The spring and summer seasons offer warm days and comfortable evenings for outdoor parties and get-togethers. Basic preparation of the entertaining area with color and fun accessories allow guests to enjoy themselves and relax. Visitors are most at ease when they are comfortable and the host has anticipated their needs before arriving.
Luckily, these needs aren’t complicated: great food, clean spaces to mingle, comfortable seating, and as much nuisance control as possible.
Really inspect decks, patios, and porches to make note of clean-up tasks. The winter moisture may have encouraged mildew on decking or concrete blocks. Professional power washing is the best bet, but there are DIY options as well. Today Show contributor Lou Manfredini of House Smarts recommended Wet & Forget Mold, Mildew, & Algae Stain Remover. He also mentions the product Krud Kutter to clean siding and other exterior components.
In the spring, creatures big and small like to nest in tiny, enclosed hiding spots.
- Check the deck or patio for any insect or animal infestation.
- Rodents could have damaged rails or steps during the winter months.
- Small holes in wood may be repaired with exterior wood filler.
- To clean patio and deck floors, a powerful leaf blower will tidy up by removing leaves and other debris stuck in crevices.
A top priority to ensure successful parties is the perfect seating arrangement. Depending on square footage available, outdoor seating comes in many varieties that mimic indoor sofas and couches.
- Large L-shaped sectionals are popular, and are found at a range of stores from Wal-Mart and Costco up to luxury lines like Arhaus or Frontgate.
- Smaller, five- to seven-piece sets that include multiple chairs, a low table, and a three-person couch are traditional combinations.
- Round table dining collections with an umbrella for shade and four to eight chairs are another classic look. Finishes appear in wrought iron, wood, and outdoor woven wicker or rattan.
- Smaller porches and patios accommodate a small three-piece bistro set or two Adirondack style chairs.
All are easily refurbished if found secondhand with a great paint product such as Krylon’s indoor/outdoor spray paint.
Cushions that are thick and deep provide the most comfort for lounging with drink in hand. Choosing vibrant and patterned cushions make all the difference in visual appeal. In a landscape of natural hues, bursts of any color will draw guests to the table. Maintain their condition by keeping them out of the rain and bird droppings by storing when not in use. A matching storage bench serves as additional seating while housing cushions and children’s toys.
Serveware and Accessories
These serving pieces add personality and fun to outdoor areas.
- Dining tables topped with colorful and unbreakable plates and glasses make the atmosphere festive.
- Patterns and monograms provide visual interest and become easy conversation starters.
- Incorporating vertically tiered serving pieces allow extra room for diners.
- Plastic beverage dispensers are invaluable for guests to help themselves to a premade summer cocktail or lemonade.
Entertaining accessories are all about a comfortable and homelike experience for guests which means accessibility without having to ask the hostess for assistance.
- A decorative galvanized or plastic bucket for icing beer and other beverages throughout the party allow guests to help themselves.
- A champagne or wine ice bucket is easily elevated by a plant stand or left on a side table near the seating.
- A "necessities" tote or bin can save a guest in a pinch. Gather bug spray, hand fans, sunscreen, allergy tablets, and stain removal wipes and leave it visible in case a guest needs assistance.
- Bar carts remain en vogue and antique carts are easy to find, but many furniture pieces can substitute for staging bar accessories, for example, small potting benches or tall side tables.
Plants and Lighting
Shrubs and string lights are not necessarily the first visual focus when entering a backyard, but they provide foundational elements that ground the gathering space.
- Potted plants act like walls and hide unsightly objects such as air conditioning units.
- Large trees in containers offer shade and privacy.
- Guests may find an edible salsa garden or mint plant amusing as they snip a sprig for a cocktail or cilantro for a Mexican dish.
Exterior lighting is needed as evening approaches. Why not add to the plain porch light?
- Strung lights in many forms are readily available, as are torches and candles.
- Candles with citronella or other anti-insect specialty formulas will help to keep bugs at bay.
- Hanging lanterns come in many materials such as punched tin and painted metals.
Non-Essential Items (But Fun to Have!)
- An outdoor rug defines the space and adds color or tactile interest.
- Industrial standing fans cool the air and keep flies away from food.
- Outdoor gas fireplaces add ambiance and a bit of warmth for cool spring or fall evenings.
- A six-foot folding table with a decorative tablecloth instantly provides a dessert table or other need.
Preparing for a party is easy! Just think about the items or amenities you would like to have while attending a fun summer get-together. Thoughtful details make all of the difference for the enjoyment of your guests.
By Dawn M. Smith