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Dine Outdoors Like a French Family: 12 Ideas to Steal

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Dine Outdoors Like a French Family: 12 Ideas to Steal

April 16, 2018

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

At their family farmhouse in the south of France, actors Amanda Pays and Corbin Bernsen found their outdoor breakfast table at a flea market and the chairs and the chairs came from a wicker shop in La Brisbal, Spain, for €30 ($35.79) each.
Above: At their family farmhouse in the south of France, actors Amanda Pays and Corbin Bernsen found their outdoor breakfast table at a flea market and the chairs and the chairs came from a wicker shop in La Brisbal, Spain, for €30 ($35.79) each.

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.

Gravel Courtyard

For more information and pricing for similar Decorative Gravel in several sizes and a range of colors, see Long Rake Spar.
Above: For more information and pricing for similar Decorative Gravel in several sizes and a range of colors, see Long Rake Spar.

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).

Shady Spot

Located in the hamlet of Hautefage in the Lot-et-Garonne region in the southwest of France, an 50s stone farm remodeled by Studio Maclean has old trees with broad canopies, creating shady spots to dine. See more in A Glamorous Farmhouse in Southwest France by Studio Maclean on Remodelista. Photograph courtesy of Studio Maclean.
Above: Located in the hamlet of Hautefage in the Lot-et-Garonne region in the southwest of France, an 1850s stone farm remodeled by Studio Maclean has old trees with broad canopies, creating shady spots to dine. See more in A Glamorous Farmhouse in Southwest France by Studio Maclean on Remodelista. Photograph courtesy of Studio Maclean.

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 Chairs

 A set of two metal EdgeMod Trattoria Side Chairs is available in six bright colors, including sunny yellow as shown; $69.99 from Hayneedle.
A set of two metal EdgeMod Trattoria Side Chairs is available in six bright colors, including sunny yellow as shown; $69.99 from Hayneedle.
Against a backdrop of greenery, bright-colored chairs can create an instantly bright mood (especially if they’re sunshine yellow).

Flowerpot Candle

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Above: “After you’ve visited ceramist Cécile Daladier’s garden in Paris, you’ll leave with an absolute desire to reinvent your own life and slow down its pace,” writes Alexa, who spied candles in two-pronged metal holders, anchored in soil in flower pots. See more in In the Garden and Atelier with Cécile Daladier in Paris. Photograph by Natalie Weiss.

Simple metal candle clips make it easy to create strategically flattering pools of light on the dining table.

Candle Clip

To get the look, a stainless steel Candle Pincer is €4.90 from Merci.
Above: To get the look, a stainless steel Candle Pincer is €4.90 from Merci.

The Long View

Architect Luis Laplace and his partner Christophe Comoy’s house in Occitanie, in the French Midi-Pyrénées, was once part of a th-century vineyard. See more in Required Reading: Vogue Living—Country, City, Coast. Photograph courtesy of the Condé Nast Archives.
Above: Architect Luis Laplace and his partner Christophe Comoy’s house in Occitanie, in the French Midi-Pyrénées, was once part of a 17th-century vineyard. See more in Required Reading: Vogue Living—Country, City, Coast. Photograph courtesy of the Condé Nast Archives.

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 Table

Made of reclaimed teak &#8
Above: Made of reclaimed teak “from old houses and fisher boats,” a George Round Table from Sika Design is available in two diameters, about 47.25 inches and about 63 inches; $1,945 to $2,233 at Danish Design Store.
With 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 Furniture

A Reform Bench and Table in hunter green is about 43 inches long and $loading=
Above: A Reform Bench and Table in hunter green is about 43 inches long and $1,490 CAD (about $1,155 USD) at Mjölk. For more, see Object of Desire: The Reform Bench.
Particularly 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.

Linen Tablecloth

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Above: There’s no need to iron a washed-linen Sunshine Linencloth (shown in ash). The soft wrinkles add a casual, relaxed element to the look. Available in four rectangular sizes at prices from 1,090 kr (about $128.57 US) to 1,990 kr ($234.73 USD) from Himla.

Location, Location, Location

When London-based interior designer Jason Maclean and his business partner, Amanda Gillis rehabbed a derelict French farmhouse, Maclean and a friend built the walls and steps of the kitchen courtyard from stones gathered on the property, creating an irresistible outdoor breakfast spot. See more in A Glamorous Farmhouse in Southwest France by Studio Maclean on Remodelista. Photograph courtesy of Studio Maclean.
Above: When London-based interior designer Jason Maclean and his business partner, Amanda Gillis rehabbed a derelict French farmhouse, Maclean and a friend built the walls and steps of the kitchen courtyard from stones gathered on the property, creating an irresistible outdoor breakfast spot. See more in A Glamorous Farmhouse in Southwest France by Studio Maclean on Remodelista. Photograph courtesy of Studio Maclean.

Proximity to the kitchen and a spot that gets warm morning sun are key if you want to lure diners outdoors for breakfast.

Water Carafe

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Above: A “two-piece handblown glass cylinder” that stacks its own cup does double duty as a wine carafe. A Cora Carafe is $14.95 from CB2.
Keep 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:

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