Eating Out: 10 Essentials for Alfresco Dining

With summer upon us, now is a great time to get yourself set up for celebrating a season of food and fun in your outdoor spaces. Once you've covered the basics, adding some no-fuss dinnerware, comfortable seat cushions, or special decorative accents can make your outdoor gatherings truly special. Ready to get started? Here are 10 alfresco ideas that will make you and your guests want to eat every meal outside.

  1. Start at the Top

    Gingham Tablecloth

    With a brightly colored tablecloth on your outdoor table, you'll feel like celebrating even before the food comes. There are many spill- and stain-resistant options available, so you can use it in or out, rain or shine.

  2. Elegance Underfoot

    Outdoor Rug

    Just like a tablecloth makes an aboveboard statement, a rug will bring beauty from down below. Attractive and durable, outdoor rugs can totally transform a space. Choose a rug made with polypropylene, which will allow it to better withstand rain and prolonged sun exposure.

  3. Caddies, Buckets & Trays, Oh My!

    Drink Bucket

    One of the less convenient aspects of outdoor dining is the kitchen-to-patio shuttle factor. Make your life easier by stocking up on a few great-looking galvanized storage pieces to house drinks, ice, flatware, and more.

    Related: Bar Art—17 DIY Minibars to Mix Up Your Decor

  4. Serene Seating

    Striped Seat Cushions

    Aside from the food itself, a comfortable, inviting chair is what lures you to the table. If you adorn your outdoor dining chairs with pretty padded seat cushions, you'd better be prepared with dessert...guests will want to linger for as long as possible.

  5. Zippy Zappers

    Citronella Candles

    When we dine outside, we often have a few unwanted guests. Keep mosquitoes and other insects at bay with citronella candles, which can even add to the ambience when placed in sand-filled mason jars.

    Related: 10 Natural Ways to Make Your Home Critter-Free

  6. Unbreakable Beauty

    Outdoor Tableware

    You know that no-glass-by-the-pool rule? No worries. Be sensible yet stylish with a coordinating set of melamine plates and acrylic stemware.  Outdoor dining never looked so good.

    Related: 9 Incredibly Cool Pool Houses

  7. Alfresco Aglow

    Hurricane Lamp

    Hurricane lamps are perfect for the outdoors, because their glass chimneys help keep candle flames from blowing out. Bonus: In addition to providing light, they also just happen to create a gorgeous, dramatic effect.

  8. Create a Canopy

    Outdoor Canopy

    As an alternative to a traditional table umbrella, a canopy can be an informal way to score yourself some shade. It need not be complicated; this one was fashioned with a plain tablecloth tied to four bamboo dowels.

  9. Extend the Garden

    Flower Centerpieces

    If you have some pretty plantings to show off, consider setting your outdoor table with elements straight from the garden. In addition to some cuttings, choosing tableware in complementary colors will make you feel like you're dining right amongst the flora.

  10. Never a Cloudy Day

    Paper Lanterns

    Battery-operated and available in just about every color you can think of, hanging paper lanterns are an easy way to add a festive touch to your outdoor dining area. If the large globes don't suit your style or space, go for the string light miniature version.

    Related: 13 DIY Lanterns to Illuminate Your Porch, Patio, or Garden

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