As the glorious warmth of summer approaches and our free time is being spent outdoors, we find ourselves planning and prepping our outdoor spaces for the company of friends and family. Whether cookouts, game nights, or pool parties are your style, there’s sure to be a long list of to-do’s to get everything ready. As we still have a couple of weeks before school’s out and everyone is up for the weekend festivities, there is no better time than now to start considering all of your entertaining preparations and possibilities. Not only do you want your outdoor space to look beautiful but you also want it to feel relaxing and comfortable from dawn ’til dusk, because many of us know that sometimes parties are an all day event…
There are many important things to consider before the entertaining begins, but we’ve pulled together the top 10 to get your summer started off right:
We all know that sometimes the heat of the summer can really draw out the bugs from their winter hiding places. From pesky mosquitos to the buzzing June bugs, we want to keep our distance from these nuisances. Depending on the climate of your home you may have different insects to worry about but with the right deterrents you’ll keep some of the main pests away. Most commonly used are the lovely Citronella candles and tiki torches (if you like that added flair in your yard). These are great options for keeping the bugs away and for adding a bit of ambiance to your outdoor space.
Other options would be your screen or drapery options. If you have a back deck and want to enclose the space from the buggy humid nights, consider screening in the structure. If you only prefer screens during the evening or when you’re eating, then consider screens that can be slid back into storage or completely removed when you want things to be open again. There are also screen-like drapes that can be pinned down along their edges and then easily tied back when no longer wanted.
Lastly, grab the bug spray for late night bonfires or dips in the pool, you won’t regret avoiding the itchy bites of summertime.
Certainly one of the biggest elements to consider in your outdoor space: the lighting. Of course this isn’t as much of a problem during the daylight, but you definitely want to be able to party well into the night, which means good lighting is in order. Whether you have a fire pit or not, additional light sources will make your outdoor design feel more like a living space for your guests to relax in. Often homeowners will incorporate a larger statement chandelier, pendant, or lantern above their outdoor dining table or in the center of their seating. This gives the space a focal point to mingle and dine together while still enjoying the fresh air. This also helps create a space that can transition from a party space to a formal dining space depending on the occasion.
Another opportunity for outdoor lighting is throughout your landscaping, whether along walkways or highlighting the pond or pool that you may have. this form of accent lighting gives your outdoor space dimension and ambiance. Not to mention, it can be a safety feature to avoid any trips or falls.
If you enjoy the decorative aspect of lighting, you could also play around with string lights for a fun approach to decor. These can be great for festive gatherings and can give your space a laid back look without having to commit to any permanent fixtures. String lights can also be utilized under an outdoor bar-top for a classy, less intrusive glow.
Lastly, don’t forget about your outdoor wall sconces and fixed lanterns that bring the warmth and comfort of the indoors to your outdoor space. These will most likely be similar to the fixtures you have on the front of your house and help support your cohesive design from indoor to outdoor living spaces.
This is an absolute must, especially in the dead heat of those mid summer days. Depending on your location, temperatures can creep pretty high as the days press on, making it almost unbearable in some instances. Don’t let the heat keep you in (unless it is actually dangerously hot), and instead opt for some cool-down options that will keep the guests happy and the fun going. If you haven’t already considered an outdoor fan, then today may be the day to give in. An outdoor fan can drop the temperature pretty significantly, making those hot summer nights way more bearable. While some may go for a typical wooden blade, some find creative large leaf or bamboo fans that generate quite the breeze for those stagnant air days. Find a fan that fits your style and your comfort to get the air flowing again.
For some, the answer to the heat will always be a cold pool to jump into, and while this will always sound amazing in the heat, you can also go for a portable mister fan or some serious shaded space to block out those rays. On a slight side note, it’s always nice to keep the cold drinks available to help cool off and if you don’t want to be running inside the house constantly, consider an outdoor fridge or cooler to keep things icy + chilled. We promise your guests will thank you for this accommodation.
In a practical sense, this consideration should begin in the initial planning stages. We’re talking Spring/early Summer, because getting everything in order may take some time. From the beginning of the driveway to the farthest stretch of your backyard, your home’s design should flow from one space to the next. Things could look a bit choppy if say, your exterior was a modern style, your interior was completely traditional, and your backyard living space was totally coastal, right? The bottom line is that consistency is key to a successful design and a happy homeowner. Don’t get us wrong, there’s nothing bad about having different styles in the home, but it is important to have something that ties it all together, whether it be a color scheme, a theme, or simply a method to the madness.
