Take It Outside: Tips for Backyard Entertaining | Midwest Living

Take It Outside: Tips for Backyard Entertaining

Well-placed weatherproof furniture and a little mood lighting will make your backyard wine-and-dine ready.
  • Table toppers

    Amie and Rob Corley modeled their St. Louis shindig space after a favorite restaurant patio. Follow their lead to outfit your own party place.

    One of Amie's tips: Use regular dishes—as opposed to relying on melamine or paper—to give the party restaurant-style formality. Pair with place mats and cloth napkins for a finished look.

    Designer Amie Corley, Amie Corley Interiors. amiecorley.com

  • Social seating

    Multiple seating arrangements around the patio’s perimeter provide smaller conversation spots. Positioning the dining table in the middle gives it focal point status. “The layout creates great flow for outdoor entertaining,” Amie Corley says.

    Night lights Amie drilled eyelit screws into a tree and the home's brick mortar to string lights overhead like a pergola. Tabletop lanterns and a flickering fire bowl (next slide) add to the cozy.

    Green scene Low-maintenance boxwood shrubs outline the patio's perimeter with year-round green. Potted palms move in and out of the house, depending on where the party is.

    Patterned pavers When the Corleys moved into their 1907 Beaux Arts home, brick pavers laid in a basket-weave pattern defined the patio area. For a fresher look, Amie had them ripped up, cleaned and laid in a herringbone design. 

    Bar cart South Seas bar cart, Serena and Lily. serenaandlily.com

  • Cozy seating

    A fire bowl sets the mood for a cozy evening on the patio. 

    Fire bowl Lava rock fire bowl, Restoration Hardware. restorationhardware.com

  • Now serving

    House special “We serve cocktails at every party,” Amie says. A favorite, the Parisian (swiped from the St. Louis restaurant Brasserie) is a crisp, dry combo of 1 ounce Lillet Blanc and 12 ounce Aperol topped with sparkling wine served over crushed ice in a lowball glass with an orange slice. "I usually make gougères—French cheese puffs—to serve with cocktails," Amie adds.

    Party like it’s 1969 Midcentury trellis-design Shoji glasses dazzle on Amie’s bar cart. The collectible 24-karat-rimmed drinkware originated from Ohio’s Imperial Glass Company. 

    Your table is ready “I love a giant rattan tray on the table,” says Amie, who also favors monogrammed cloth napkins and silver mint julep cups (used in varied roles) to elevate ambience. 

    Music in the mix “Our favorite Spotify station for parties is the Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. station,” Amie says, noting the Detroit indie-pop band’s mix “is just lively enough.”

    Got a corkscrew? Rob is party ready with Angel’s Envy whiskey, Old New Orleans rum, Lillet Blanc, Aperol, Hendrick’s gin, Cointreau, wine, simple syrup and an array of bitters, mint, basil and lemon. 

  • Make it happen

    Liven up the party with our outdoor-living picks. We've got your supplies here.

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