Summer’s here so let’s make the most of it and get outdoors as much as we can. Everyone knows food tastes better outdoors, which is why this is the season for picnics and outdoor entertaining. Here are 8 useful tips for outdoor entertaining in style.
Style starts with comfort so pay attention to the basics
An outdoor rattan dining set for example may seem like a big investment but it’s worth remembering that, just like their indoor counterparts, outdoor tables and chairs can be used for a variety of purposes such as work/study, reading and crafts. Also like their indoor counterparts, quality outdoor tables and chairs are investment pieces, which can last many years as long as you take reasonable care of them. For the record, it’s a bad idea to move your good indoor furniture outdoors, not only because of the hassle involved in carting it between the indoors and the outdoors, but also because proper outdoor furniture is built to a much higher degree of robustness.
Enhance your dining space with flexible pieces
While a quality outdoor dining set will form the core of your outdoor entertaining, you can add functionality and flexibility by expanding it with multifunction pieces and in this case it may be appropriate to use pieces intended for thehome. For example, you can use plastic storage boxes as either extra tables or extra seating for children (with cushions) and/or use plastic hostess trollies as a handy way to transport food, drinks and accessories between the indoors and the outdoors. Using plastic pieces means you have a bit of extra time to get them under cover during those inevitable summer downpours and the fact that these pieces are affordable accessories rather than your best furniture means that you’ll probably be less upset if they do get damaged.
Think about keeping people warm as well as keeping them cool
Summer is, of course, the warmest time of the year, but temperatures drop along with the sun and so having some heating available not only allows you to make the most of those summer nights but also lets you extend your outdoor entertaining season into spring and fall. You might choose to combine heating and cooking facilities, for example, with an outdoor oven, or keep them separate, such as with ceramic outdoor heaters, or you might do both.
Remember the importance of lighting for practicality and style
Similar comments apply to lighting. When the sun is up, it will probably give you all the light you need, but when it goes down good lighting becomes a matter of safety as well as style. As a minimum, you want to ensure that everyone can see to access key places, such as the route between the entrance to your garden and your outdoor entertaining area and the route between your outdoor entertaining area and your home. You may also want to use lighting just for style and fun, for example, twinkle lights are very popular. Candles can be gorgeous outdoors, although they may need the protection of lanterns if there is a summer breeze. They are probably best kept for adults-only gatherings (and even then think about safety), but you can get LED candles which can also look lovely and are much safer.
Bring in the nature you want and keep out the nature you don’t
Now, if you look at your average article on entertaining outdoors, you’ll probably see lots of tips on incorporating nature into your tablescape and this is often excellent advice and great fun. We’ll take it a step further and suggest you make the most of the power of plants (and their scents) to help you keep out the nature you don’t want. Let’s be honest, the part of outdoor entertaining nobody likes to mention is the presence of insects. There are, however, lots of plants which smell great to humans but really bad to buzzy bugs. You can look them up online, but basically all you really need to remember is that your top insect-deterring plant friends are lavender, anything with a citrus smell and anything with a menthol smell.
Be ready to use color as well as greenery
If you’re buying investment furniture, the chances are you’ll go for a neutral color to allow for maximum flexibility or even a natural rattan effect. There is, however, nothing to stop you from being as bold as you like with tableware and accessories. Unlike with furniture, indoor tableware and accessories are usually fine to use outdoors so if you have, for example, orange pieces you usually keep for indoor entertaining in fall and/or red or green pieces you usually keep for indoor entertaining in winter, feel free to dig them out of your cupboards and put them on your outdoor dining table in summer. Even if you’re having a formal mean, you don’t necessarily have to use completely matching tableware, mix it up.
Keep flow in mind
Your outdoor dining set can be used to host everything from formal dinner parties to “picnics at a table” and the exact requirements of maintaining good flow will vary from situation to situation, but the basic idea remains much the same. You usually want to create stations which make it easy for people to get what they want and avoid queues. For example, if you’re organizing a buffet, you want to have a mixture of savory and sweet foods in each part of the table rather than all the savory foods in one part and all the sweet foods in another. Likewise, you might be best to have a couple of places people can pick up cutlery and drinks rather than one single are (unless you only have a few people and/or a lot of space).
Be prepared for children
This won’t apply to everyone, but if you are expecting children, keep a stock of play items for them, even if it’s just chalk (which washes off surfaces) so they can have fun while adults eat.