When it comes to your outdoor entertaining, most guests will enter through the front door to make it to the back, and they will get the full picture of your home design as they pass through. Luckily they’re aren’t as many design factors outdoors as there are indoors, but you can still find ways to pull it all together. If there is an accent color that is highlighted in your interiors, then find outdoor seating cushions that match or play off of those hues. If you’ve got some funky mid century modern patterns in your living room, find a side table to paint that pattern onto for your patio, or find a tablecloth with a similar print to keep the grooviness going. Find something, anything, that you really enjoy about your interior spaces and bring it outdoors for that seamless design.
Whether you’re sticky from a wedge of juicy watermelon or you just got out of the treated pool water, you’ll want some way to rinse of or clean up without stepping inside. A great feature to have if you have an outdoor kitchen is a nice big sink. This can be great for rinsing of sticky hands or cocktail glasses before pouring a new one.
If a sink isn’t really necessary than a water spout can always come in handy and is good for rinsing of a bit of dirt or grass from your feet if you like going barefoot as much as we do. And for a full on rinse down if you’re done swimming for the day or just getting back from the beach, then an outdoor shower is fantastic for washing off. They are a pretty easy addition and can be a quick weekend project to prepare for the fun summer activities. In the end, and of these outdoor features will keep guests happy and the house clean, and who doesn’t want that?
Your Water Elements
The element of water in any outdoor design, gives the space a relaxing and cooling effect that is incomparable. Whether you have the full blown swimming pool or a small pond with some fish friends, these elements become an irreplaceable part of your overall design. The decision after-the-fact becomes if you want the rest of your outdoor space to surround itself around these elements, or if they become a separate area from your dining + socializing portion of your backyard.
If you want everything to work together as once space, consider keeping everything at one level, maybe placing seating around the pool/pond or just beside it. This can make it easier for guest to mingle around and not feel secluded in one area. On the other hand, sometimes it’s nice to have a bit of separation, whether it’s kids in the pool and adults chatting over cocktails, or girls planning a wedding over lunch while the guys play water games. This separation can be created with a raised deck and a lower yard with a pool or pond. Even with a bit of landscaping or a short stone wall, the defining elements will help separate the water elements from the seating or dining spaces for optimal use.
With so many options as far as hardscaping materials, this decision can be daunting. Whether you’re building your outdoor space currently or are just looking to update, it’s nice to have all your options before committing. We can’t give you every single option here, but we can touch on some popular ones that are great for outdoor entertaining. From cement to tiles, it’s wise to find a materials that will stand the test of time but also won’t tear up your feet if you like to kick your shoes off. Some of our favorite materials include flagstone, pavers, and smooth stamped concrete. All look way better than gritty cement and will last longer than stained wood. There are also tiles that mimic the look of wood, but be weary of how the earth underneath the patio might shift.
As a safety feature, if you have slick surface be sure to keep it covered during rainfall or keep mats down to avoid any slipping.
We all know that the weather can be completely unpredictable at times and its essential that you are prepared for almost anything. If you have outdoor cushions and furniture, be sure to have a waterproof container to store things in, or at least plastic covers for larger pieces. This will protect from rain and humidity. Also have a container for pool toys to make sure your beach ball doesn’t end up in your neighbors yard three doors down. If you have extra seating that you pull out when needed, it can be helpful to have a small shed or storage closet to stick them in along with an outdoor broom or pool net. If you have outdoor curtains or removable screens, make sure they are tied back or latched on properly to prevent any damage. Depending on where you live, there will be different factors you may run into with the weather, so be cautious of these and do some research on ways to prepare because it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Your Entertaining Elements
This will be more of an overview of some special features you can incorporate into your exterior design based on the purpose of the space. If you’re a big party person and you love to keep the drinks flowing, then maybe a wine cooler or drink fridge would be useful. If you like to have book club on your back patio, then maybe a longer wooden table with plenty of seating is perfect for chatting and sharing chips and guac. For late night bonfires and yummy s’mores, a fire pit is a must. In any case, consider your lifestyle, what you may be using your outdoor space for, and what may really make it the perfect entertaining spot.
After you’ve got all elements accounted for and you know what you want out of your outdoor living space, consider the layout of things. For mingling parties, keep the seating scattered so guests can hop from on table to the next. For pool parties, keep the towels close and the array of food approachable. If you’re prone to weekly cookouts, don’t create a separation from the cook to the guests–we’re sure that they want to be included in conversation too even while they’re grilling up the grub. Lastly, decide if you want a sectioned-off seating or dining space, or if open concept/laid back look is more your style. To figure this out quickly, look to your interior design layout and that should help guide you in the right direction.