Outdoor Rooms for Dining and Entertaining | The Baltimore Sun

Our friend, Kit Pollard, over at the Baltimore Sun let us share some tips with her readers in her recent feature about the growing popularity of outdoor rooms and outdoor entertaining.   Kit found people are shaking up traditional outdoor living spaces by adding grills, tables, gazebos, pergolas, wet bars, and stoves.  Some people are opting for large tables that can host multiple families.  Other folks are using big, deep seated chairs around small tables for a more intimate gathering.  Whatever the scale, the outdoor living spaces are proving to add a feeling of escape from the ordinary for the people who use and install "outdoor rooms".  

Here are the tips for entertaining Kit collected:

"Entertaining outside can be a blast, but it requires a slightly different touch than hosting gatherings indoors. Local entertaining experts and designers offer their tips on how best to entertain al fresco.

Use the good stuff: Plastic plates and paper napkins are great, but don't be afraid to use real china and silverware outside, says Jenny Davids of Hen House Linens; doing so makes an outdoor table look especially lovely. 'It makes a big difference. When you go outside and set a table like you would inside, it's always stunning.'

Consider staging logistics: 'You do have to think about the logistics of serving your meal,' Davids says. She solves that problem by setting up a side table for drinks, to stage the food before setting it out and to stash dirty dishes after dinner. She dresses that table with linens to match the main table, so it is both functional and stylish.

Go big and comfy: 'I recommend buying the longest table you can fit in your space,' says interior designer Michelle Miller. 'There is nothing like having a large group of friends and family over to enjoy a great meal together.' She also suggests seeking out comfortable dining chairs so guests will want to linger over dessert after dinner.

Focus on hors d'oeuvres: Outdoor entertaining doesn't always have to involve dinner. 'It's a pain to lug stuff outside and especially to rooftop decks,' says Michael Wright of MiY Home in Fells Point. 'So a lot of people prefer deep seating and doing appetizers on trays and sitting like it's a living room more than a kitchen.'

Invest in carriers: Since Reisterstown resident Debbie Mays does not have a dishwasher in her outdoor kitchen, she uses plastic rolling drawers bought at Target to cart dishes and other items from her indoor kitchen to her outdoor space. 'I keep dishes in them and roll them in and out, so I don't have to worry about bugs,' she says, noting that she also uses oversized, sealable plastic containers to keep chips and other food bug-free.

Outdoor trends

From design to technology, local experts have spotted several trends related to outfitting outdoor entertaining spaces:

Gussed-up grills: As interest in food and cooking increases among people of all ages, homeowners are gravitating toward fancier grilling and smoking products, says Mark Ramos of furniture store Offenbachers. 'People recognize the value of going with a higher-end grill with a longer-term warranty,' he says. 'It gives you a better quality of food.'

Sleek and contemporary: Historically, outdoor furniture options have been fairly traditional, but in recent years, manufacturers have introduced more contemporary and sleek designs. 'A lot of people are decorating more with chrome and brushed steel in their homes and that is showing up in the outdoors, too,' Ramos says.

Mix it up: 'Earlier this summer, we completed a terrace overlooking the harbor in Baltimore and mixed several different styles of woven furniture from Janice et Cie,' says interior designer Michelle Miller. 'Using different collections creates a visual treat for the eye. Don't be afraid to mix materials and colors for a more dynamic space.' Miller also notes that fabric makers like Schumacher and Holly Hunt have expanded their outdoor offerings in recent years, including textures like linen and velvet, all in outdoor-friendly finishes.

Advanced tech: Not only have outdoor fabrics improved in recent years, cushion and frame technology have gotten better, as well. 'There's foam that allows cushions to drain and dry really quickly and spring technology that goes right back into shape,' says Ramos. 'Furniture has to stand up to the outdoors, and what's under the hood is really high-end.'"

Read the full story here...