Monthly Archives: September 2014

Kick off fall with a backyard bonfire party

The last warmth of the summer is waning, and the temperature is slowly but surely dropping back down into sweater weather. We recently discussed a few precautions you should take when setting up your backyard firepits, but now that they've got a safe space on the patio, it's the perfect time to utilize them! 

Bonfires may seem like they're a dime a dozen, but there are few better ways to kick off the beginning of fall than with a party that showcases your outdoor decor. 

‚ÄčThe firepit
Firepits are inherently more convenient than their in-ground counterparts, making them an incredibly seasonal backyard asset. Besides providing a centerpiece for patio parties during the cooler months, fire bowls also make beautiful aesthetical statements. When it comes time to organize your outdoor space, think of firepits the same way you would think about outdoor coffee tables – they're a place for you and friends to gather.

The decor
Creating an area conducive to hosting a backyard bonfire starts with outdoor seating.The number of chairs or sofas you will need entirely depends on how many people you envision using the space. Outdoor sectionals make arranging comfortable place to sit around the bonfire a breeze, while patio dining chairs can create a few extra spots in a pinch. If you're feeling ambitious, set up a few chaise lounges for star gazing later in the night.

Don't forget to keep a handful of fleece blankets on hand for guests to wrap up in when the temperature drops. While the heat of the fire will likely make the blankets unnecessary this early in the season, they are a great way to make sure that friends and family comfortable come October.

The party
While you can never go wrong with classic bonfire staples like s'mores and hot chocolate, hosing a backyard get together a great opportunity to flex your party-planning muscles. Up your bonfire game with fun ideas like invitations that come with personalized marshmallow-roasting sticks or serve up a smattering of campfire cocktails, such as mulled cider or s'moretinis if you're feeling particularly adventurous. Hot dogs roasted by the fire can easily take a gourmet turn when garnished with caramelized onions, and guests can keep their hands warm with a mug of spiced pumpkin soup.

Above all, backyard bonfire parties are a great way to reap the benefits of a beautiful outdoor space. While winter may indeed be coming, there is no reason all of your gatherings have to head indoors when the leaves start falling.

Hosting a backyard tailgate just in time for football season

The months spent lounging poolside may be over, but now that fall has arrived, there's a new way to get outside: with a backyard tailgate. If you can't make it out to the stadium to see your favorite team play, there's no reason you have to miss out on the pregame festivities. Not only will you skip the bathroom lines and crowded parking lots at your own home, but you'll also have much more space and comfortable outdoor seating. Hosting your tailgate in your backyard differs slightly than one you might have thrown stadium-side, however, so we've rounded up a few ways you can prepare.

The invite
Because your tailgate won't take place where tons of enthusiastic football fans are constantly meandering by, you will probably have to invite your guests. You can do so informally, of course, but you can also create fun invitations, such as ones designed to look like tickets to the big game. If you'd like there to be a larger food and drink spread or want to delegate some of the responsibility, you can also ask guests to bring a food or beverage item to the party. 

The setup
Every great tailgate starts with a grill and plenty of outdoor seating. You likely already have both on hand, but this is a great time to arrange your outdoor sectionals and patio dining chairs around a central area. If you're able to set up a TV outside to extend the tailgate into game time, you should also provide enough seating for guests to comfortably watch.

The next step is maximizing your drink storage. A few large coolers will do the trick, but so will a well-stocked outdoor refrigerator. Keep a few bottle openers and plastic cups on hand to make grabbing the next cold one even easier for your guests.

Make sure to set up an outdoor dining table nearby to create a tailgating buffet, complete with plates, napkins and plastic silverware. Last but not least, don't forget to incorporate your favorite team's flag into your outdoor decor. Just because you aren't set up in the stadium parking lot doesn't mean you can't show off ample team spirit.

