Space Planning for Outdoor Entertaining

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With summer kicking into full gear, we’re getting our gardens looking gorgeous, our patios looking pretty and lighting up the grill to host friends and family over for some fun in the sun, alfesco-style.   You’ve set the date and now you’ve got to tackle the logistics of planning this thing.

No matter how large or small the group of people you are hosting, the challenge always seems to be how to create a great set-up to ensure 1) everyone’s got a seat, 2) your outdoor space encourages mingling and 3) that everyone has a great time. The actual stress of hosting can often make you feel like you can’t sit back and relax to enjoy your own party. We’ve got some outdoor space planning solutions to help you rock your next BBQ so that no one feels left out of the party.

1) Think about how you will use your outdoor space

Thinking of how you use your outdoor space will help you envision how to best utilize the space you have and make it best function for you. Poorly planned spaces are often left un-used as the layout may not have been thoughtfully planned to suit your lifestyle.

If you have a small outdoor space, consider how you currently use it and how you’d ideally like to use it. Does it currently only seat one? Is there enough space for seating and a table or just maybe just seating only? What layout would you use the most and has the best flow for entertaining?

If you have a large outdoor space, thinking about breaking down your yard into different zones can help you bring your space planning vision to life. Giving each zone a purpose will help you better utilize that space. You might have one zone for formal eating (table, chairs, sun umbrella), another zone for informal sitting and conversation (outdoor sectional or sofa set), a zone with a fire pit, a quite zone for reading and sipping coffee that’s tucked away and situated farther from the house, a kids zone designated for playtime, etc.


2) Think about how much seating you will need for hosting

Do you live in an apartment and have a small balcony deck? Or do you live in home with a large backyard? No matter what size your backyard is, think about how you use this space and how you can maximize it – both for everyday use and for entertaining.

If you’ve got a small patio deck or balcony, consider your seating plan. With small spaces, seating for 3-5 people is likely ideal for small spaces. Try including a loveseat and/or 1-2 outdoor armchairs with a coffee table or side tables if a coffee table won’t fit. Using pieces that are versatile and easy to move around or tuck away in storage, allows you the flexibility to shuffle the layout around by pulling out more seating when it might be needed. Garden stools or ottomans act as tables for food and drink or act as extra seating. When in doubt, use large comfy outdoor pillows as floor seating and everyone can dine japan-style.



Larger backyards can require a little more thought and planning when it comes to seating. There is nothing worse than attending a big outdoor party and not being able to find a seat if you want to escape the sun and sit down for a while, so it’s good to plan ahead and ensure that everyone (or almost everyone) will have a seat. Young children, expecting mothers and grandparents will especially thank you. A few ways to acheive this are:

– Set up one large table with seating, picnic-style where everyone is sitting across from one another. This is the most formal option but allows for lots of socializing. Use one large table or join many tables together to get this effect.
– Have one formal-style outdoor dining table for adults and a separate one for kids
– Create different groupings of tables around the yard of different sizes and shapes
– Opt for no formal seating at all and use a variety of chairs (ie. folding chairs are easy to move and store) to create conversational zones in different areas around the yard

Think back to the previous tip on the idea of zoning to figure out how you’d like to use your own space.

3) Ensure you have a designated eating and drinking zone

When hosting larger groups to your home, we have found that buffet-style tends to work best. Creating one large table or using the idea of “zoning” works well for table set up too. You can then further divide the tables according to order of the meal – apps, mains, desserts and drinks, cutlery and condiments seperate zone. This order makes the most sense to guests and will create natural and more organized flow when everyone lines up to fill their plate.

If you want to go a step further, you can create an outdoor bar for drinks alone where you can have some fun playing bar tender for your guests or encourage guests to mix their own drinks. As with any party, just ensure you keep it safe and encourage friends or family to stay overnight should they wish to enjoy a few more drinks throughout the evening.

4) It’s your party, get creative!
It’s your party, your rules. Feel free to get creative. Add decor, implement a colour scheme or even set a theme – the world is your oyster! Here are a few additional ideas to help get your creative juices flowing:
– Create your own tables using things/items you have around the house, DIY-style
– Use a variety of old buckets or bins to hold drinks (or a blown up mini kiddie pool)
– Add cafe lighting to create evening glow once the sun goes down
– Use versatile furniture that can be moved around with ease (ottomans, garden stools, pillows, sectional furniture, chaises and loungers, etc)
– Create your own decorations and if you have kids, get them involved (we’ve just helped you plan your next rainy day activity with them, your welcome!)
– For large groups, invest in stackable or foldable furniture so you can re-use this each year if you tend to host large family or friend groups on the regular
– DIY your own bar cart or use water coolers to fill drinks in (ie. iced tea in one, fruit punch in another)
Here are some other fun ideas:

Use crates to build a long table

Use hay to build seating

Tree stumps for seating or ottomans

Cafe lighting strands

Convert your canoe into a table to display food or hold drinks


No matter what size your backyard, make it your own and inject your personality into it. Making it personal will ensure you enjoy it all summer, long after your guests disappear.
Need some help with planning your outdoor space? Reach out to us and say hi to see how we might be able to help.
Happy BBQing!
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