Stylish summer table settings for backyard entertaining

navy and green table setting

Who doesn’t want their outdoor dining table 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.

The basics

outdoor dining set

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? It’s 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—serves several purposes: it can hold the centerpiece or serve as a tray for bringing drinks and comestibles to the table.

Three table designs using the basics

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.

Leafy green elegance

blue and green outdoor table setting

For an elegant dinner party in waning summer light, the core pieces are accented with shades of green that echo 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 paper, given our new hyperclean reality. We found other accents by rummaging through cabinets and the Christmas bins. Greens from the garden are strewn about.

Backyard barbecue

red white blue patriotic table setting

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.

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.

union jack napkins outdoor dining


If your loyalties lie elsewhere, the setting here also works by switching out the napkins with Union Jack, maple leaf, or simple red and white stripe patterns.



Country breakfast on the deck

table setting breakfast on deck
table stting for breakfast on deck

Golden yellow, navy, and white are a timeless color combination. Here, sunny yellow pillows and golden croissants bring a warmth to the tablecloth and white plates to dress up breakfast on the deck.  The pitcher makes another appearance, this time bearing orange juice. The platter holds the coffee and croissants. Tiny blue bowls bring the look together.

Table design credit: Beth Hoffman, BHA Interiors, Montclair, NJ  

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