5 Ways to Spiff Up Your Outdoor Table When Guests Are Calling


5 Ways to Spiff Up Your Outdoor Table When Guests Are Calling

May  2, 2017

We're getting ready for dining outside season, so we partnered with Pottery Barn to share 5 thoughtful touches for warm-weather tabletop spreads when guests are calling.

Who can resist the allure of outdoor entertaining? Not me, that’s for sure. While I've admittedly worked really hard to embrace hygge all winter long, there’s just something to be said for a little sunshine—and that something to be said is best accompanied by a glass of chilled rosé and fancy-schmancy crostini.

Sun, sand, rosé—what more could be better? A fine-looking tabletop, that's what. Photo by Pottery Barn

From vases and vessels to plates and party platters, these are some of my go-to, low-lift entertaining ideas that'll spiffy up your outdoor spring and summer tabletop spreads. Cozy, we hardly knew ye.

1. Try High and Low When It Comes to Vases

Stagger different height vases and vessels to keep your table visually engaging, and make sure they're heavy enough to stand up to any wind! Work in some bud vases with larger arrangements in mason jars. Nestle low, squat glass vases (keeping in mind guests will have to talk over them) in between candles, votives, and your most presentable serveware to achieve a layered look that’s easy on the eyes—and wallet.

Up and down, up and down. Differences in height gives movement to your table! Photo by Alpha Smoot

2. No Fear of the Mix & Match

Mix and matching dinnerware in one color is one way to create more dynamic place settings. Your china may not be the star of the show—hopefully the food is!—but it is going to make the first impression on your guests, setting the tone for the whole night. You’re carefree and cool (but still really, really chic) so you're used to mixing different styles of dinnerware in the same color family—or so it'll seem. All-white or natural color and textures are great for summer, as are willow- and splatter-ware-inspired patterns in easy, breezy blue and white.

3. Linens? Linens!

Non-paper napkins are kind of non-negotiable when you're having a soiree—and you can often find deals to have at least 6 to 8 on hand (I'd say this is a normal dinner party size). There are plenty of seasonally-appropriate options, from fuss-free washed linen in fifty shades of taupe (no shame, it's a personal favorite) to a more polished striped cotton or gingham. Try to have a few options for a table runner or tablecloth on hand that either coordinate or contrast, depending on your style—bright and poppy or more muted, it’s up to you.

Photo by Various heights on a table create visual dynamic, and always spring for linen when you can. Photos courtesy Pottery Barn

4. Details, Details

Focus on the little things like salt cellars, butter dishes, and napkin rings. These small touches will make the table feel truly finished—and help keep linens secured outside. They also read much better in photos. (You’re doing this for the ‘gram, right?)

5. No Labels!

Last but not least—decant that wine! Nothing should be imbibed or poured from a bottle when you definitely have a carafe hanging around somewhere. It will lend the entire affair an effortless feel, and no one has to be the wiser to an, ahem, affordable bottle of red. (Bonus points if you filter your water with charcoal.)

Shop the Story

We're ready for outdoor dining season—you, too? We partnered with Pottery Barn to dust off the cozy and fling open the doors. See all their furnishings fit for the outdoors, like tables, candlesticks, and linens, here.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Catherine Whitworth
    Catherine Whitworth
  • Travel
  • maryke
Sean is a Brooklyn-based writer, photographer and kale apologist who advocates for drinking at lunch. An avid traveler, he is always on the hunt for good coffee and better bread.


Catherine W. May 5, 2017
In a word, this article is pretentiousness. Simple and welcoming is important, not salt "cellars", linens, and carafes.
Travel May 6, 2017
Totally agree!
maryke May 6, 2017