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As Spring days melt into summer evenings, if you are like us, then you are planning picnics, BBQs and backyard parties.  Creating spaces that are both beautiful and functional can sometimes be a challenge. 

Here are a few ideas and tips to ensure that both you and your guests have a great time.

  1. Mix and match your seating to include deep, cushioned sofas; low, lounging Adirondack chairs; and family-style picnic benches; and bistro-style tables.  This gives your guests options based on where they will feel most comfortable and creates natural opportunities to mingle in small groups and comfortably eat or simply relax.
    • Pro-tip:  Spray your patio cushions with fabric protectant (like you use on cloth/leather shoes) to add a bit more weather and stain resistance.
  2. Prep as much as you can in the days leading up to the party, so you can focus on last minute touches and enjoying the party along with your guests.  Veggies can be cut and stored in air-tight glass containers for up to three days ahead.  Hamburgers can be seasoned and stored with wax-paper in between the patties the day before in the refrigerator (or several weeks ahead if frozen).  Fruit salad, potato salad and deviled eggs can all be made the day before and stored in the fridge.
    • Pro-tip:  Use silicone sleeves to add a pop of color and protect your glass dishes and then serve directly in the storage containers to make set-up and clean-up a snap.
  3. Set-up a few beverage stations throughout your yard/patio area.  You can use decorative pots, buckets, coolers or dispensers.  Fresh lavender from your garden added to lemonade makes a beautiful and delightful refresher.
    • Pro Tip:  Freeze a few water bottles or water balloons overnight and use them to keep the other beverages cool without your guests having to plunge their hands into ice water!
  4. Lighting can make a gathering magical (and functional).  Hanging chandeliers, Moroccan lanterns and semi-permanent light strands along porticos, decks and patios add year-round ambiance to outdoor living spaces.  You can also install solar or auto-timed lighting along pathways and flowerbeds.  A great low-tech option are citronella candles which have the extra benefit of warding off biting pests.
    • Pro-Tip:  Use shepherd’s hooks to extend strings of light into your yard and along your patio or hang battery-operated lanterns or so that you can cover hard-to reach areas or where you don’t have access to outlets.
  5. Use decorative pots or sculptures that reflect your personality and bring beauty into your spaces.  Flowers such as lavender, hibiscus, hydrangeas will add color and fragrance.  While patio herb gardens, strawberry plants or potted citrus can provide fresh-from-the-garden additions to your menu (and impress your friends).  Can you imagine mojitos garnished with mint plucked directly from your garden?
    • Pro-tip:  Use clean terracotta pots to hold utensils and napkins.  You can also stock them with bug repellant, sparklers or markers to label cups.  Larger pots can be used for yard games or sports equipment. They will blend in with your garden theme and won’t blow over.

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