Updated: Oct 27, 2020
Who isn't enchanted with the first, crisp days of fall? It brings with it the of reprieve from the heat; crisp, colorful leaves crunching beneath your feet; if you're in school- new beginnings; and of course the promise of holiday celebrations around the corner. One thing I absolutely love, (though admittedly don't do enough of) is taking meals outside. There's something to be said for sitting back and taking the time to fully enjoy what is happening around us and what better way is there than to enjoy great food, great company and great surroundings? Besides, with the pandemic, there has never been a better time to try it if social distancing is still part of the equation.
With that in mind I've gathered some thoughts, ideas and favorite pics to get some inspiration going for setting a great outdoor space this season. Remember; it can be as simple or as complex as you want or have the time for- mother nature is a perfect decorator/designer in and of herself.
As with anything, I always have my 'in a perfect world' list I create. It really is pretty basic, but it helps me to focus in on what I have and what I might need to buy. Most of the time, there are things on the list that don't make it to reality- due to time, money or some other practical constraints but that's ok- at least it gives me something to start with! (and maybe even build on for next year)
*table- could be traditional or simply some kind of tray or side tables paired with outdoor seating
*settings (includes plates/utensils/placemats/napkins)
*heat element- could be outdoor heater or firepit
*stuff to do smores with (I mean, this almost goes without saying)
*decor (for table and lighting)
*bin/basket of some sort to be able to easily transport items
The great thing about dining outdoors is that the possibilities are endless- it can be casual to formal or anywhere in between. Because the sky is your ceiling and trees/bushes are your walls it really is an 'anything goes' in a way that cannot be done indoors and have the same effect.
Now that you know that you can be liberal in how you decide to execute your outdoor space, let's consider a few things from a interior (or in this case exterior) design perspective. When choosing materials look for varying layers and textures. One of the coolest things about setting up outdoors is the amount of textures and layers already in place.
Who wouldn't love having dinner at this laid-back, cozy setting from French Country Cottage? Layering & texture is a big deal in this scene. Aside from the trees that add several layers both in color and texture, big fluffy pillows and chunky, textured throws not only provide comfy seating, but add a softness layer to the bench that it wouldn't have otherwise. Then there is layered lighting. On a low level, the firepit provides warmth and glow and different sized string lights at varying heights add yet another layer. And who wouldn't love the added scent layer and softness texture that fresh cut flowers provide?
Or maybe you prefer a more formal affair? This elegant table set up is from Nell Hill's Design. It is a great example of what designers think of as 'pattern'. This isn't solely pattern in a fabric we are talking about here but repetition which also can create a pattern. Green and gold glass was chosen to create a pattern with it which helps guide the eyes and make sense of the scene. In this case, the designer styled the table with green anchoring one side of the table and gold on the other. The glass could have alternated colors and would have given a bit different of a feel to the eye but been just as effective. Additionally, notice the way the orange from the high centerpiece was brought down into the roses. This was an effective use of repetition of color to make the table feel more cohesive. Imagine if there were no orange other than the centerpiece- it would have felt a bit disjointed. Alternatively, some of the green color could have been added to the centerpiece which again, would have provided cohesiveness to the table.
I must admit that I have put more thought into my outdoor eating area this year because we have been spending so much time at home as a result of Covid. I have found myself getting more excited about it because I have actually had time to think about and plan for it. I kind of went all out this year and did go with more of a color scheme than usual- which essentially means I bought pillows specifically for fall and filled in around them with the rest. Usually in my design process, it is helpful for me to pick one thing that has inspired me (or my client) and that serves as the touchpoint for the rest of the design. In this case- it was the pillows. The base colors are a blue grey and rust/spice color that I found at World Market.
Some new items for my table for this year include placemats, a chunky textured runner from Crate & Barrel, and highball glasses from West Elm One thing I'm really excited about is the eco friendly bamboo fiber plates I purchased from World Market. I have yet to learn the long term use of them, but I love the fact that they are eco friendly and can be used outdoors without the fear of shattering. If they have longevity- I see a great future between them and I! I purchased black but they don't have that color on the website at the time of writing this.
So as you go about creating your outdoor space- think like a designer! Have fun experimenting with layers, texture, pattern and repetition. Also, you're anything like me and enjoy having a color palette in mind to limit your choices, check out my 2 Must Try Fall Color Palettes for some inspiration. Regardless of how you approach it, as long as you are using pieces you love, and enjoying your space with the people you love, it is always a win. So get to that outdoor space and let me know how it goes!
Some fun resources: