The secret of successful outdoor entertaining is to set the stage in a way that fits the occasion. We take a look at how seven designers created carefully conceived enviroments for everything from intimate dining nooks to kidcentric playscapes.
Most people see outdoor dining as a more relaxed endeavor than its indoor counterpart. Perhaps the most important planning point is to connect the dining area to its surroundings. Going alfresco requires a certain flexibility of spirit—you are not in charge of the sun, moon, clouds, or rain. What you can do is design in anticipation of all possible variables.
Lunches in a hot sun will be more comfortable under a pergola or trellis topped with vines, cloth, or woven bamboo or reed fencing. For post-sundown dining you may want a more open setting so views of night sky are unrestricted. Furnishing should be waterproof, unless you're willing to replace them often.
Left: Interior designer Jeff Andrews created a 12-foot-long teak dining table that doubles as a buffet for his client; benches reduce clutter in the high-traffic area, and vintage Moroccan metal end chairs add personality.