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:
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.
– 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!)
– DIY your own bar cart or use water coolers to fill drinks in (ie. iced tea in one, fruit punch in another)