With the sunny weather and lockdown there is no better time to make the most of eating alfresco at home. When we'd normally be sipping a cold glass of wine or beer at a local pub or dining at a restaurant, now is the time to make a fabulous outdoor living experience at home. In this feature, our co-founder & celebrated Interior Designer Steph Briggs, shares her top tips for transforming your garden or outdoor space into a memorably stylish outdoor dining experience, be it sundowners and nibbles, a family BBQ or dinner with your friends.
Make it beautiful
When you make a table more beautiful it is distinctly different and changes the atmosphere. Picking a theme for your table setting will help you set the mood and inspire you with colour and details. I adore the British countryside, so I'm going to share with you my 'English Country Garden' table setting created with Interior Stylist Fi Campos.
Create An Unforgettable Dining Experience
Choose a theme that inspires and delights you. If you are passionate about the table theme, it will show in your finished table setting. Be inspired by your surroundings. Our Country Garden Alfresco table setting emulates a country cottage garden, this theme can bring a touch of the countryside into the smallest urban courtyard.
If you're stuck for ideas then use your outdoor space for inspiration. If you have an area of the garden bestowed by palms and daylilies, then opt for a tropical theme.
A pergola clothed in clematis, passionflower or grapevine shrieks Mediterranean elegance, so adorn your table setting with a candelabra wrapped in ivy with candles. Repurpose empty bottles by filling them with LED Lights to set the mood as the sun sets. Plant olive buckets with small Olive trees and place either side of the entrance will welcome your dining guests beautifully.
Flowers and candlelight
Mix candles and foliage from the garden. On warm balmy evenings you want to stay outside as long as possible, candles create a wonderfully flattering light and also give instant atmosphere which enable the evening to go on as long as you want it to. By adding in foliage or flowers from the garden it instantly works in harmony with the setting. We used blush pink dinner candles in a candelabra to add height and to echo the pink of the cut flowers.
Colour Me Beautifully
Once you have decided on your theme, it should be easy to choose a colour palette that will flow throughout the table setting. This enables you to bring your alfresco table setting to life! For our English Country Garden, we opted for a blend of lavender, thistle, dusky pinks and greens. Choosing colour combinations which flow smoothly together throughout the setting will draw your guests in as they arrive to dine.
I adore this idea of using a table from indoors outside. Simple place settings are used and the theatrical decadence of a huge centrepiece floral display. The colours of this echo the flowers in the borders surrounding it making it feel like part of the garden.
Add a pop of colour. Whether it's with napkins (paper or linen), you could even paint the furniture. I recommend Cornish Milk Mineral paint for a quick and easy paint makeover in a beautiful range of natural tones.
Use suitable glassware. We love these bee glasses, they're handmade in France, heavyweight so if they get knocked they have more chance of survival and also are dishwasher friendly. The bee detail also works perfectly in a garden setting.
Make it comfortable! Make outdoor dining as comfortable as indoors. Sumptious seat padding is a must and by adding bench cushions or seat pads you and your guests will feel more at home. Outdoor rugs are bang on trend at present and add a feeling of the indoors outdoors when laid underneath your table.
Keep a blanket or two to hand. If you are planning to stay out as the sun goes down then a blanket or throw to wrap around the shoulders is comforting. We love Tweedmill 100% wool throws, they are available in a stunning range of colours and make fab picnic blankets too.
You'll need a tray! Whether you're piling up tea and toast to sit out in the garden for breakfast or restocking the nibbles, using a tray means less trips to the kitchen!
Add the scent of summer with citronella candles. Once lit the scent of citronella wafts out driving away annoying airborne insects whilst providing a pleasant citrus fragrance.
If entertaining for friends and family then it makes life far easier if everyone can help themselves. The bar doesn't need to be huge or permanent, grab an ice bucket (this gold pineapple ice bucket is one of our favourites!) pop a table out with a cloth or scarf wrapped over it, add beautiful drinks stirrers, a selection of garnishes, a few bottle of great gin and some mixers. Use a large drinks bucket filled with ice to keep drinks cool and large glass jugs to pre-mix cocktails and mocktails.
It's All In The Detail
Pulling together a beautiful alfresco table setting is easy once you have the colour and the theme worked out. One of my favourite dining table tricks is to layer up placemats, so you pull through two colourways at the same time. If you're not using fabric napkins, dress your cutlery with a swatch of fabric and tie a bundle together on the dress plates. Layer your colour theme and use variations of your colour theme. For example, attempting to match the exact colour throughout is almost impossible, but bringing a range of colours that sit within the spectrum will give you room to play.
Have fun styling your alfresco dining setting and enjoy the great outdoors this summer!
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