When the weather is warm, there’s no greater pleasure than dining al fresco. These outdoor table settings will give you inspiration for your next gathering in the garden.
Outdoor Table Settings Ideas
Whether you’re entertaining a group, dining solo or with a loved one, a stylish garden table setting makes eating outdoors so much more pleasurable.
Here’s our pick of the best al fresco tablescapes, as well as some handy outdoor dining tips.
Outdoor Table Settings Tips
Tableware – ideally choose unbreakable tableware for outdoor entertaining, such as melamine, bamboo and tin plates. The styles have improved a lot in recent years and there are many attractive designs available. Have napkins to hand for mopping up any spillages.
Location – pick a spot that’s close to your kitchen if possible. Invest in a lightweight tray, which will be very handy for bringing food and tableware to the outdoor area. Have a drinks station where guests can help themselves to a top up!
Protect from the elements – a combination of shade and sun is ideal when eating in the fresh air. Put up a patio umbrella or consider investing in an awning or sun shade sail.
Style it up – there are lots of ways to create a stylish outdoor table centrepiece. Try freshly picked flowers, berries, herbs or grasses in small vases. You could even use decorative cabbages for a quirky look or shells for a beachside theme. Space your table decorations out so that you can still see each guest easily!
Comfort is key – place colorful padded cushions on each chair. If the weather is chilly, provide lightweight blankets for your guests, set up a patio heater or position the table close to a fire pit. An outdoor fan will keep everyone cool when the weather heats up.
Protect from insects – use a citronella candle to keep bugs away. Cover any food when it’s not being served.
Prepare a music playlist – include a mix of instrumental pieces or ballads for dining and party anthems for later!
Outdoor Table Accessories
Choose colorful and fun accessories to brighten up your Summer table. There are some very good acrylic wine glasses and water glasses these days. The Summer House have a great selection of acrylic salad bowls, jugs and tumblers by Italian designer Mario Luca Giusti.
Paper napkins can also look stylish if matched to your decor. However, for a touch of class, we like to use linen napkins. These blue goldfish embroidered linen napkins are a great addition to any table.
Even if you’re keen to have a casual table, you can’t beat real table cloths or table runners. Feel free to mix beautiful patterns with stripes, as long as the color scheme matches.
An embroidered pure cotton table cloth by The Summer House works equally well for Summer or festive entertaining.
If all the guests don’t know each other, include their name on place holders. Decorate napkin rings with fresh flower sprigs for a special touch.
A wine cooler is ideal for keeping drinks at the right temperature. If you don’t have one to hand, use a galvanized bucket and fill it with ice cubes.
The blockprint tablecloth below conjures up images of Italian Summers, with its gorgeous lemon vine pattern. Gold flatware complements the pattern, while recycled glass tumblers add to the casual vibe.
Outdoor Table Centerpieces
When considering different table setting ideas, think about incorporating a centerpiece in your outdoor decor. Freshly cut flowers are the obvious choice, although you could use repeat flowers spaced around the table.
We like this handcrafted wood and melamine cocktails board by designer and illustrator Katie Cardew. It’s ideal for prepping and serving drinks. A tiered tray laden with candies and fruit is another nice option.
Tealight holders make a dramatic candlelit dinner centerpiece. In the daytime, you can swap the tea lights for a succulent or flower.
This geometric tealight holder is part of the Spring subscription box by Bonnie Hame. The stylish box is packed with the latest design-led home trends.
There’s also a set of two gold and marbled ceramic coasters, and a set of 4 nesting geometric trays which make a perfect centerpiece for snacks. We don’t want to spoil the surprise, but there are 5 other beautiful home decor items in the subscription box!
With the right lighting, your Summer entertaining can carry on effortlessly from daytime to evening. Outdoor lanterns, glass hurricanes and string lights will all help to create a magical atmosphere.
When buying outdoor lighting, look for one of each of the following types: accent, ambient and task. Accent lights for outdoors will place emphasis on particular areas and are generally three times stronger than normal lights.
Ambient outdoor lighting is all about creating a relaxing atmosphere, and can be achieved with fairy lights or outdoor lanterns. Some of these come with a dimmer switch to give a soft glow.
You can now get solar torch lights with flickering flame effects. These tiki lights look great and don’t need any electricity. LEDs are another low energy option for outdoor lights.
Task lighting will help to illuminate paths and entrances. A pendant light can be an accent, ambient or task light depending on how low it’s placed and how strong the bulb is. When choosing lights for outdoors, take a look at your garden from inside and choose weather-resistant materials.
Similarly, when purchasing furniture for your garden, look for high-quality items that will resist the elements. Zoning your outdoor space is a good idea. Placing your outdoor dining table and garden furniture in particular areas is one of the easiest ways to do this.
You could have an outdoor dining area, another section with comfortable outdoor lounge sofas and another area with the barbecue or outdoor kitchen. It’s always good to keep this away from the dining table as backyard barbecues can be quite smoky!
Chairs or illuminated seating cubes around a fire pit are increasingly popular. If you have space, you could even have an outdoor games section with a giant toppling tower, croquet set or ring toss.
Add a pop of color to your outdoor dining area with vibrant cushions in shades of turquoise, orange or pink. Place Turkish towels in a wicker basket for guests to dry off after a dip in the pool.
An outdoor rug is a great option if your patio flooring is looking a bit tired. For shade, a cantilevered umbrella, pergola like this lime embroidered garden parasol is ideal. Other good options are a sliding canopy or an outdoor gazebo with mosquito netting.
Best Food to Serve Outdoors
Prep as much as you can in advance. Clean and chop up vegetables and store them in air-tight containers. Think bite-size portions such as mini quiches, deviled eggs and bruschetta.
If your guests have a sweet tooth, you could set up a candy bar where they can help themselves to treats.
Here are some Summer desserts ideas that are easy to serve outdoors:
Make sure to have plenty of ice to hand for drinks. These Summer cocktails are ideal for an outdoor gathering:
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