Learn from entertaining expert and Editor-at-Large Kimberly Schlegel Whitman as she puts a chic spin on a backyard summer garden party.
Paper or plastic? For Kimberly Whitman's alfresco dining parties, the answer is always "neither." "You should be able to enjoy
an elegant dinner outside just as you would indoors with a few easy changes," she says.
To create the space, they paved a 10-x-10-foot area in their side yard, gave it a boxwood border, and hung an iron chandelier from the tree branch above. A round table with an iron base and teak dining chairs upholstered in weather-resistant fabric are outdoor grade, but would look equally good indoors. To set the table, Kimberly combined formal and casual elements that are united under a fresh green-and-white color scheme. Here, she tells you how to create her inviting look and successfully host your own outdoor dinner party.
"I started here with white linens and hand-painted Anna Weatherley china," Kimberly says. "I combined the dinner plates with
heavier ceramic chargers from a yard sale and my wood-handled flatware."
Heavy metal holders keep napkins from blowing away before guests arrive. Mixing sparkly goblets with rattan-covered tumblers helps create a more interesting textural setting.
"Think of your space as an indoor dining room, and look for comfortable chairs that provide both style and outdoor durability,"
To create this glass-free centerpiece, start with four blocks of florist foam that have been soaked in water overnight. Group the foam blocks on a round platter, trim the edges to form a round shape, and then hold them together with florist tape. One by one, loop live English ivy vines around the florist foam. Lastly, fill the top with stems of white hydrangeas and 'Polo' roses stuck directly into the foam. Best news: It'll last for days!
Dishes in natural shapes add garden touches. "These gold leaf pieces are ideal for serving baguettes and olive oil with a
sprig of fresh basil," Kimberly says.
Save yourself lots of return trips to the kitchen by staging the things you might need during dinner (such as extra water
and wine, linens, and condiments) in a pretty vignette near the table.