How does a French family dine outdoors? In style, of course, with a certain insouciant mix of high-low: Outdoor furnishings that look just as good indoors during winter months.
To create a similar elegantly relaxed backdrop for outdoor meals, look for flea market finds that can hold their own next to classic European designs. Leverage your landscape—site tables in shady spots, frame a view, or rely on turf grass to create a velvety carpet—to create a dining space that requires no fussing. Set it up once at the beginning of the season…and for the rest of the summer turn your attention to the food.
Here are 10 ideas to steal to dine outdoors like a French family.
Flea Market Furniture
With thrifty purchases that don’t sacrifice style (think: secondhand stores and flea markets), set up a permanent dining area under a shady pergola without worrying about the weather’s effect on the furniture. See more of Amanda Pays’s and Corbin Bernsen’s patio in A Family House in the South of France, Hollywood Edition.
The quintessential French courtyard is paved in gravel, and no wonder. Natural stones’ range of soft colors creates a soothing backdrop for a dining spot, feels good underfoot, makes a pleasing crunching sound as you walk, and stays cooler than larger flat paving slabs. See more design ideas and everything you need to know to choose the right gravel at Gravel 101: A Design Guide to Styles and Materials and 10 Things Your Landscape Designer Wishes You Knew About Gravel (But Is Too Polite to Tell You).
Site a table and chairs in a shady spots to beckon diners on hot afternoons. All you need is a mature tree with a broad, leafy canopy.
Colorful ChairsAgainst a backdrop of greenery, bright-colored chairs can create an instantly bright mood (especially if they’re sunshine yellow).
Simple metal candle clips make it easy to create strategically flattering pools of light on the dining table.
The Long View
What’s the loveliest part of your garden? That’s where you should put a dining table and chairs, to give guests something to feast on with their eyes. With a simple setup—a lightweight table and chairs—you can move furnishings around to frame a sunset or take advantage of a distant horizon.
Pedestal Dining TableWith a pedestal base, you can always squeeze in one more chair around a table. See more at 10 Easy Pieces: Round Wood Dining Tables.
Double-Duty FurnitureParticularly useful: a bench to pull up to an outdoor table which, if you flip the top, instantly becomes a potting table or planter box for herbs. Look for dining benches that can double as cocktail tables, rolling bar carts that can become serving sideboards, and daybeds that can seat three if called into service as a sofa.
Location, Location, Location
Proximity to the kitchen and a spot that gets warm morning sun are key if you want to lure diners outdoors for breakfast.
Water CarafeKeep guests hydrated on sunny, hot days with a carafe of cold water. See more options at 10 Easy Pieces: Water Carafes on Remodelista.
Embrace the outdoor dining and entertaining season with more of our favorite design ideas; see our curated guide to Decks & Patios 101 if you’re starting from scratch or steal more ideas from sunny Mediterranean climes: