Easy Tips for Entertaining Alfresco
Outdoor entertaining always feels somehow more exciting than a traditional dinner party; the aroma of the grill, enjoying the fresh air and the lack of worry about spills makes an alfresco evening reminiscent of leisurely holiday dinners.
The biggest challenge, of course, is making a garden dining area feel just as comfortable and relaxing as your interior - and knowing which little touches will bring a sense of novelty and fun to your meal.
Let's look at some of the easy, cost-effective and most unique ways you can host a fantastic evening alfresco; with minimal planning required.
Creating Charming Place Settings
One of the fastest and simplest ways to dress an outdoor entertaining area is to use colourful place settings and using splashes of pattern and design to bring the space together.
Most outdoor tables are a simple wood finish, which means they have a simple colour and can hold the brightest and boldest of designs!
- Coordinate placemats and coasters for a simple way to bring style to your outdoor dining table - add napkins, cutlery, glassware as you wish!
- Add table centres to bring the look together; you could use a table runner, add candles, use flowers or even use tiles as patterned placemats to bring a Morrocan influenced theme.
- Mix and match textures - alfresco dining is meant to be relaxed, and by combining stainless steel with porcelain, copper bowls with wooden serving platters and slate grazing plates with linen napkins, you create a boho feel.
- For a chilled out BBQ, don't feel that you have to have traditional place settings. Pop cutlery and serve utensils in a tin pot in the middle of the table, add finger bowls, so your guests feel happy to eat finger food by hand, and do away with structured courses and dining ware.
- Go wild with colour; you don't have a colour scheme to worry about, the design doesn't have to match the aesthetic of your home, and a garden is the perfect entertaining space to be as bright and bold as you like!
The garden is your canvas, so you can also use plant pots as a table dressing, fresh herbs to bring an added sensory experience to your meal, or use twine and branches to create unique table centres.
Using Glassware for Alfresco Ambience
Whenever we set a dining table, we're going to use some glassware; whether a traditional wine glass, water glass and dessert glass, or something a little more colourful.
Glass can completely change the look and feel of dining space, so it's well worth considering what style you're going for - investing in a few chic pieces of artistic glass can transform your table!
- Coloured glass creates a glow and gentle illumination of your outdoor lighting.
- Patterned tumblers, mason jars or champagne glasses bring novelty to a meal.
- Using quirky straws, wine glass charms or coasters can brighten up a simple place setting.
You can also be a little innovative with how you use your glassware!
Using large tumblers, vases or decanters as a table centre can create a dramatic vibe.
Easy ideas include filling them with ice, using them as a lighting piece with wireless bulbs, or filling with herbs, flowers or branches from your garden - this takes very little time and yet can look stunning.
How to Use Lighting for Outdoor Atmosphere
If you're dining outdoors into the night, or during seasons where the sun sets a little earlier, lighting is all-important.
Candles are a perfect way to bring romance and intrigue to outdoor dining - but remember that you'll need a fair number to illuminate a table enough to eat by, and trying to dine in dim light can be messy at best!
You can combine several lights to create contrasting reflections, or use indoor lighting to cast a glow over your dining area.
If you're using a rug, this is a handy way of concealing a power cable (making sure it is taped down securely, isn't being used in rainy conditions and doesn't present a trip hazard of course!).
A fast and easy way to increase outdoor dining ambience is to use a well placed, large mirror.
For dining spaces on a patio outside of your home, for example, you can position a mirror opposite the patio doors to cast back the reflection and bring a pleasant glow to your table.
Outdoor lighting doesn't need to be harsh, extra bright or strong; so using soft up-lighters, well placed exterior lights and stringing up elegant fairy lights avoids any of your guests feeling like they are dining under a spotlight.
Outdoor Dining in Comfort
We all know that as the colder weather sets in, outdoor dining feels a little less attractive; but on crisp autumnal evenings and bright spring nights, the sounds of nature can still be as enjoyable and relaxing as in the height of summer.
Popping a throw or blanket on the back of each chair is a simple way to make your guests comfortable whatever the weather; add a waterproof roof cover to a gazebo, light up the fire pit, and you have an instant atmosphere!
Think of bonfire nights, toasting marshmallows and watching the stars come out - if you're prepared for a nip in the air, there is nothing like it.
Some ideas include:
- Adding an outdoor rug under your dining table for a soft underfoot flooring (or even an indoor rug if there isn't any rain forecast).
- Placing cushions, blankets and throws on your chairs.
- Having a stash of hats, jumpers or knits to hand for guests to help themselves to.
- Using outdoor heaters or rainproof covers, with waterproof lighting for year-round use.
- Fire pits, sunken seating areas or decking areas are perfect for entertaining in colder weather.
When you're taking your entertainment outdoors, you can afford to break the rules, have fun with your table settings, and use the natural landscape of your garden to dictate the theme.
Whereas twinkly lights might not gel with a contemporary interior, they fit in perfectly outdoors, offsetting paving and hard surfaces with a gentle glow that brings softness to your garden.
No matter what theme or style you choose to go for, it is always the company that dictates the success of a dinner party, so throw on some great music, heat up the BBQ and have a wonderful evening!
For more style inspiration for the perfect alfresco evening, visit the latest Andrew Lee collections!