How to set up an outdoor dining table

On a nice summer day, you don’t need much of an excuse to dine al fresco—especially if you have a garden, patio, or deck surrounded by greenery.

“It’s more relaxed when you’re outside, so the way you have fun tends to be more casual,” he said. Young Huh, an interior designer in New York. “It’s more fun and a little less satisfying. I focus more on bright colors and creating a sense of joy.”

During the summer, Ms. Huh and her husband, attorney Joon-Yeung Huh, enjoy nearly every weekend at their 19th-century home in Hyde Park, New York, and setting a table for those outdoor meals “is part of what I look forward to.” .

On a sunny Friday recently, while preparing lunch for friends, she invited a reporter over to see how she did it.

“The first thing I think about is who’s coming and what might be of interest to them,” said Mrs. Huh. This defines the menu—and the setting, too.

There are any number of places on Mrs. Hu’s eight-acre property where she can serve a meal: in the yard, around a pond, on the lawns under the trees.

When she wants to be near the kitchen to prepare food, she usually chooses the patio. But moving the table into the landscape—or even just spreading out a picnic blanket—”creates an instant romantic mood,” she says. “There is a pastoral beauty that we don’t get into the yard.”

There are a couple of tables that Miss Huo uses for al fresco dining. When you’re expecting a big crowd, you choose the long wooden table that’s one-size-fits-all. If she and her husband are entertaining another couple, a small round iron table feels even more intimate.

Either way, dressing the table with a tablecloth gives it a clean, crisp surface that begins to define the color palette. For her last lunch, Mrs. Huo chose a white cotton tablecloth Fit Homeprinted with a red and blue floral pattern—the colors she planned to repeat in her flowers and accessories.

Some people might consider flowers the finishing touch, but when Ms. Huh sets an outdoor table, she’s focused on it from the start: “That’s the drama and excitement.”

Instead of using one large arrangement, prefer to place a few flowers in several small vases. “Then everyone gets some flowers at their place,” she said. “I love using clear glass vases in different styles to mix it up.”

I placed cornflowers, blue delphiniums, and pink peonies in a grouping of low glass vases and a Delftware tulipiere without arranging any of them too carefully.

“It’s easy,” she said. “I love that the flowers feel a little wild.”

To arrange your outdoor table, look beyond your everyday dishes.

“If you’ve had the same friends over a few different times, it’s good to have different tables,” said Ms. Huh, who keeps a variety of dinnerware sets on hand for this purpose.

On this day, she chose black and white floral dishes from Collection by Ralph Lauren with Burley To reflect the style of the tablecloth. Then, for color, she added magenta and pink cups of Home Petosi Red rimmed wine glasses OKA.

“I love using tinted glasses outdoors,” she said. “But nothing too precious—because there’s such a high breakage rate when eating out.”

For dinnerware, she considered using mismatched antique silverware but ultimately opted for pieces with bamboo-style acrylic handles from blue pheasantfor their external attractiveness.

Finally, I put simply folded napkins that fit over the tablecloth. “I don’t use napkin rings outside,” she said. “They tend to fly all over the place.”

Although Mrs. He prefers outdoor meals with a more casual feel, she still likes to use the cards of the places she buys from more often. Mr. P’s Place Card Company.

“It’s easy to do,” she said. “And it makes people feel really special.”

They also blow out candles for atmosphere – even when it’s not dark.

“I always do my candles outside, usually in lanterns,” she said, “for a romantic flicker the wind won’t blow.”

A surefire way to spoil the fun of a meal is to face a thorough clean-up afterwards. That’s why Miss Huh thinks about the after party while planning it.

It uses large, sturdy trays to make carrying dishes between the patio and the kitchen quick and easy. And whenever possible, she chooses dishwasher-safe cutlery, so she doesn’t have to hand-wash it after everyone gets home.

“You take all these extra steps to bring things outside for the guests,” Ms. Huh said. “But in the end, you want cleanup to be nice and easy.”

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