As August comes to a close, it’s time to throw one last summer bash: a Labor Day get-together with your crew. An outdoor party is ideal, with naturally lush scenery and warm weather adding that end-of-summer glow.
But when you’re entertaining outside, how you style your outdoor area is one of the keys to success. Not sure how to make your outside room look its best? Read on for our top ways to style your outdoor area. Because once you’re done worrying about the decor and setup, you can concentrate on throwing a Labor Day party that you and your crew will enjoy!
Maximize Seating Options
The first thing you’ll want to do is make sure you have enough room for everyone to sit. Don’t be afraid to bring out your indoor furniture if you need to.
Small seating clusters create an intimate feel that lends itself to hours of chatting and lounging – just what your guests want to be doing! Make sure each seating area has at least one or two small tables to set down food and drinks.
If you’re short on space, consider adding ottomans instead of chairs. You’ll have the same number of seats, but they’ll be occupying much less room. You can also use non-traditional seating options, such as hammocks and hanging chairs.
You can visually divide your outdoor area into different zones: a dining zone next to the grill or outdoor kitchen, for example, or a games area at the end of the lawn.
If you have a long sectional, it’s perfect for creating boundaries between zones while offering seating to a large group of people. Don’t have a sectional? Create the look with a few strategically placed chairs.
For your dining zone, if your outdoor table isn’t large enough, go ahead and bring out your indoor dining table, too. Style them with matching tablecloths to keep it looking more planned and less last-minute. Small clip-on weights that you attach to the edges of the tablecloth will keep them from blowing away if the day gets breezy.
Is your party going to run into nightfall? If so, a stargazing zone is just the thing. Set up lounge chairs where guests can recline and look at the sky. Download one of the popular sky-watching apps (there are plenty of free ones!) so you can help them find stars and planets.
And when you’re setting up zones, don’t forget your littlest guests. Set up an area just for them: outdoor toys, soft balls, maybe even an inexpensive sand pit. And bubbles – kids love to chase bubbles!
Style Your Food and Drinks
Once you’ve decided on where to set up your food and drink tables (and picked your menu!), it’s time to style your outdoor dining area!
To keep your guests – and their conversations – moving, we suggest setting up stations spread throughout your outdoor space. Your guests can help themselves to whatever draws their appetite. Even better: once the stations are set up, you can kick back and relax with your crew!
- Set up different stations for different foods. Have a snack station set up with fruit, cheese and crackers, and other small snacks waiting for your guests. It’s a great way to encourage them to mingle from the get-go.
- Having a cookout? Try out a burger bar! Have one of your stations loaded with all the fixings: buns, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, condiments… All you have to do is add the burgers (and veggie burgers) as they come off the grill.
- For drinks, set up a movable bar cart with ice and beverage options. You can wheel it around the party to make sure all of your guests are staying hydrated. As the day progresses, you can move it as needed to keep it under the shade. And you can easily bring it indoors whenever you need to restock, instead of carrying armfuls of cups and bottles back and forth.
- Try to set up the food and drinks stations a bit further apart, possibly on opposite sides of your outdoor dining area. This will make guests have to get up and walk across the yard, encouraging more interaction. Win-win!
- Unless you want to be playing hostess all night, make it easy for guests to serve themselves. Place plates, utensils, and cups, as well as serving pieces such as a spatula, large spoon, or ladle on each food or drink station.
Pro Tip: If you set up a “kids’ table,” use butcher paper instead of a tablecloth. Tape it to the table so it doesn’t blow away, then spread out some crayons. The kiddos can color while they eat.
Your outdoor space can be just as stylish as your indoor space! All it takes is a little design knowledge and some creative flair.
Start on the ground, with oversized outdoor rugs in natural fibers. This isn’t just pretty, it’s a valuable design element that will bring seating areas together stylishly.
With the warm weather still lingering, make sure you have plenty of shade. Use a large umbrella to give your guests a much-appreciated break from the sun. A cantilever umbrella can be adjusted as the sun moves, offering maximum shade all day long.
After dark, go big with a faux glow. Battery-operated fairy lights and candles can stand up to wind and are safe to use around even the youngest guests. Hang them from trees, wrap them around umbrella poles, and use them to illuminate game areas.
Are you ready for one last food station? Before the night ends, set out a delectable dessert bar. To make it easier, skip cakes and pies that need to be sliced and served. Opt instead for cookies, cupcakes, cake pops, or individually sized mini tarts. Your guests will go home with a smile!