Living in New York City as I did in my 20s and 30s, I never understood the attraction
of a sidewalk café. Even sitting at the most expensive, gorgeous outdoor dining table,
I was still stuck in the middle of a concrete slab with the sun beating down on me, trying to prevent the wind from carrying off my napkin. I felt irritable instead of continental. Is there anything less comfortable than metal chairs?
I don’t think so.
With a little imagination, you can turn your yard into an additional room.
Flash forward to living in the suburbs and suddenly eating outside became “al fresco dining.” Surrounded by greenery, space, the ability to mitigate at least some elements of the weather,
I experienced a paradigm shift. Providing shade and shelter makes all the difference. A well-designed outside space not only encourages open-air entertaining, but it essentially becomes an extra room in your home. Inspiration taken from architectural elements can transform your yard into a mini getaway and provide a lot more style than your average, utilitarian, table-mounted umbrella:
A dark-wood, vine-wrapped pergola and boxy, gray wicker seating offer contrasting shape, color and texture. Glazed pots filled with low-maintenance succulents create a layered look.
Adding a stucco fireplace creates a focal point. Centering a dining table in front of it creates classic symmetry.
Crisp, white Adirondack chairs, a bushel basket planter and a hammock will create a laid-back hangout. Display vintage pails and watering cans.
FRONT PORCH STYLE
Paint the ceiling a contrasting color. Adding an antique porch glider, ceiling fans, a pair of rocking chairs and symmetrical planters creates an invitation to relax.
A basket-weave canopy over a rough-hewn table creates an intimate dining atmosphere. Hanging pillar candles from the canopy creates subtle mood lighting, while mismatched vintage chairs contribute to a casual-yet-elegant vibe.
Use oversize, clean-lined furniture and throw pillows in nautical colors such as navy and turquoise for a Hamptons-inspired look.
Built-in banquette seating centered around a distressed wooden table creates a comfy dining space in which to enjoy meals year-round.
Warm yellows, reds and blues represent the warm Latin climate. Incorporate stone features such as concrete brick flooring and decorative tiles. A fountain and lush plants help keep the patio cool.
Or just put your table under a tree and string some lights in the branches. Install lush vertical plantings on an ugly fence. Use planters filled with ivy, boxwood, lobelia and hydrangea.
If you are really missing the metropolitan milieu, try backing up a truck to your yard and let the exhaust run. Then honk the horn a few hundred times while you’re trying to eat. You’ll feel at home in no time.