The menu
No tailgate is complete without a spread of great food, and hosting a tailgate in your backyard gives you even more options when it comes time to decide on a menu. Items that are often too difficult to prepare ahead of time and take with you can easily be made from the comfort of your home, so consider using this time to try new, fun recipes, like beer can chicken and pulled pork sandwiches. Bacon-wrapped smokies make easy finger food, along with dips like artichoke and jalapeño or buffalo chicken. 

Celebrating football season in your backyard also gives you the freedom to set up a more elaborate drink selection than you might be able to otherwise. If the game will be taking place in the morning, consider a bloody mary bar, and set out a few crock pots filled with warm drinks like mulled cider or Irish coffee once the weather gets colder.

The games
Last but certainly not least, set up an area for tailgating games. Patio tables allow for less traditional tailgating games like cards, while the remaining space in your backyard can be used to set up cornhole, ladder golf or your very own game of football.

It's tough to make it to every big football game of the season, but that's no reason you can't celebrate with just as much enthusiasm right in your backyard.

How to host a backyard craft beer tasting

Fall temperatures and craft beer have something in common: They are both at their prime at 55 degrees Fahrenheit. That being said, there may be no time of year more perfect for a backyard craft beer tasting than right now. An event of this caliber may seem daunting, but never fear – if you've got an outdoor dining set and a few outdoor sofas, you're already halfway there. 

What you'll need
In order to host an awesome craft beer tasting, we recommend buying a few key items in additional to the brews. Tasting mats are a popular starting point with craft beer connoisseurs, but regular placemats will do the trick as well. From there, set up your patio dining table with beer score sheets and pencils. While score sheets can be as simple as plain notepads, you can also find an array of unique beer cards online and in the liquor department of upscale grocery stores.

Besides the beer itself, perhaps the most vital component of a successful craft beer tasting is the tasting ware. Your personal glassware selection will depend entirely upon the size of the samples you'd like to administer throughout the evening. A larger selection dictates small, open-mouthed tasting glasses, while snifters will allow for more liberal four-ounce pours. Make sure the number of glasses you have per person matches the number of beers you've selected for the event, as it is unlikely anyone will be washing them in between beers.

Both water and seltzer water are important to promote palate cleansing and prevent inebriation, and both can be served in simple glass pints. A smorgasbord of hors d'oeuvres is a must as well, but we'll get to that soon. Last but certainly not least, you'll need a great selection of craft beer. 

Selecting your beer
To simplify the beer-selecting process, you can choose theme, such as a brewery, type of beer, holiday or country. Fall is a great time to focus on pumpkin and Oktoberfest beers, but you can never go wrong with a taste of Belgium.

Beer samples should generally move from weakest to strongest. Weaker beers are those with a lower alcohol content and a less bitter flavor, but take heed – they may not necessarily be lighter in color. By writing down a few key facts about each of the beers you've selected and annotating them on the guests' scorecards, you'll help facilitate great conversation when it comes time to taste the drinks.

Setting up
Contrary to popular belief, most beers don't belong in a cooler, as very cold temperatures can obscure the drinks' flavor. Most craft brews are optimal at 45 to 55 degrees, the likely temperature of your backyard during fall. Placing a decorative bucket on an outdoor coffee table will usually do the trick.

You can get crafty with clear mason jars filled with hops and malts to create a brewery ambiance. Make pitches of water more theme appropriate, by setting them out in empty growlers. You might also consider matching an appetizer with a particular beer when selecting your menu items. While there are no hard and fast rules to beer and food pairings, more hoppy beers like IPAs cut through fatty foods and sweeter malts will balance spicy foods.

The tasting
When it comes time to taste your beers, anything goes. Take time to discuss what you like most about each beer with your guests, fill up on great food and enjoy the fall weather. With a collection of great beer, friends and outdoor furniture, you can't go wrong!

