Creating Inviting Outdoor Spaces for Entertaining

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From barbecues and games of bocce to parties and candlelit dinners, your outdoor space can be a hub for entertaining friends and family.
Whether you have a small patio or sprawling backyard, interior design experts from The Art Institutes system of schools provide six simple tips for making the great outdoors a great place to eat, play and entertain.

1. FOCAL POINTS
Edward Varias, owner of E.V. Design and Interior Design instructor at The Art Institute of California – Hollywood, a campus of Argosy University, says a focal point brings everyone together, and can include furniture, a fountain, a fireplace, or any piece that will provide a “wow” factor. An outdoor rug can serve as a focal point and help define an area, and a fire pit makes a great place for guests to gather.

2. SEATING GROUPS
Determine the size of your space, the number of people you will typically be entertaining and whether you will use the space for eating, drinking and socializing, or playing games. For a small space, seating can be a simple bistro table and two chairs. For larger spaces, you can incorporate sofa and chair groupings, along with a small coffee table.

3. VISTAS
In creating vistas, you can use a combination of natural and manmade elements. This can include creating garden areas with rocks and fountains and adding little surprises such as statuettes, pagoda lanterns and seating for two, says Varias.

4. LANDSCAPING
The first step in landscaping is cleaning up the space and trimming bushes, trees and overgrown plants to create a fresh palette. Plants can help add color, style and definition to your space. You can create great little vignettes throughout the yard by using varying sizes of planters. Potted plants can also be brought in during the winter to keep them looking great year after year.

5. LIGHTING
Lighting can set the tone for any type of nighttime event. Varias recommends providing ample lighting for your focal points and providing a mix of electric lighting and ambient lighting such as candles and candelabras. OTHER EASY DIY LIGHTING INCLUDES STRINGS OF LIGHTS, WHICH CAN BE USED YEAR-ROUND AND SIMPLE SOLAR LIGHTS.

6. ACCESSORIES
Your starting palette will be very neutral, with a lot of greens and browns, and you can add pops of color with pillow cases or colored plants. Storage is another area to consider. You won’t want your hose and garden tools lying around the yard, so a storage bench or shelving can keep everything nicely organized.
The tips above can be adapted for spaces of varying sizes and can range from simple DIY to high-end customized projects.