Home entertaining has evolved a lot over the last 2 years. The pandemic has taught us how to be more mindful of comfort and space when it comes to design. As we continually adapt and move forward in an “endemic” world we’re embracing some of the best ideas born from these last couple of years. That includes ways to make the most of the al fresco experience.
The rules have certainly changed when it comes to gathering with family and friends. And although things have started to resemble that pre-March 2020 “normal,” some of the design trends the pandemic unearthed continue to be embraced. One of the major trends is that outdoor spaces have become just as important if not more important than indoor spaces. As we find ourselves entertaining more this summer, it’s vital to create a comfortable, stress-free space to enjoy time together. So, with all that in mind, here are the 3 ways you can master the art of outdoor entertaining.
Creating the mood.
I truly believe creating a vibe that is both casual and sophisticated is key to the ultimate outdoor entertaining experience. Lighting plays a big role in this. Including candlelight, ambient, floor or overhead lighting creates a mood similar to a candlelight dinner. A fire pit can create a relaxing, fun ambience while providing a great gathering spot, especially on chilly New England nights.
Florals and greenery are another way to create a mood. Rather than a large arrangement, I like to do multiple small vases with less formal florals for outdoor spaces. This creates a more casual yet inviting atmosphere for your guests.
And don’t forget music! Be sure to create or find the right playlist ahead of time so you can just press play and go. I always suggest playlists like “Backyard BBQ” and “Summer Party” on Spotify and “Indie Singer-Songwriters Radio” and “Poolside Miami Chill Radio” on Pandora. Consider asking some of your guests to create their own playlists. One less item on your to-do list!
It's all about efficiency.
A setup that gives you more time with your guests is a win all around. Making things accessible to guests prevents the host from constantly having to go in and out of the house for supplies. Consider setting up a bar cart ahead of time that includes all the drinks, fixings and garnishes being offered. Or use a big galvanized tub to hold wine, seltzer water and anything guests may want so they can help themselves. If you plan on doing a lot of outdoor entertaining, consider adding a permanent bar or tiki bar feature.
A speciality cocktail to celebrate the occasion can provide a big impact without too much prep ahead of time. A couple signature cocktails that I love to offer my guests are the Frozen Paloma Recipe and Limoncello Vodka Collins Recipe from Barefoot Contessa. Both are delicious and very easy to make.
On the food side of things, look to set up a self-serve snack bar for your guests. This could include a charcuterie board with things that aren’t meant to be heated up and don’t take a lot of work for refreshing. Incorporating experiences that are more interactive can be fun too. Pair that fire pit with a gourmet s’mores experience. Layout all the pieces on trays ahead of time so guests can help themselves when they're ready to dig in.
Don't forget comfort.
The last couple years have taught us a lot about comfort. And this need for comfort will continue to play out in our day to day activities and events. I think it goes without saying that furniture is key to giving your guests a comfortable and relaxing experience. Outdoor furniture has definitely stepped up its game, offering pieces that bring the style, comfort and design of the indoors to the outside. We saw a big focus on outdoor furniture at High Point Market last month. Brands that never did outdoor furniture before are now getting into that space. Upholstered pieces and indoor/outdoor rugs are trending so it’s a great time to reimagine what a comfortable outdoor space can look like. Be sure to layer in soft pillows and throw blankets made with performance fabrics in plush textures.
In addition to furniture, comfort can also include things like motorized screens that add an element of privacy to an open space. And be sure to think about temperature control. Sun shades and heat lamps can provide the right level of protection from the weather.
I hope that helps to get you started with your outdoor entertaining plans. Stay tuned for more summer entertaining and designing ideas in the months to come!