The best thing about the Christmas and New Year’s season in Australia is the weather. A white Christmas might be more ‘traditional’ but there’s really nothing like spending a whole day outside on the patio, chatting to friends and family, and enjoying the warmth and the company.
If your patio is going to be your venue for the holiday season, you want to make it look good, feel comfortable and have a bit of ambience. Here are a few ideas on how to make your patio both festive and functional.
As wonderful as the summertime is, the Australian sun shows little mercy in the middle of the day. If you don’t have a sheltered patio, make sure you and your guests are covered with some shade for your lunchtime gatherings. Outdoor umbrellas offer excellent shelter from the midday sun, but they’re not just purely functional. Look for bright colours and patterns to set the mood.
Remember to consider the size of your umbrella, the number of people you would typically entertain, or the amount of furniture you have on your patio. Ideally your umbrella would be wider than your table, but not so large that it overpowers your patio area. It also needs enough height to be out of the way, so that people don’t need to duck too low to pass it, but not so high that it can’t offer enough shade.
Cantilever umbrellas are great for long lunches since you can adjust them as the sun moves across the sky. However, table umbrellas are a more economic option if you expect to be seated most of the time and have a smaller gathering.
Always invest in a solid base. No matter how stylish your umbrella, if it doesn’t have a heavy enough base it will be a pain to deal with. The larger the umbrella, the heavier the base should be. Fibreglass will be sturdier than aluminum, so keep this in mind if you’re in a wind-prone area.
Cushions add a lot of comfort to any outdoor setting. Make sure you source outdoor-specific ones that have been solution-dyed to resist sun fading, and choose cushions with weather resistant foam so if they get left out in a storm, the water will roll right over them. Choose a mixture of textures and patterns for a casual feel, or keep your cushions matching for a more formal look.
Crucial for dusk-to-dark events, outdoor lighting adds a touch of romance to any setting. Paper lantern lights look great even when the lights are turned off and they add plenty of atmosphere. Fairy lights are brighter and give any setting an ethereal feel, plus you can buy varying lengths to suit small and large patio spaces.
Or think about using candles. Look for clear candle holders to maximise the light and keep in mind that at a dinner setting you’ll need a bit of space to spare. Invest in citronella candles to keep the mosquitoes at bay or use Tiki lamps for a more tropical feel. Mark paths with solar lights that stake into the ground, to make it easy for guests to find their way to and from your house.
4. Table Decorations
Because table space can be at a premium when catering any event, don’t add anything that’s purely decorative. Instead, work with the essentials.
Patterned napkins with beautiful tableware can make a cruisy lunch just a little bit more special and indicate to your guests that you’ve put a bit of thought into it. They don’t have to match, rather coordinating colours in different patterns and textures can be just as effective. Don’t forget the appeal of big platters for shared dishes or serving up a cheese plate; it’s a way of highlighting your feast while being a really beautiful piece of presentation at the same time.
If you have the room to spare, some floral arrangements that aren’t too fussy make for beautiful centre-pieces. Use vases that aren’t too tall or too wide as these will get in the way, and match the arrangement to your party style. For example, if it’s a formal affair use very structured and restrained flowers, but for casual events a jar of bright blooms will be more arresting and appropriate.
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