Dining Al Fresco

By Christine Brun

March 20, 2018 4 min read

It's here! Summer has arrived, and with it all the community celebrations that signal the official start of one of the most pleasurable times of the year. Dining al fresco is at the heart of celebrating the warm weather. Here are a few bits of advice that might add to your overall enjoyment.

First you need a table. The smallest size that will realistically work for four people is 36 inches in diameter. You can pick up modestly priced weather-resistant furniture from a variety of discount retailers such as Big Lots, Tuesday Morning, TJ Maxx, Home Goods and Marshall's. Check out your local home improvement stores like Home Depot or Lowe's, and don't forget to visit Ikea, Pottery Barn or Crate & Barrel.

For use on a narrow balcony or deck, consider pushing a square or rectangular table up against the wall or the balcony railing. Folding tables allow you to expand the surface area of the entertainment space. Look for a food cart that can hold drinks, an ice bucket, a bottle of wine or a salad bowl as a functional dining piece.

Even if you can only serve four, have fun with the serving plates, napkins and placemats. This is the season for vibrant color, and you have the chance to capture the mood of your favorite travel destination, from Bali to Mexico! Different color schemes are shown in retail every year, but finding intense colors in accent pillows, chair cushions and umbrellas is a reliable choice. Mix it up; you don't have to match everything. In fact, you'll have more fun if you combine a few colors. Begin your inspiration with a multicolored tablecloth or dinner napkin.

Don't forget to add dreamy lighting. This can be in the form of Tiki torches, but exercise extreme care if you live in an apartment or condo, as open fire can be dangerous and a liability. It is always safer to use a battery-operated lantern or plug-in string lights. Look for these online on the Wayfair, Target and World Market websites. Midcentury string lights are available on the Rejuvination website, and don't forget to look at Costco.

Exercise caution with potentially harmful wildlife, such as snakes, mosquitoes or even gators. You know what safety measures must be taken in your area. Don't ignore them. Citronella candles can be useful to keep the bugs away, unless you have a windy yard, in which case the bugs might not be as much of an issue. Some people are severely sensitive to mosquito bites; if that's the case for you, you may not be comfortable outside without a screen covering the space.

No matter what, you want to be able to sit leisurely in a comfortable chair, so test chairs out before buying. If you buy online, you can return any purchases that aren't suitable. When it comes to outdoor furniture, you get what you pay for. Cheap items will not last more than two years. I tossed out plenty of inexpensive stacking chairs until I resolved to invest in better quality items. I highly recommend Frontgate, for there is great integrity in its products and customer service policies. Everything you can imagine to create a sophisticated outdoor room is available in the company catalog. Look at the Lorenzo Folding Cafe Table with umbrella hole in particular. It is 41 1/4 inches in diameter and can stow away compactly when not in use. This table sells for $379, which makes it a quality piece that is durable and long-lasting.

Photo Credit: TJ Maxx

Christine Brun's column, "Small Spaces," can be found at creators.com.

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