Outdoor entertaining with the Designer Guys
For most Canadians, outdoor entertaining is a recreational pastime we treat as reverentially as our Saturday-night dates with Don Cherry. After long months of cold-weather hibernation, we crawl out of our cocoons at the first whiff of warmth and wring every precious second of enjoyment out of those fleeting days of sun.
Our heightened interest in the out of doors has elevated backyard entertaining to an art form. For most of us, the mission is to create a chic outdoor oasis that is as functional as it is fashionable. Steven Sabados and Chris Hyndman, hosts of HGTV's Designer Guys, offer the following tips.
Get started by choosing a theme. Perhaps it's an Arabian night or maybe yours is an evening in the tropics, but marrying the food with appropriate florals and table linens makes an ordinary dinner party extraordinary. Throw an inexpensive metre of fabric over your table and select a suitable CD to play while guests arrive.
Note: Fondue parties are an ideal choice for outdoor dinner parties. The flame provides ambiance and keeps food warm in cool evening climes.
The table will likely be a focal point of the evening. Cane or bamboo placemats earn instant style points and they are easily wiped off and carted indoors when the evening is over.
Elect to use individual floral arrangements rather than a centrepiece, which may blow over when the wind whips up. Or place a shot glass holding a single flower at each place setting. Hyndman likes to purchase a few miniature terra-cotta pots, planting them with exotic grasses for unique arrangements that your guests can take home as keepsakes.
Garden furniture is not always comfortable. Try moving a few of the throw cushions from your sofa out into the backyard for both style and comfort.
If the weather is warm, purchase inexpensive fans for each guest. As decorative as they are utilitarian, the fans may be displayed at each place setting. "Use a gold marker or artist's brush to personalize each fan with your guests' names," says Sabados. "Very Karl Lagerfeld."
As a rule of thumb, go ahead and use your heirloom china or crystal if you're entertaining a group of four or less. In crowds larger than four you are almost guaranteed accidents. "Fortunately, modern plasticware is both attractive and inexpensive," says Hyndman. "Have fun with varied colours and textures to create an informal and playful table."
A final tip -- if you have motion-sensitive lights, disconnect them for the evening. "Nothing is more irritating than having lights blinking on and off all evening," says Hyndman -- "unless you want a disco effect."