and rigged to stand up or be propped up is creative and inexpensive. Painted a bright red or greenish blue, you add an interesting pattern to the yard and create an instant focal point.
7.    For table settings, keep it bright! Use warm summer colors for tablecloths and napkins. Mix up patterns such as florals and stripes. Keep it casual but refined. For napkin rings, use raffia or an organic material for contrast.
8.    Melamine plates and cups are a fun and safe way to enjoy dining outdoors; they are festive and bright, and I enjoy the bit of nostalgia they provide. But in certain instances, I like to bring out my grandmother’s old silver set and china, just to add a sense of elegance. I love the contrast of a sophisticated table in the rustic outdoors. I even use my crystal glasses and crisp linen napkins – this adds a touch of graciousness and is completely unexpected.
9.    For an easy and inexpensive centerpiece, I use little jars and vases in different sizes and colors (even old tins and cans work great). Arrange them in a cluster and fill them up with flowers from your garden, or buy a bouquet and break it up into the different containers.
10.    Finally, provide some blankets for your guests. As the evening arrives, along with a slightly cooler breeze, my guests grab the blankets thrown on the sofa and chairs to keep the chill at bay. How cozy!

Creating an outdoor “room” for your party or barbeque allows for an intimate atmosphere that instantly puts guests in the party mood!

July 23, 2009

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Erin Vosti Lal

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