13 Party-Ready Outdoor Spaces

Turn a bland backyard, patio or deck into a stylish space for al fresco entertaining with our expert inspiration.
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February 19, 2015

Photo By: Janne Keskinen

Set the Scene

No matter how small your outdoor space — hard to believe but this is actually a carport — make it pop with paper lanterns, table linens and fresh flowers in look-at-me shades. Set up a beverage station so guests can help themselves and add cushions or pillows to chairs; comfortable furniture will invite guests to sit a spell. Design by Brian Patrick Flynn

Bring the Indoors Out

No patio furniture? No worries! Weather permitting, bring your dining table, chairs, china, glasses and utensils outdoors to turn your fête into a fine-dining experience. Guests will appreciate the extra effort and your carefully-prepared meal will look (and taste) much better served on china instead of a flimsy, disposable plate. Design by One Charming Party; photography by Nicole Hill Gerulat

Freshen Up Tired Surfaces

Turn a worn deck into a colorful outdoor room with a few coats of paint and coordinating draperies made from weather-resistant fabric. To ensure a lasting painted finish, first sand the deck to create a smooth surface then coat with exterior deck or porch paint which is specifically formulated to withstand foot traffic and weather. Design by Brian Patrick Flynn

Pick a Palette

The same rule of three (main colors, that is) that applies to selecting an indoor color scheme also works when planning an outdoor party. Choose three main colors to create a theme then carry those colors throughout with accessories like napkins, plates, place cards, paper pom-poms, pennants or balloons. Design by Kim Stoegbauer

Create Areas for Guests to Gather

Designer John Gidding turned a corner of this deck into a cozy cabana with seating for up to 10 people. A 12-foot-tall horizontal wood-slat divider allows breezes and sunlight to pass through while providing a sense of privacy. Topped with weather-resistant fabric pillows and cushions, the wrap-around bench is the perfect spot for guests to kick back with a cocktail while catching up.

Construct a DIY Buffet in a Snap

If you're short on surfaces for serving guests, try this designers' go-to trick: lay a hollow-core door or thick piece of plywood over evenly-spaced sawhorses, cover with fabric and voila — a beautiful buffet table with plenty of serving space that can be broken down again and stored when the party's over. Design by Brian Patrick Flynn

Make the Most of the Space You Have

These LA homeowners had a problem: a tiny backyard that ended in a steep, vertical hill. Designer Angelo Surmelis' solution was to turn the usable flat area into a massive deck with multiple zones for outdoor living. A durable rattan-look vinyl sofa provides a cozy spot for relaxing while an aluminum dining table will require no maintenance to keep its sleek, good looks. At the edge of the deck is a small outdoor kitchen and bar so an entire event from prep to service can take place outside.

Make a Splash

Pool parties are a great way to cool off on a hot day, but ensuring that everyone enjoys themselves without overdoing it can require a bit of planning ahead. Guests may forget to bring pool necessities like a towel, sunscreen, goggles and ear plugs, so it's best to have several on hand along with plenty of iced beverages so partygoers don't become dehydrated from too much fun in the sun. Image courtesy of Oxford Garden

Salad on the Fly

Designer Jamie Durie created this outdoor dining room for a California couple who were eager to combine two passions: gardening and entertaining. A pergola provides shade and gives this outdoor space a secluded feel while a wall covered in edible-plant-filled pouches puts fresh veggies within easy reach so guests can help themselves.

Light It Up

If your get-together will continue into the evening, illuminate the party area with strings of lights encircling an umbrella, wound around tree trunks or run along cables suspended above partygoers' heads. Candle-filled or solar lanterns, placed on tables and at patio edges, are great alternatives if your home doesn't have outdoor electrical outlets. Image courtesy of Oxford Garden

Match the Theme to the Surroundings

A Japanese garden was the inspiration for this party's Zen theme. The long wooden table provides plenty of space for comfortably serving guests while low, horseshoe chairs are durable modern recreations of a centuries-old Japanese design. Design by Jamie Durie

Entertain With a View

A Miami rooftop bar features a pool, fire pit and neon lighting.

Set Up a Favors Table

Thank guests for coming and send them off with a souvenir by stocking a fabric-covered outdoor table with an assortment of small gifts and sweets. Place the table near the backyard's exit so guests will be sure to grab a keepsake as they leave. Design by Manvi Drona Hidalgo

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