With the days getting longer and temperatures rising, it’s time to swing open the doors and revisit our exterior spaces. To help us turn our outdoor areas into beautiful and functional places in which to entertain throughout spring and summer, we reached out to Donna Bain, co-owner of Bain’s Outdoor Living in Rumson, New Jersey, for advice on how to prepare your outdoor living space for warm-weather gatherings. Here are her recommendations.
Define your space into specific zones. Bain suggests surveying your outdoor space and creating areas for each particular element of entertaining. For example, set up an area for pre-dinner drinks on the porch, then move to a dining area on the terrace, and finally retire to a cozy fireside spot for dessert. This will establish a natural flow for your evening.
Welcome your guests into a designated cocktail area. “Every good entertaining space, whether indoors or out, needs a drinks station—either self-serve, or with a bartender for more formal occasions,” Bain says. This space should have room for a bar stocked with necessities (trays, glasses, shakers, ice, beverages chilling in a stylish vessel), as well as an area where hors d’oeuvres can be set out, and it should allow enough room for guests to stand and mingle, while also offering a few comfy perches for intimate tête-à-têtes.
Achieve the perfect evening glow. Bain recommends placing groupings of various sized lanterns near your lounge areas for the perfect post-sunset lighting scheme. Wrapping or draping accent structures like a pergola or arbor with string lights can be charming and contribute to the overall lighting scheme as well, she notes. An outdoor fireplace, chimenea, or fire pit can also add ambiance and encourage post-dinner conversation; Bain suggests making the surrounding seating area extra-inviting by layering in pillows and throws, which will entice guests to linger.
Set your table to mimic the surroundings. Bain recommends fully embracing the outdoors by incorporating natural elements into your tabletop décor. “We love the idea of bringing the garden to the table by accenting it with a simple potted plant or fresh blooms and a few candles,” she says. Rattan chargers and linen napkins will add warmth and texture to the look, she advises, adding that hosts might want to consider opting for dinnerware in outdoor-friendly materials, such as melamine and acrylic.