Relaxing outside this fall

Autumn may be cooler than summer, but the season is still very conducive to outdoor living. The crisp air and changing colors are certainly a draw for many people who want to spend time in nature. Don't pack up your outdoor furniture sets just yet – you can transform your yard into a cozy space in which to enjoy fall weather. The best part is that the updates you make are relatively simple! Here are a few ways to get the autumnal retreat you've been dreaming of:

Cuddle up
Sitting on the porch beneath a soft blanket sure sounds nice, doesn't it? Add a cup of hot cocoa or tea to the mix and you're set to go! As you transition your outdoor spaces from summer to fall, take care to add blankets to your decor. Draping throw blankets over the back of your outdoor sectionals is an easy way to introduce comfort to your design. Consider using blankets that feature fall colors, such as burgundy, mustard and moss.

If you're worried about your blankets getting wet when it rains, simply store them inside near the door to your yard. That way, when you head out to read on your porch, you can grab a blanket. Also, set blankets out before you have guests over for an autumn bash.

Bring on the heat
Huddling up next to a fire pit is one of the joys of fall. As you and your friends gather around a fire, you'll banish the chill in the air and enjoy the look of the flames. Arrange outdoor seating around the fire pit so friends and family can relax and stay toasty at the same time. 

Looking for entertainment ideas that involve your fire pit? Consider roasting marshmallows with your guests! You can set out unique s'mores toppings, such as caramel-filled chocolate rather than plain candy bars. Between the cozy fire and the food, your fall party is sure to please.

Use inviting lighting
Your fire pit will add a warm glow to your yard, but you can take illumination a step forward. Design experts suggest you always have three sources of light in a space in order to get the coziest environment. Your fire pit can be one (when it's lit), but you'll need a few others. Consider creating decorative centerpieces for your outdoor coffee tables that feature candles. As you and your friends sit in cushy chairs, you'll chat and enjoy illumination provided by the soft glow of candles.

You can also install sconces on the exterior walls of your home or hang rope lights across your yard. However you choose to increase the artificial light in your outdoor spaces, make sure the sources create a warm atmosphere that will banish the chill of fall.

Decorate the space
Your outdoor spaces can be treated much like your indoor ones. You already have gorgeous furniture on your patio, so why not decorate for fall? Find inspiration in autumn colors and images, such as leaves, acorns and plants. You may, of course, set out the popular pumpkin, or decorate by creating a fall wreath. Your options are endless and certain to create a sense of warmth and comfort on your deck. 

Great ways to add color to your backyard

Vibrant colors, when infused properly into a backyard space, can breed happiness, sentiment and curb appeal to boot. Take a look at your outdoor area and notice if you are missing a pop of color. With a little patience and attention to detail you can create an outdoor living space that creates comfort and and energy. Color attracts butterflies, birds and the company of your friends, so don't wait any longer and give your backyard a color upgrade with these ideas:

Painted cinder blocks and concrete stones
Large lawns can be stunning, but often look drab without a bit of color mixed in. Add a concrete stone pathway that winds from garden bed to garden bed. Using either a stencil, or any geometric shapes, paint the stones in patterns with a singular choice color. It is best to choose a color that will stand out from the green, like light blue or a shade of red or yellow. You can accomplish a similar feat using cinder blocks. After painting them, stand the blocks upright and fill them with dirt so you can use them as stylish planters on your patio. 

Outdoor rugs
Simplify things even more by purchasing an outdoor rug that brings out the colors of your garden. Choose a rug that's not only is bright in color, but bold in pattern as well. It also looks great to match your furniture's cushions to one of the colors in the rug to make that aspect of the rug stand out. 

Bold furniture
No colorful backyard is complete without bold furniture. Choose small dining collections like the Sol 3 Piece Bistro Set. This little cafe assortment comes in blue, green and red. The bright nature of this furniture perfectly complements any painted planters or dazzling gardens. 

If having such vivid furniture feels a little too bold for your backyard look, bring in color with cushions. The Astoria 5 Piece Cafe Dining set comes with cushions in shades of red, orange, blue and slate. Keep an extra set of cushion covers in storage so you can change the chair cushion color when you feel you need a different look. 

