Learn from entertaining expert and Editor-at-Large Kimberly Schlegel Whitman as she puts a chic spin on a backyard summer garden party.
Alfresco Dining Hostess
Paper or plastic? For Kimberly Whitman's alfresco dining parties, the answer is always "neither." "You should be able to enjoy an elegant dinner outside just as you would indoors with a few easy changes," she says.
To create the space, they paved a 10-x-10-foot area in their side yard, gave it a boxwood border, and hung an iron chandelier from the tree branch above. A round table with an iron base and teak dining chairs upholstered in weather-resistant fabric are outdoor grade, but would look equally good indoors. To set the table, Kimberly combined formal and casual elements that are united under a fresh green-and-white color scheme. Here, she tells you how to create her inviting look and successfully host your own outdoor dinner party.
Bring the Indoors Out
"I started here with white linens and hand-painted Anna Weatherley china," Kimberly says. "I combined the dinner plates with heavier ceramic chargers from a yard sale and my wood-handled flatware."
Heavy metal holders keep napkins from blowing away before guests arrive. Mixing sparkly goblets with rattan-covered tumblers helps create a more interesting textural setting.
Tablecloth: Classico in white by Sferra; available from linen-boutique.com Napkins and embroidery: White Linen Monogrammed Dinner Napkin; Traditional Flare in Green Stripe; madisondallas.com Charger: For similar look, Berry and Thread Scallop Charger in Garden Green; juliska.com for retailers. Dinner Plate: Ivy Garland Dinner Plate by Anna Weatherly; available from neimanmarcus.com Napkin Ring: For similar look, Paloma in Nickel by Jan Barboglio; available from Forty Five Ten; 214/559-4510 Rattan tumbler: Seagrass Tumbler; pierl.com
Furniture that Wows
"Think of your space as an indoor dining room, and look for comfortable chairs that provide both style and outdoor durability," Kimberly says.
Chairs: Ruseau Dining Side Chair upholstered in Bamboo Stripe in Spring by Doug and Gene Meyer; linkoutdoor.com for retailers.
Leave the Vase Inside
To create this glass-free centerpiece, start with four blocks of florist foam that have been soaked in water overnight. Group the foam blocks on a round platter, trim the edges to form a round shape, and then hold them together with florist tape. One by one, loop live English ivy vines around the florist foam. Lastly, fill the top with stems of white hydrangeas and 'Polo' roses stuck directly into the foam. Best news: It'll last for days!
Double-Duty Place Cards
Dishes in natural shapes add garden touches. "These gold leaf pieces are ideal for serving baguettes and olive oil with a sprig of fresh basil," Kimberly says.
Leaf dishes: Oak and Vine, hand-painted gold porcelain; williamyeowardcrystal.com for retailers.
Secondary Serving Area
Save yourself lots of return trips to the kitchen by staging the things you might need during dinner (such as extra water and wine, linens, and condiments) in a pretty vignette near the table.
White planters and bowl: Three Birds Flower Pot and Three Birds Plate by Fonte Nova; available from Neiman Marcus; 888/888-4757. Rattan tray: For similar look, Cindy Crawford Fauna Rattan 2-Tier Serving Tray; jcp.com