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How I'm Putting Together an Outdoor Tablescape for Summer Entertaining

...that is, if I can remember how to host!

My partner and I closed on our first house the second week of March 2020. We'd originally planned to throw a housewarming, invite friends from the opposite coast to stay with us, and host guests in our backyard for dinner, drinks, and lots of cheese boards. Enter the pandemic, and pause all plans.

We felt so fortunate to have a new place to nest in the past year, and while we've turned what was originally our guest room into a gym and it seems entirely too late for a housewarming (is a "house cooling" a thing?), we do look forward to dining outside with our parents, friends, and neighbors in the very near future. That is, as soon as I've figured out the tablescape.

The first purchases were a barbecue, an outdoor table, and set of chairs that we're still very happy with, then later hung up string lights (a personal weakness of mine–I could be at the most run-down establishment, and if there are glittering lights above my head, I'll consider it undeniably charming). All that was left was setting the table. I thought it would be helpful to share my process for anyone else hoping to spend more time eating, drinking, and laughing outdoors this summer.

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As I do with most visual endeavors, I started with some serious scrolling and a few Pinterest boards, the first one being inspiration shots. This generally helps me identify design themes and color palettes I'm gravitating toward, and other elements to consider when purchasing goods. As you can see from the screenshots above, I love cream, charcoal/deep blue, wood accents, and greens. I'm also a fan of an understated pattern or a stripe thrown in, a little fluted glass, as well as a few pops of color.

Since I already own a few items I was hoping to include in the tablescape (placemats, a linen tablecloth, matte black flatwarea fluted glass pitcher, and napkins) I found the links and pinned their photos to a new board first to be my foundation.

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This initial direction felt like a good start with grounding neutrals, but I wanted to make sure it didn't wind up feeling... boring. I threw in an outdoor (and affordable!) plate from Target in a subtle stripe, a complementary but larger charcoal dinner plate for layering, a wooden board for serving, three fun cheese blades, as well as ribbed green glassware to try and sneak in that little bit of color. Unfortunately, it wasn't the right shade I was looking for, and didn't look right with the overall vibe. 

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I did a bit more searching and spotted these recycled glasses on West Elm, knowing they would tie in the muted olive tone I'd hoped to incorporate. (We have a few rosemary plants in our yard that I'll clip and use as greenery for centerpieces and place smaller sprigs on napkins to tie each table setting together–that's the green I was going for.)

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For wine and cocktail glasses, we decided to just keep it simple and go with what we already have–tumblers, stemless wine glasses, and bodega glasses. After some additional pieces, like a salt and pepper set, a carafe, and a snack dish, the vision felt complete.

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I made a few purchases, and here's the final product in action (complete with lots of hot dogs, strawberry rhubarb pie, and natural wine).

Though it would be on brand, I did not, in fact, eat all the hot dogs on this plate.

Though it would be on brand, I did not, in fact, eat all the hot dogs on this plate.

I'd love to see and hear any tips and tricks you may have up your sleeve to achieve the outdoor ambiance of your dreams. And if you're on the hunt for a wide range of home goods, both in price and aesthetic, I've rounded up my favorites below. Happy shopping!

Zara Home
Target (especially Hearth & Home)
Lilah Lifestyle Co.
H&M Home
The Prairie Shoppe
Urban Outfitters
West Elm
World Market
Crate & Barrel
Lulu & Georgia
Serena & Lily

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