Grill features
In case that you have an outdoor grill, give it its own colorful station. If your grill is built into a concrete wall that is meant to double as counter space, cover the counter and front of the wall with colorful tiles. Do not worry if the tiles are not perfectly matching, the point is to create a unified color scheme with the rest of your decor. If your grill is a stand-alone unit, add an accent table on either side and place a colorful potted flower like Gerber daisies, daffodils or mums on top of each table. 

Seasonally vibrant plants
It is important to coordinate your garden with your patio color scheme. Choose to either plant swaths of color that blend together or are situated to bring out start contrasts. Even if your garden is for vegetables only, you can fill it with color with plants like beets, peppers, carrots, squash, peas, berries, melons, tomatoes and greens. Remember, plants usually will only bloom for a few months, so be sure that your beds incorporate flowers that will give a pop of color throughout the growing year.

Fire up these backyard barbecue designs

If your favorite part of the summer happens to be firing up the grill and showing off your outdoor cooking skills to family and friends, then it is time you treated yourself to your backyard barbecue dream. Designing this entertaining space requires you to integrate utility, comfort and food. The process may take some time, but once your barbecue space is complete, there will be no grilling guest left un-awed. The design ideas below are a guide – follow them as long as they suit your personal style. Remember: This backyard space is for you, the cook, to enjoy, so be sure you are catering to your home chef needs.

Serving stations
When hosting a cookout, one of the most important aspects of a barbecue is having enough space to display and serve your delicious dishes. To blend the serving spaces into your backyard patio, exhibit the food throughout the space. This arrangement is ideal for catering to large groups. When you host bigger parties, it will be more difficult to seat everyone at one table, and having multiple serving stations makes it easy for guests to get the food they want and continue chatting with various other guests. Start by placing a few coffee tables and accent tables throughout the space. Make sure that guests can access the food from all sides of the table. The Astoria Cast Coffee Table is ideal for this backyard barbecue fest. It is large enough to hold multiple dishes and is made of durable aluminum so it is easy to clean. 

It is also handy to have a small table on which to place condiments or any special sauces you have made for the dishes. 

Chatty chef
Just because you are the chef does not mean that the party should continue on while you stand dutifully at your station. Install a stone wall around your grill that can serve both as a way to frame the space and as a place for guests to sit and chat to you. It is also a good idea to set a pair of chairs near the grill like so you or your guests can sit down comfortably. Don't forget to add a side table next to each chair for drinks and food. 

If you are a do-it-all chef, consider installing a full bar opposite the grill. This way, when the meat is smoking, you can turn around and serve up a few of your favorite cocktails. 

Home dining
No barbecue heaven is complete without a set of table and chairs. For this, you will want furniture that will clean easily, given that barbecue tends to be a messy culinary practice. The Astoria 5 Piece Cafe Dining Set is made with a powder-coated aluminum that can withstand years of outdoor wear and tear. This set also features light antiquing, giving it a look that is fitting for any barbecue.

Create an Italian-style dining terrace

No matter what region of the world you live in, nor what weather is prominent there, you can design a terrace to take you to Tuscany each time you dine at home. Create your very own Italian dining space with the right terrace furnishings on which to offer your Italian cooking. Seat large numbers, serve many communal meals, and enjoy wine and laughter on your well-designed Italian terrace. These outdoor dining style tips are meant to get you under the Tuscan sun, regardless of where you live.

Enjoyable feasts
To recreate those iconic Italian moments of the loud and vibrant family meals, with emotions and food shared all around, you will need the proper seating. Get a large enough table to seat all the friends and family you want near with the Portofino Comfort 7 Piece Outdoor Stone Top Dining Set. With blue cushions and a natural stone top, this furniture features the warm colors of a Tuscan day, and the traditional look that you would expect from an Italian cafe. This table is large enough to not only seat your whole party, but to hold all of your family‚Äč-style dishes.

