By Marsha Fottler –
Part of the pleasure of summer eating isn’t just the savoring fresh and exquisite fruits and vegetables of the season; pleasure is also discovered in expanding the terrain we consider as eating venues.
This is the time of year we move out of the kitchen, drift from the dining room and stray from trays in front of the television to consider staging meals on the patio, the boat, the pool pavilion, the back porch, under a shade tree in the garden or beneath a vine-covered pergola. We also think about “summerizing” the indoor places where we entertain friends and family for a summer spread or just relax solo with a bowl of ice-cream or a dish of fruit salad.
I’ve been asking my designer friends who love cooking magazines about easy and inexpensive ways to “summerize” spaces to maximize the presentation of casual summer foods and increase our enjoyment of the season. Here are a few projects they suggest.
• Paint your porch or lanai ceiling the palest blue. This is an old Southern custom that makes you feel like the sky is above you. I bet you’ll like this treatment so much, you’ll be doing it to ceilings inside your home as well. And my design-profession pals say that’s a great idea too. The trick is to pick the right blue, it should be washed out, noticeable but only barely so. Use flat paint.
• Host an informal White Nights party. Set an all-white table starting with crisp white linens, napkins, plates. Fill a white pitcher with a variety of white flowers and use white candles if dinner is in the evening. And wear something white to the table.
• Now is the time to buy one of those new decorative (and durable) outdoor area carpets, either round or rectangle. Use it to define and anchor the eating or conversation area outside. Catalogs such as Frontgate, Pottery Barn, Garnet Hill and Grandin Road are good places to start, but big box stores carry them too. These lightweight rugs can be hosed down for cleaning and can be moved easily for your summer movable feast. Many of these rugs have matching toss pillows that are weather and fade resistant. Now you’ve got a really customized look.
• Investigate the world of Melamine plateware, including serving platters. Plastic has never looked so stylish, sophisticated, colorful or so much fun. Pick a pattern and color and organize a theme dinner around your “summer dishes,” because Melamine isn’t just for picnics or kids’ birthday parties anymore.
• Work out a lighting scheme for your outdoor area taking into consideration that you can create mood miracles with those new LED flameless candles and clip-on lights as well as solar lights. Weave strings of inexpensive white holiday lights in bushes and trees. Hanging paper lanterns work too. You’ll use your outdoor spaces much more often and you’ll stay out there later if you have welcoming lighting. Night lighting makes all the difference.