Thursday, September 18, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Home Style: Even when it’s cold, outdoor decor is hot

By
From page C2 | December 22, 2012 |

On New Year’s Eve, the stroke of midnight will find me in bed, fast asleep. But if I had the energy to celebrate late into the night, I would want to be at a grand and glorious outdoor fete like my friend David’s. Come peek in on his stunning winter soiree and be inspired to bring in the New Year in style at your home.

When I saw David’s home dressed for a decadent midnight champagne and dessert celebration I wanted to disappear into this fairytale like setting.

Those of us who live in colder climates shy away from hosting events outdoors this time of year. But if you’re in a part of the country that is more moderate, take the party outdoors on New Year’s. Illuminate your outdoor room with yards of twinkling lights.

For romantic outdoor lighting, I also like to suspend votive cups from the branches of my shrubs and line my walkways with lanterns.

Even if it’s too cold and snowy in your part of the country to stay outdoors too long, don’t ignore the great potential of your outdoor rooms. If you have an outdoor hearth, set it with a blazing fire and toss cuddly blankets on your outdoor furnishings so guests can snuggle by the fire. Can it get more romantic than that? You can also use your outdoor room for a bar service, eliminating your need to ice your drinks.

But if the thought of trekking out into the cold is completely abhorrent, treat your outdoor space as a decorative element. Hang glass votives in your trees and bushes, then fill them with battery operated candles, so guests can look out on a magical vista of sparkling lights. Or, line your walkway with candle-filled lanterns. I really love battery operated candles that work on timers or have remote controls because you can turn them on at dusk every night without having to go out in the cold.

Shake things up a bit by using fine indoor furnishings and trims outside. It’s so unexpected to find such luxury on the patio that it feels positively indulgent. David does this masterfully on his portico. His outdoor furnishings feature a mix of materials, all of which can handle the stinging Midwest weather and still look like a million bucks. His winged back chairs, which look simply smashing in this setting, are covered in white vinyl so they can handle rain, birds, leaves — you name it. Just a wipe with a rag and they are sparkling new. David’s outdoor color scheme of black and white is one of my all time favorites, and I’ve reinvented this time and again on my own porch.

On Jan. 1, the diet begins. So on Dec. 31, indulge. Pull out your best serving pieces to present food in the most dramatic way possible. My mantra is presentation over preparation, and it has served me well.

Everything looks more regal when placed on a riser and covered with a glass cloche.

A mistake people often make when setting up a food service is to cover the tabletop with a sea of flat platters and bowls, a la church potluck. The secret is to employ a mixture of serving pieces that give you a variety of heights.

When the clock strikes midnight, you want to have plenty of iced bubbly to pour into your guests’ glasses. Instead of hiding pretty bottles of champagne or Prosecco in the fridge, incorporate them into your party decor. Fill a silver punch bowl with ice to display the drinks. Or, find another interesting container to be your ice bucket, like a wooden dough bowl, blue and white cachepots or even a rustic bird bath.

Instead of just lining up your champagne flutes on the tabletop, ground them on an elegant silver tray. Beautiful trays are another one of my ace-in-the-hole serving pieces because anything you put on top of them is instantly elevated from ho hum to magnificent.

Here’s to a fabulous 2013!

No matter how you celebrate the end of 2012, whether you’re at a grand party with legions of guests, an intimate gathering with your closest friends, or, curled up under a pile of quilts getting some well-earned post-holiday sleep, I hope the evening finds you happy and well.

(The column has been adapted from Mary Carol Garrity’s blog at www.nellhills.com. She can be reached at marycarol@nellhills.com .)

Mary Carol Garrity

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