When family and friends are not over, add a Tuscan touch to your Dining Set by displaying pots of herbs on the table. A floral touch will bring out the natural and romantic look in your stone top table.  

If you want an Italian dining experience that more or less mimics a balcony cafe, you should consider the Sol 3 Piece Bistro Set. This small table and chairs are brightly colored in blue to remind you of the sunny Italian skies. It is also the perfect size for a morning espresso and newspaper, or a quiet night with wine and music. 

Don't forget that Italian nights are warm and inviting, so give yourself and your guests a feel for the Tuscan weather with the Aura Copper Fire Bowl. This miniature fire bowl can be easily moved from one side of the patio to another to keep your party warm throughout the whole night. Also, its copper furnishings are reminiscent of the Old World charm that Italy holds. 

Natural Italian
Aside from your furniture, it can be nice to add a little Italian feel to your patio and garden. Most traditional Tuscan terraces are laid in flagstone. Luckily, it can be a simple addition to make to your backyard. When it comes to plantings, adorn the patio with potted plants, olive trees preferably. The point is to give your backyard a lush and colorful perspective. If you happen to have hedges instead of a fence around your yard space, consider manicuring them to create a conical look, much like the gardens at Palazzo Piccolomini.  

If you happen to have a pergola above your dining space, or are willing to install one, this is an ideal addition to an Italian terrace.

Tricks to make your small yard look bigger

Small yards can feel cramped, overgrown, and not useable. Using a few professional landscaping tips, you can trick your eyes into seeing the yard as an expansive oasis. These deceptions can be used on a yard of any size, even small side yards and front yards. Test them out and find just how big your yard really can be. 

Lines
Creating lines in your backyard is important when trying to make it seem larger. This forces your eyes to follow a pathway or a pattern in a direction, making a space seem more expansive than it really is. One simple trick is to design your patio or deck with diagonally placed planks or stones. This means that the wood boards jut out 45 degrees from the back wall your house. You can also use this technique by building a walkway that cuts diagonally across your lawn. Both of these tips will elongate the space involved. 

For any winding pathway, decrease its width as it gets further away from the house. Even in a small area, your eyes will see the yard as long and sweeping. You can also use this same tip for landscaping any garden beds. 

Focal points
Having a focal point is essential for small yards. If your eyes are constantly drawn to one specific area, the yard will appear much larger in between. One example of a focal point is a brightly cushioned piece of furniture, like a chair, situated beneath a rose trellis. Choose rose colors that will emphasize the focal point with strong colors like orange or red. 

Another focal point that you should take advantage of in the later afternoons is the Aura Copper Fire Bowl. Eyes are naturally drawn to light, and this fire bowl will have everyone looking.

Colors
Color can be used to force you to see a larger yard. Place strong colors like reds, yellows and neons close to your doorway. Choose to decorate a large portion of your fences with soft colors like gray, brown and beige. Having bright colors up close can trick your eyes to focus on objects near at hand, making the yard seem far off in the background. It can also help to have subtle furniture like the Resort 5 Piece Seating and Large Ottoman set. 

Views
If your backyard has views of a park or a large and open area, make sure that you can see this space from your own yard. It will make your small area feel as if it encapsulates the full view. If prospects are not to be had, create your own with a trellis or even an umbrella. Your eyes will get a glimpse of the yard beyond and think it is a large expanse.

Product feature: The relaxing experience of orbital loungers

Many homeowners choose to turn their yards into a sanctuary for relaxation and fun. If that's your design goal, then your outdoor furniture sets should support it. The money you invest in your decor pieces should come back to you in the form of afternoons spent lounging and evenings full of friends. Today we want to focus on the idea of promoting calm and health in your life by looking at one particular product: orbital loungers. These outdoor lounge chairs are engineered to give you the most luxuriant experience possible. Plus, they come with tons of other benefits!

