Food & Wine
Fresh ideas for summer alfresco entertaining
“Whether it’s brunch on the patio or dinner on the deck, we’re seeing outdoor dining evolving from impromptu cookouts to more thoughtful, planned gatherings,” says visual merchandiser John Griffith. “Rather than going out for an evening on the town, people are entertaining at home and they’re enhancing that experience by using their dinnerware outdoors, whether it’s a cozy, casual get together or an elegant, formal alfresco meal.”
Griffith and his teammate Julie Robbins develop seasonal design ideas for Replacements, Ltd., known as the world’s largest retailer of old and new china, crystal and silver.
“I think many people are a little leery of using what they consider their ‘good dinnerware’ outside, but there are so many ways to dress it up or down depending on the evening,” says Griffith. “For example, you can blend a casual, colorful pattern, like Fiesta, with a formal white or complementing floral pattern for a festive flair. You can also mix in pieces and mediums that are both attractive and durable; many manufacturers including Pfaltzgraff and Homer Laughlin are offering melamine plates and trays, while Corning has a wide selection of acrylic tumblers.”
Griffith says alternative metal serveware is fantastic for outdoor entertaining because once these pieces are heated or chilled, the alloy retains its temperature to help keep food warm or cool. He says Lenox, Arthur Court and Wilton Armetale offer fun yet functional shapes and pieces.
“Summer is all about color; you can easily give your table a refreshed, seasonal look by mixing in seasonal hues,” says Robbins. “Bright, bold colors are really hot right now, including oranges and yellows, like freesia. Freesia is one of my favorite colors this year and can be used all summer long. On the other end of the color spectrum, earth tones are always popular and work for outdoor entertaining because those shades are very natural.”
You can easily incorporate sizzling summer shades by using flowers or fresh seasonal vegetables as centerpieces. Robbins suggests using paper napkins on your table for a casual feel, while you can just as easily add cloth linens to dress up the same place setting for a more formal feel. She adds you can also use beach towels to create festive table runners.
Taking your dinnerware outside not only creates new looks, but also, new uses.
“I love pieces that can be used for more than one thing,” adds Robbins. “I use soup bowls all year long, whether that’s for a cold soup during warmer months or a fresh summer salad. You can find so many uses for chop plates, such as a charger or large dinner plate or even as a serving platter.”
Dinnerware manufacturers are crossing over toward the indoor/outdoor pieces. Griffith says many companies are offering coordinating casuals that easily blend across numerous patterns and colors, including Sophie Conran by Portmerion, Royal Doulton’s Maze and Mode patterns and Jasper Conran by Wedgwood.
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