Al Fresco Dining by Michelle Flemons

Interior designer Michelle Flemons gives us a few tips on how create the ideal setting for an extraordinary evening of outside, al Fresco dining.

With warm days and nights to entice us outside, who can resist the urge to dine al fresco? There is something magical about the experience, and we all benefit when we treat ourselves to a dinner with family and friends in the beautiful, fresh outdoors. Following are a few tips to ensure your evening is extraordinary:

1. A love for grilling is the reason many people step outside into their backyards, or on their decks, patios, or balconies…and everything seems to taste better al fresco.

Now the cook in your home can be sure that their Porterhouse steak, filet of salmon, or rice pilaf is cooked to perfection. Wolf has introduced a line of outdoor BBQ grills that offer two types of precision controlled heat--direct and radiant, to achieve the ideal temperature range and uniform heat distribution that are the keys to flawless grilling. Direct heat from the gas burners delivers high, searing temperatures and rapid preheating, while radiant heat sources distribute temperatures evenly. Just imagine the juicy possibilities.


2. Dining outside is inherently informal.

So yay, that immediately takes the pressure off the hosts to make everything “perfect”. There are no decorating rules that everything must match. In fact, I would give a big thumbs up to mixing and matching. So, if you have acquired numerous patio chairs and tables throughout the years, are borrowing from neighbours, or are even throwing a BYOC (bring your own chair party), you are in luck. Eclectic is charming.

3. I recommend focusing your energy on decorating the table.

First of all, throw on a nice large white tablecloth. It can hide an imperfect table…and it goes with any décor. If you have a garden, go ahead and pick fresh flowers, foliage, or even fruits, vegetables, and herbs to create a low centerpiece that guests can see over. Pinterest is a great resource to get visually inspired. If you entertain often, invest in outdoor tablewear. It is a more eco-friendly solution to disposable paper plates & cheap plastic cups, and you’ll be impressed by the beautiful patterns and colours that are now available. Add an abundance of tea lights, and voila, your table is set for an evening to remember.

4. If you like bells and whistles and want to make your outdoor entertaining area extraordinary, then the following two splurges might be right up your alley:

First, a kegerator is a specialized refrigerator and tap in one, designed to maintain a keg of beer at a constant cool temperature. Now you can serve your guests a cold draft beer right at home, whether you prefer a cool stout or an ice cold lager. There are different sizes of kegerators available depending on your needs. Fill them with your favorite local craft beer and you’ll be the hit of the neighborhood. Second, if you take your pizza seriously, an authentic wood-burning brick pizza oven is the ultimate choice. The best-tasting, authentic pizza has been prepared this way for generations. If space permits and you’d like to make your pizza oven a focal point, hire a designer to create a show-stopping feature. Whether your guests are meat lovers or vegetarians, young or old, they will delight in both the mouth-watering results and visual experience of seeing their pizza cooked the old-fashioned way.

5. While the weather is wonderfully warm this time of year, when the sun goes down, the temperature tends to cool off. To keep your guests from getting chilled, there is nothing quite like gathering around a fire and extending your dinner party into the night.

Image credit: Solus Designs

Luckily for city dwellers (and when there is a province-wide fire ban), Canadians can still enjoy the warmth of a cozy outdoor fire with a gas fire table, pit, or bowl. It will quickly become the center of attention, so be sure to provide adequate seating. The style selection is endless, from modern to country to traditional. …my personal favourite collection is from a Vancouver based company—Solus Décor. Manufactured in Canada, Solus designs, casts, and assembles concrete products that are built to withstand extreme temperatures changes.

I hope you are feeling inspired and enjoy the next few weeks dining al fresco.

Check back next month when Michelle will share her recent Modern Beach Side renovation which was featured by HGTV. Find some more tips and design ideas from Michelle on her social channels: Houzz, Pinterest, and Instagram.