I’d argue that the only essentials needed for outdoor dining are fresh air and something delicious to munch on. But if you’re in the mood to elevate your outdoor dining experience, here are 10 ideas for adding creature comforts to picnics and dinners under summer stars.
Above: A canvas painter’s dropcloth can become a humble tablecloth in a pinch, but if you’re after a little color, I like the punch that a classic red tablecloth packs on a summer table. A subtle Red Seersucker Tablecloth from Fog Linen comes in three sizes, starting at $64. Accompanying Square Cocktail Napkins are $9 each.
Above: Stainless Steel Tablecloth Clips are one product that has thankfully avoided much in the way of improvement or embellishment over the years. A classic set of 6 clips is $8.45 from Amazon.
Above: When it comes to drinks, I say trust your guests to drink from glass on the patio, but help out the host with a set of glassware that’s easy to carry. Durable Stackable Glasses from Schoolhouse Electric would be as good for glasses of milk as for rosé. (And if you’re really into multifunctional dining items, it doesn’t take much imagination to see these as adorable candle holders, too.) A glass is $6.
Above: A stack of shatterproof wooden plates is useful for outdoor dining. The 6-inch Tondo Plates from Crate & Barrel are made from responsibly harvested acacia wood; $4.95 each. If you’re looking for something manufactured domestically, Vermont Bowl makes Wooden Plates from Yellow Birch, Cherry, and Black Walnut, starting at $25 each.
Above: If your flatware is built for durability indoors or out, you only need one set. Pop your flatware into a glass jar for easy transport to the garden (and self-serve table settings). A set of stainless steel and nylon Fantasia Flatware in Tobacco (also available in Black, China White, Red, Cobalt, Sunflower, and Turtle Dove), made in Italy by family-owned Mepra, is $75 from March.
Above: Endlessly useful, a tall, straight-sided glass Weck Canning Jar can serve as vessel for stainless steel utensils (see Above) and as shelter for tea lights (see Below). If you’re taking your picnic on the road, a large jar can even hold your dinner. A six-pack of 3/4 liter jars is $27.90 from Kaufmann Mercantile.
Above: I try to keep a boxful of simple beeswax tea lights on hand for indoor and outdoor dining. No fancy candleholder required: a glass jar will do the trick to reflect the light and protect the flame from the elements. A set of 6 Handmade Beeswax Tea Lights is $11.95 from Kaufmann Mercantile.
Above: A Smokey Grey Glass Lantern from Danish designer Eva Solo hangs from a sturdy metal wire and holds a tea light. It comes in two heights–20 and 25 centimeters–and is available at prices ranging from â‚¬49.90 to â‚¬59.90 depending on size.
Above: Keep flies off food with a fine mesh Stainless Steel Domed Food Cover; £6.36 from Divertimenti.
Above: More pest prevention in the form of a Hammered Glass Citronella Candle; $48 from Terrain. If you have time on your hands and an empty glass bowl, you also can make a DIY version. See DIY: Scented Candles to Repel Insects, Not Humans for inspiration.
Above: Too much sun can drive diners indoors; encourage them to linger by hanging a canvas sail cloth overhead. If you’re not up for a DIY-version, Ikea sells both Rectangular and Wedge-Shaped Dining Canopies for $24.95 (available in Ikea stores only). According to the manufacturer’s website, the canopy has an Ultraviolet Protection Factor of 25-plus, meaning that it blocks 96 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation.
Scaling up your outdoor dining experience? See: