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Ideas for an Outdoor Dining Area

04/23/14, by Cate Seiser

Backyard barbecues have a charming appeal that brings family and friends together during the dog days of summer. A casual enviornment is ideal for such a gathering, but sometimes "casual" is taken to the extreme — leaving style to fall short (before photo).

before and after

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to liven up a dull outdoor dining area. Establishing a summery style is a good way to start. This is best done by choosing one or two key elements with textures and a color palette you can work with. Then, have fun coordinating dishware and accessories, and use them to assemble appealing place settings that suit your serving needs. Remember that an outdoor dining area is about more than just the table — lights, plants, and other accents play a major role in enhancing the overall atmosphere of the space, too.

detail shots

• Spark a Style Scheme. Your dining space will benefit from having a few prominent items that tie everything together. The goal isn't to make it all match perfectly, but rather to find inspiration for a set of textures and colors you can repeat. A texture-rich rug and striped chair cushions were the perfect first additions here (photo a).

• Set a Casual Tabletop. Embrace things that are unusual but cool when setting the table. We favored barbecue-themed trays over regular plates, for example, and opted for placemats and napkins that weren't designed to go with the rug and cushions (photo b). In the same spirit, silverware and snacks are placed in galvanized metal buckets.

• Stylize the Surroundings. Assorted accents complete the relaxed, charming atmosphere. The painted wicker chair carries on the laid-back approach to decorating, and the lime tree planted in a vintage potato chip canister adds some novelty (photo c). It's not all for show. One of our favorite items in the surrounding space is a galvanized metal serving cart. It's great for hauling supplies out from the kitchen and keeps beverages cold, plus it matches the tabletop serving ideas!

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