How to Host an Outdoor Dinner Party

This means thinking beyond the basics and creating a dining space that’s as thoughtfully appointed as any indoor dining room. You can still make potato salad, but the table is set and it’s beautiful. Even though you’re still working on the potato salad the table is set and beautiful. “Sometimes, an outdoor room is the most beautiful dining room in the world,” said David Stark, a New York-based event designer.We asked Ms. Zamaria, Mr. Stark and other designers for advice on how to create an outdoor dining space worthy of the summer ahead.ImageA long arrangement of flowers in a series of low vases is ideal on a rectangular table, like this one designed by Cynthia Zamaria.Credit…Cynthia ZamariaChoose the LocationIf you have a relatively large terrace or yard, lunches and dinners don’t have to be held in the same spot, at the same table you use for everyday meals. You might consider moving the table to a more appealing location, such as under a tree, near flowers or next to a pool or other water feature. “Especially after the past two years, people want an experience,” Becky Shea, an interior design professional based in New York. She designed a dinner party under a willow and another one halfway up a hill at her Catskill Mountains home. People can immerse themselves in a new environment by simply changing the setting. Michael Devine, a textile designer from Orange, Va. and the author of “An Invitation to the Garden,” regularly moves his dinner table around the yard. He said, “It depends what’s in flower and what looks good — then it goes there.” “We rotate through our garden all summer.” ImageBecky Shea moved the dining table under the canopy of a tree in order to create a magical setting for a dinner. Credit to Sean Litchfield. A proper dining table and chairs are not necessary. It doesn’t matter if you’re having a Fourth of July, Labor Day, or something else. ImageNo furniture? ImageNo furniture? She said that one of her friends is involved with the Museum of Natural History’s butterfly section. So, she chose a butterfly theme. She designed the table around bird-inspired elements for another party. Stark has designed outdoor events that focus on lawn games such as badminton or croquet. He also designs parties celebrating in-season vegetables. Stark set the table to recall a market stand, mixing bell Peppers into the floral arrangements, and displaying tomatoes in pint size baskets. He said, “We leaned into fresh produce of the season. The farmers’ markets and roadside farm stands.” ImageMs. ImageMs. “Belgian linen is a tried-and-true summer fabric, alongside cotton and canvas.” “Belgian linen is a tried-and-true summer fabric, alongside cotton and canvas.”While she prefers simple tablecloths and napkins in textural solids and stripes, other designers, like Ms. Boothby and Mr. Devine, will use patterned designs for a fanciful touch.ImageChauncey Boothby used a patterned tablecloth and a mix of vintage dishes to set a fanciful table.Credit…Read McKendree/JBSAWhatever you choose, it doesn’t have to be expensive. You can buy beautiful fabric from a fabric store. It could be seersucker or flour sack. Then you can cut it and get beautiful fray. Some designers suggested mismatched items. It looks effortless, yet it’s so elevated. It’s simple and elegant, yet so sophisticated.” ImageMs. Zamaria suggests buying a few yards from a fabric shop and fraying the ends to make a simple, inexpensive runner. She also uses tea towels as napkins.Credit…Cynthia ZamariaAdd a CenterpieceFinish the table with a decorative centerpiece. It should be simple in summer: cut flowers, branches, and tall grasses from the forest or garden, or purchased from a florist, can create tabletop magic. It’s better to go long- and low-eighth instead. If you are setting up a rectangular table, consider using smaller vases along the length of your table. “I usually like to do bud vases — smaller ones, all across the table,” Ms. Seybert said, “so it doesn’t obstruct anybody’s view.”ImageMichael Devine moves his dining table around the garden, so it’s close to whatever is currently blooming.Credit…Michael DevineMuch like the mismatched dinnerware, the small vases don’t have to be identical. Mixing different sizes and heights can create an animated display. If you have a special occasion, the small vases don’t need to be identical. While traditional taper candles look striking, they are easy to burn and can be tippy. If children are involved, or if it’s a windy evening, votive candles might be a better choice, said Ms. Zamaria, who prefers heavy, stemless drinking glasses for the same reason: They tend to stay put.ImageOutdoor meals are a chance to have fun with color and pattern, as in this picnic arranged with products from Kim Seybert.Credit…Courtesy of Kim SeybertInclude Something UnexpectedA beautiful tablescape will beckon guests to the meal, but what will they find once they sit down?”I definitely love a conversation starter,” Ms. Seybert said, which usually comes from adding something unexpected or whimsical. Ms. Seybert has used carved figurines as napkin rings and taper candles to resemble exotic birds. Zamaria has used garden urns as chillers and repurposed them into tables. Credit…Sean LitchfieldMr. Stark’s upcoming book, “At The Artisan’s Table,” which he co-authored with Jane Schulak, focuses on handcrafted elements for the dining room. Stark has created table settings that resemble three-dimensional tomatoes by using paper flowers and collaborating with Corrie Beth Hogg. You’re there to have fun and socialize with your guests. Sign up for weekly email updates about residential real estate news. Follow us on Twitter at @nytrealestate.