Dining on the Deck

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Top event stylists offer their best tips for a backyard soiree.

Section by Somer Tejwan

 

Heather Murphy of Storied Rentals recommends neutral bases with pops of color for an elegant table setting.
Heather Murphy of Storied Rentals recommends neutral bases with pops of color for an elegant table setting.

Now that summer is almost here, it’s time to take your dining—and entertaining—outside. From creating the perfect ambience to the tablescape and decor, our local event experts are full of tips and tricks for masterminding the perfect soiree.

Start with creating the right environment. For the color palette, Heather Murphy of Laguna’s Storied Rentals, which rents vintage glam pieces for events, says a neutral base with pops of color is a good option. The larger pieces of furniture can be tan, black or white and then add colored pillows or chairs that tie in with the dishes, glasses or even the specialty drink you’re serving. This way, you can change the look of your outdoor space without spending a lot of money.

To help with the transformation, furniture is a key component and sets the mood for a dinner party. Arpi Torosyan, creative art director at 24 Carrots—an Orange County company that plans events everywhere from the Laguna Art Museum to private homes in Laguna Beach—suggests a long wooden table paired with garden chairs for family-style dining or, if you’re looking for a more glamorous feel, try a mirrored table. As Heather says, “Lounge seating makes your guests feel welcome and want to stay and, when you’re sort of in a party environment outside, I think it makes the environment so much better.”

On the table, the centerpiece doesn’t have to be flowers—but if you can create a presentation based on fresh cuttings from your garden, consider yourself lucky. “Flowers can transform any space,” Arpi says. “If you’re having an intimate party, stick to low arrangements to allow for easy conversation,” she says. If you can’t splurge on flowers, Arpi suggests adding herbs that are potted, in mixed jars or wrapped in burlap to your table. “They will add a rustic look to your party and it’s a great way to create a theme around a certain herb you’ve used in your dishes,” she says. Another option is to choose items already on hand, such as beautiful bowls, candles and vases.

An advantage to outdoor dining is the opportunity to hang items from backyard trees like cafe string lights. “They are fairly inexpensive and add a fun element to the party,” Arpi says. “Or light your table with votives and tea lights and hang lanterns from trees or fixtures.”

Once the atmosphere is set, make sure the table has enough room to actually entertain—think wine, salt and pepper all within easy reach—just as you would inside the home. For the tableware, don’t be afraid to bring in outdoor-specific melamine dishware in different colors. “It’s a great alternative to china, and a lot of designers have created beautiful patterns,” Arpi says. Hosts can also add outdoor touches to linens by tying napkins with lavender or labeling rocks or leaves with a white pen and using those as place cards, suggests Arpi.

Whichever style your outdoor party embraces, both Arpi and Heather recommend creating an environment that speaks to your personal style. There isn’t one cookie-cutter approach to backyard entertaining, but developing a base with the right large furniture pieces and adding accessories and tableware that can be changed out will keep the space feeling fresh.

Take the Party Outdoors
Create an inviting backyard oasis for entertaining made easy.

Whether you’re starting with a clean, blank slate or you need a few additions to make a backyard entertaining space even better, we’ve cultivated stylish and functional finds from local decor destinations to get the job done. LBM

montego_outdoor
The Montego outdoor dining table is perfect for alfresco dining, with a striking mix of solid ipe wood and stainless steel. Left untreated, it will develop a beautiful silver patina, $999, at Room & Board, South Coast Plaza Village, Santa Ana. (714-549-5995; roomandboard.com)
Outdoor entertaining doesn’t have to be stuffy—create a whimsical tablescape with the Mariposa Flip Flop Server, $74, at Laguna Colony Co., Laguna Beach. (949-497-8919; thecolonycompanies.info)
Outdoor entertaining doesn’t have to be stuffy—create a whimsical tablescape with the Mariposa Flip Flop Server, $74, at Laguna Colony Co., Laguna Beach. (949-497-8919; thecolonycompanies.info)
With a bright color and relaxed structure, the Union Red Dining Arm Chair, including an outdoor Sunbrella fabric cushion, makes for easy backyard seating, $249, at Crate and Barrel, South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa. (714-825-0060; crateandbarrel.com)
With a bright color and relaxed structure, the Union Red Dining Arm Chair, including an outdoor Sunbrella fabric cushion, makes for easy backyard seating, $249, at Crate and Barrel, South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa. (714-825-0060; crateandbarrel.com)
Late-night storytelling by candlelight is made even more romantic with the Italian pewter Match candlestick holder, $150, at Stephen Frank Garden & Home, Laguna Beach. (949-494-2014; stephenfrank.com)
Late-night storytelling by candlelight is made even more romantic with the Italian pewter Match candlestick holder, $150, at Stephen Frank Garden & Home, Laguna Beach. (949-494-2014; stephenfrank.com)
Create regal garden seating anywhere with the antique serpent-and-grape-pattern cast iron garden benches with teak-slatted seats and backs, price upon request, at Trove Gallery, Laguna Beach. (949-376-4640; trovegallery.com)
Create regal garden seating anywhere with the antique serpent-and-grape-pattern cast iron garden benches with teak-slatted seats and backs, price upon request, at Trove Gallery, Laguna Beach. (949-376-4640; trovegallery.com)
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