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Take It Outside! Inspiring Ideas for Outdoor Dining
Dated: March 14 2018
As the days get longer, the temperatures gets warmer and the light gets brighter, our daily routines undergo a radical paradigm shift. Whereas just a month or two ago, we were huddled indoors eating hearty stews, roasted meat and baked potatoes, we’re now ready to spend time outside in shorts and T-shirts, consuming lighter fare. One of the great joys of the summer is dining al fresco, enjoying the cool breezes, the late-evening light, the riot of garden color and the smells and sensations of warm weather.
More relaxed, more spontaneous, more colorful, al fresco dining is a different kind of experience. Here are some ideas that will inspire your shift to the outdoors.
Outdoor dining has come a long way from splintery picnic tables, paper plates and plastic sporks. Nowadays real hospitality can happen outside as well as in.
Dining on the back porch, for those of you lucky enough to have one, is an easy way to transition to the outside, because it’s just on the other side of the back door.
Here a welcoming environment has been created using a modest vintage table, chairs and sideboard painted a perky aqua. Afternoon tea, or an intimate dinner for four, would be a delightful outdoor experience in this cozy corner.
A back porch can be humble, but it can also be grand. In fact, I think we’d have to call this back porch a loggia to do it justice. But what a luscious place to have a summer dinner for 10. This makes me envision many courses, flowing wine, heady conversation and lots of laughter.
The table setting is quite formal, which I love, but I’d be just as comfortable with a very colorful and casual tablecloth and dinnerware.
By the way, do you know the difference between a porch and a patio? Porches are mostly built of wood, are elevated off the ground, traditionally have a roof and are attached to the house. Patios are usually built of stone or concrete, sit at ground level, don’t have a regular roof and can be attached to the house or not.
One thing that makes eating outdoors really special is bringing the conveniences of the inside to the outside. This inviting and intimate outdoor patio space includes a fireplace, art on the walls and a sideboard — things not usually associated with outside dining, but that enhance comfort and the sense of hospitality.
Speaking of hospitality, if you’re like me and love to dine outdoors but don’t like sitting in direct sun, shade is an important factor. On this patio in sunny Santa Fe, New Mexico, a shade sail provides a cool sanctuary.
Another way to provide shade is with a pull-across awning. This is a great option because it allows for adjustment, depending on the preferences of your guests.
Umbrellas, awnings, arbors and strategically planted trees are all great friends of folks like me who prefer shelter over swelter.
To me, a carport is often an eyesore, but this one has become great additional living space with the creative use of several simple elements. Three different colors of garage floor paint create a very durable “rug” underfoot. Colorful Japanese lanterns hung by string and lit by battery-operated tea lights make for easy lighting without having to hire an electrician. (Yeah!) Simple curtains (they could even be shower curtains) hung on a galvanized pipe rod can be closed against nosy neighbors.
Careful attention should be given to the comfort of garage sale chairs. Paint can always remedy a bad finish, but comfort is intrinsic and important for hospitality, so make sure the chairs have a comfy seat. Some flowers and a perky tablecloth complete the transformation.
Many folks go to great lengths to decorate their tables when entertaining guests for dinner indoors. “Roughing it” can become a bit more genteel when we take those same sensibilities outside. In this alluring clematis-covered arbor, crisp white linen, flowers, a candelabra and real china make for a very civilized open-air afternoon tea or romantic dinner for two.
And how romantic that an arbor like this isn’t necessarily attached to the house? Maybe it’s out on the “back 40,” down a winding trail and beside a pond … or even 20 feet from the back door but screened by trees or foliage (I’m picturing climbing roses). Somehow that distance and privacy add a bit of mystery and adventure.
Note: If your table is in particularly rough shape, you can put an old sheet under your delicate tablecloth to keep it from harm.
Another way to add to the hospitality factor is with an area rug. A rug like this defines the space and is something comfortable underfoot.
Notice how the tablecloth, pillow, placemats and dishes all work together to create a very smart, tailored look. The flowers, ferns and lanterns soften the edge a bit and beautifully keep everything from being too matchy.
One of life’s ultimate luxuries is an outdoor fireplace, as it makes al fresco dining even more elegant. You can never predict the weather, even in the summer, so if things turn a bit chilly, what could be more right? Just crank up the fire and all’s well.
Of course, most of us aren’t going to have a great, hulking fireplace like the one shown here, but there are smaller, portable ones available that would provide a similar warmth and atmosphere.
Or add some dreamy, gauzy curtains and welcome friends and family for a memorable summer fete. Your hospitality will make them feel loved, cement friendships and bring a little joy to all involved.
Do you like to dine outside?We’d love to see a photo of your al fresco table!
Rudy Pierre is a versatile professional that combines his unique blend of charisma, dandyism, and professionalism into his work as both a Photographer and Realtor. This self- made entrepreneur has gar....
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As the days get longer, the temperatures gets warmer and the light gets brighter, our daily routines undergo a radical paradigm shift. Whereas just a month or two ago, we were huddled indoors eating