Set the perfect scene with these ideas for creating beautiful outdoor areas.
Writer: Kelly Tomas
1 of 11Photo: Jean Allsopp
Opt for the Unexpected
Serve your feast in an out-of-the-way setting such as a coastal cornfield where crops grow right next to the table or at the water’s edge where guests can feel the ocean lapping at their toes. Diners will gain a new appreciation for what’s on their plates. Keep the decor simple and the food at center stage with white, clear glass, or plastic tableware.
2 of 11Photo: Jean Allsopp
Covered patios make great dining spaces because they shield the sun but still allow cool ocean breezes to flow in. Choose table settings in ocean hues for a classic coastal look. Dress up a rustic dining set with napkins draped over chair backs.
3 of 11Photo: Roger Davies
Seat a Crowd
Add a banquette to fencing or railing for extra seating—a space-saver and necessity to accommodate large groups of friends. Comfy cushions and pillows welcome guests to lounge and relax.
4 of 11Photo: J. Savage Gibson
Go for glamour on your patio. Design a true outdoor living room with all of the comforts of indoor spaces using cushions and accessories to make guests feel at home.
5 of 11Photo: Buff Strickland
If you can, keep guests cool by blending outdoor entertaining areas with a pool or water features. They’ll appreciate the ability to dip their toes in water while sipping cocktails. For added romance and a finished look, try hanging sheer curtains, which will billow in the breeze.
6 of 11Photo: Roger Davies
Dress It Up
Use machine-washable slipcovers to dress up the most basic outdoor dining chairs—even folding chairs like these! Position guests to help facilitate conversation and try to give every seat a view.
7 of 11Photo: Laura Moss
Furnish large patio areas with outdoor furniture for casual al fresco lunches and dinner parties. Keep runners and tablecloths from blowing with the breeze by using a lantern and candles for a centerpiece and at place settings. (Also great for ambience!)
8 of 11Photog: Tria Giovan
Soften hardscapes with low-maintenance strips of green between easy-to-install concrete squares. Raised beds also lend a sculptural quality to plantings and double as extra seating. Arrange multiple seating areas so guests can flow easily from dining to relaxing.
9 of 11Photo: Sophie Munro
Change It Up
Use colorful accents such as pillows and light coverings to add punches of color that can be switched out easily, depending on occasion or mood. Add shutters or lattice to create character, but don’t completely close off an outdoor space. An arbor-like roof with Plexiglas gives the impression of open air but keeps rain out.
10 of 11Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner
Keep outdoor table decor simple by using a single fresh flower to garnish each place setting. Instead of tablecloths, try sturdy place mats that won’t blow away. To reflect the setting, opt for tableware in colors such as green and blue.
11 of 11Photo: Lisa Romerein
Keep It Together
Outfit your al fresco space with a grill and fridge so no one has to trek inside. If you have a complete outdoor kitchen, consider investing in a dishwasher and a second set of dishes so you don’t have to go back in the house.