Who doesn’t want their outdoor dining tables to look like something out of House Beautiful? But between getting the shrimps ready for the barbie and washing, chopping, and dressing the salads, who has time to fuss? We want festive and easy. Here’s our secret: arm yourself with a few basics that can be repurposed with a few accessories to create totally different environments.
We started with a stylish navy and white spillproof tablecloth that will shed the wine you spill when you’re having way too much fun and are talking with your hands. Simple white plates provide a contrast and background for creating a variety of scenarios. The glass that was knocked over is not glass at all, but an elegant shatterproof plastic stemless wineglass that feels like the real thing. An unusual glass pitcher provides both visual interest and an attractive vessel for water, iced tea, or other refreshing beverages. A faux stoneware platter—made of melamine so it’s light—can serve several purposes: it can hold the centerpiece or serve as a tray for bringing drinks and comestibles to the table.
We took these pieces and created distinct tabletop looks for three different events—a dinner party, a Fourth of July picnic, and breakfast in the garden. Being able to pull together a beautiful table is not much different than putting together a beautiful outfit. Take a few basic pieces and create different looks with a few well-chosen accessories.
For an elegant dinner party in waning summer light, the core pieces are accented with shades of green echoing the surrounding garden. Items found in the refrigerator—mint-infused water, limes, and asparagus—provide the centerpiece and are reusable and edible. Find some green salad plates at a flea market or on sale at a store or online. The grass green napkins are from Pier 1. We found other accents by rummaging through cabinets and the Christmas bins. Greens from the garden are strewn about.
There are few more glorious experiences than sitting outside on a warm sunny Fourth of July at a beautifully appointed table, resplendent with the red, white and blue of the flag and the faces of dear friends. You know full well that the conversation is going to become enthusiastic (particularly when the subject of politics raises its animated head). In this patriotic table setting the navy and white star napkins work with the tablecloth print because of a basic design principle: one has a bold print and the other is detailed. Silver star napkin rings add some fun. All from Amazon.com. The stars-and-stripes painted balls from Pier 1 add a patriotic statement without all the kitsch.
Create a simple red, white, and blue scene with a pitcher of strawberry water and a bowl of radishes or cherry tomatoes. Later that evening the painted balls can be wound with fairy lights for delicate lighting while you savor the last of the wine or a cup of coffee.
Sunny yellow joins the tablecloth and white plates to dress up breakfast on the deck for friends or for a blissful morning alone. The pitcher makes another appearance, this time bearing orange juice. The platter holds the coffee and croissants. Tiny blue bowls bring the look together.
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Table design credit: Beth Hoffman, BHA Interiors, Montclair, NJ