Outdoor entertaining season is here…well at least according to the calendar it is. I know those of you in other parts of the country are enjoying lovely gardens and warm sunshine, but here in the northeast we can’t seem to shake the damp and cold. And “at least it isn’t snow” only counts for so much now that it is MAY. As my friend Nancy remarked this morning, “I think I’m beginning to mold!”! In any case, EVENTUALLY we will get some gorgeous weather to make us forget all about this slime. And when we do it will be full steam ahead with outdoor living and parties so we are planning now in anticipation!
Whether you are having a large gathering in an expansive backyard, or a few friends for cocktails on a city balcony, entertaining al fresco is always a wonderful way to enjoy the best of the spring season…provided you don’t live in a swamp or mosquito breeding ground – in which case, you undoubtedly have a screened area in which to be “outside.” Regardless, the same principles apply.
The basic ingredients for outdoor rooms
Think of your outdoor space just like you would a room (or rooms). It needs functional and comfortable lounging space, some natural accessories in the form of plants and flowers, spots of shade or shelter for protection from hot sun or summer showers, and a provision for lighting to extend the use into evening. It might also include cooking space, dining space, an outdoor fireplace or firepit, and even, occasionally, outdoor television watching capacity – although I think it’s harder to enjoy the hum and chirp of nature with the TV blaring, some people find this an enticing idea.
The serene monochromatic patio below includes a vine covered pergola for shade, an inviting seating area, a table that could be used for dining, and provision for lighting with a lantern fixture and a pair of table lamps in the sheltered porch and a chandelier hanging from the pergola. Did you know you can get ‘wet’ rated light fixtures that are safe to use outside? And there are some really nice ones!
Just like indoor rooms, outdoor rooms can have rugs that help define seating areas, toss pillows and throw blankets to add color and comfort, and tables within easy reach of every seat to set down a drink or book. Ceramic garden stools are especially versatile as they make a handy side table for a chair and can double as a seating perch when hosting larger gatherings.
Unlike indoor rooms, some protection or shelter may be called for. This can be in the form of a pergola, an awning, or an umbrella or two. And all of these options offer the opportunity to include design details to add to the space. The vine-covered, poolside pergola below offers a shady spot for dining.
Unique to outdoor living spaces are the variety of garden elements that can be added — bird feeders and bird baths provide endless entertainment, water fountains/water features and wind chimes add a pleasant tinkling background noise — and of course, planters or gardens with herbs, vegetables, greenery, or flowers for visual beauty and intoxicating scents! Plants in containers dry out faster than plants in the ground, so self-watering planters that contain a reservoir to slowly add moisture to the soil can be a big help.
Below are some of my favorite outdoor room ingredients (click on each image for more information):
Tools for easy entertaining
There are many little items available that make entertaining out of doors easy and elegant. I purchased a drink tub on a stand many years ago and have used it countless times when hosting a crowd - both inside and out! Filled with ice and assorted bottles of beverages it becomes a self serve drink station that keeps beverages cold in elegant style. Shatterproof dishes and trays are so well made now, they are hard to distinguish from their ceramic cousins. Of course, you can always use your regular serving pieces outside as well — there is no rule that says you must use unbreakable pieces (unless you are taking the party to a public beach, which often DOES have such rules!). And a variety of colorful napkins and table linens are always welcome indoors or out!. See THIS series of posts on easy elegant entertaining for more on no-fail party supplies.
I am more than ready to start setting up my deck for the season! Come on spring, hurry it up already!
Just keeping it real!
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