Design 101: Party Al Fresco!

Sunlight and fresh air. With the long, warm days of summer upon us, let’s take advantage of the opportunity to dine outside. This month we discuss a few things that can enhance your experience whether it’s a table for two or the whole family.

Throw some shade

We miss the sun when it’s not out, and while it’s crucial in keeping us warm and helping produce vitamin D, too much sun can also get you in a lot of trouble. It’s easy to forget how long you have been basking in it while drinking mimosas and enjoying your meal. That is why shade at your table is so important. Whether sticking up through your table or hanging over from the side, a market umbrella is a necessity for extended outdoor dining. They’re available in numerous colors and styles and, if you have a question about how large an umbrella you need, consider getting the next size up.

Pro-tip: There are a lot of options on the market, but no matter which you choose make sure to get a really solid anchor/base. The force generated by a sufficiently strong wind can cause significant damage should your umbrella come loose. Other good upgrades include a tilt option and upgraded fabric. If your umbrella has a replaceable cover consider getting an extra at the time of order. It is no fun trying to find a replacement a few years after the model has been discontinued.

Light the mood, and the yard

Since we do tend to stay outdoors longer in the warm weather, you’ll want to consider lighting for the evening. Path lighting, especially along stairs, will help guide people at night while spotlights can help highlight decorative elements in your yard. String lights, which come in a variety of shapes and colors, can also help to define an area. Consider having an outlet installed rather than relying on battery powered systems.

Pro-tip: If you plan on doing some upgrading to your landscaping, and especially if you are having an outlet installed, consider adding outdoor speakers. They add a lot of value for a very small additional amount.

Take the chill out

Despite how hot a day may be, the night can still be quite chilly. If you plan on dining into the evening consider a high BTU propane heater. They are easy to operate and shed an area of heat under their canopy that typically encourages small groups to form and talk for hours.

Pro-tip: If you’re less concerned about efficiency and would prefer something a bit more showy, a custom top can be designed fairly easily that will allow a ring or other shape to blaze with fire atop the pole. This is an excellent option for commercial establishments with distinctive branding they wish to reinforce.

Stay safe out there

Safety is as always a primary concern. Make sure that your grill or other cooking device is located a safe distance from the house. Often we see warped siding where someone disregarded that advice, and they were lucky to damage only the siding. Live flame from a candle can be very romantic, but consider replacing it with a floating wick drawing olive oil sitting on top of water. Not only does the oil not catch on fire, but if knocked over the water will extinguish the small flame on the wick.

Pro-tip: Fire bowls are a portable alternative to a fire pit. Easy to move and typically safer, you can add a decorative ring and watch the flickering flame dance ephemerally into the night making whatever shapes are cut into it.

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