About the loungers
Orbital loungers are a unique product that look different than many other outdoor chairs. The lounger is supported by two rings that cross in an X formation. This structure gives the chair its curved, zero-gravity shape. The chair reclines in such a way that your legs are on the same plane as your head. By lying in this posture, your body will be able to equalize its blood pressure, taking tension off your lower extremities. Ideally, after lying in an orbital lounger, you'll be able to feel the difference, experiencing sensations of relaxation.

Chair weight and load
Orbital loungers are constructed to be lighter weight than other outdoor furniture pieces. Wider models that seat two weigh 25 pounds and single-person chairs are 30 pounds. Because orbital loungers aren't heavy, you can move them around your yard with ease. Furthermore, orbital loungers are built with strong aluminum and weatherproof fabric that can carry up to between 275 and 300 pounds.

Storing and caring for loungers
Depending on which orbital lounger you purchase, it will fold up to be a mere 8 to 12 inches wide. Such a narrow fold makes storing the chairs easy. We suggest putting them in a safe dry spot during extreme weather conditions and winter. Doing so will protect your investment for years to come. 

While orbital loungers are made with weatherproof and durable material, you should still occasionally clean them – this will remove dirt and dust collected from being outside. All you'll need is a gentle broom or paint brush, water and a mild detergent (such as dish soap). Use the broom to sweep away debris, and then rinse. Use the detergent to carefully wash the chair. Rinse it off again and let it dry. You can also use a towel to dry the chair more quickly.

Coloring your yard
You want your outdoor furniture to match the existing color scheme of your yard, so don't forget to look at cushions when you shop for a lounger. Take a look at your other outdoor furniture and the decor dotting your yard to decide what colors will fit in best. Orbital loungers come in several fabric choices, so you'll be sure to get one that matches your current decor plans.

Loungers to love
We have a couple orbital lounge chairs sure to make your backyard a more tranquil place. Each model promotes relaxation and good body use. Check out these chairs:

Delano Double Orbital Lounger: This chair comfortably seats two and can carry up to 300 pounds.

Original Orbital Lounger: This chair features woven PVC mesh meant to withstand the elements. 

Hosting a harvest garden potluck party

Fall is a time to celebrate the harvest and gather with friends and family. The weather is still nice enough to comfortably sit outdoors (the crisp air and colorful leaves are definitely a draw), so why not host a party in your backyard? If you have a garden full of tomatoes, herbs, lettuce, etc., then you have many of the ingredients you'll need to cater to a bunch of diners. However, we much prefer the idea of a potluck! Thanksgiving is coming up, and you can get a head start on the sharing spirit of the season. Here are our tips for making a garden potluck party a success:

Plan your menu
Because you'll be hosting your potluck during fall, you may want to stick to seasonal foods. Turn to your garden for some inspiration – the food that's in season will be right at your fingertips, no trip to the grocery store required! Ingredients like squash, apples, potatoes and greens will all be ready to pick. Though you won't be preparing all the food on your own, you should inform your guests of your autumnal theme. Consider sending invitations to your friends and family that include a note about food. Lay out your plan for a harvest meal and ask each person to bring a different course (you don't want to end up with 10 desserts and one entree). 

Spread the food
Designate a spot in your backyard where you'll keep all the amazing dishes. Depending on how many people RSVPed with a yes, you may need a large or just a small table to display the meal. The Deco Nine-Piece Dining Set is a safe bet, as it's long enough to hold plenty of food. Line up plates on either end of the table so guests can form two lines when getting their food. As your guests arrive, direct them to where they should place their dishes.

Create a grill station
Will you be cooking a few dishes during the party? Doing so keeps everything nice and hot, so you may consider including a grill station in your pot luck. That way, you and your guests can fire up food that will taste best fresh off the grill. You can set this up near the food table so you can put piping hot entrees right on the serving surface.

Provide seating
No matter how many people are attending your potluck, you want to have plenty of space to accommodate them. That includes outdoor dining sets and sectionals. Before and after the meal, guests may want to sit down to mingle, and sofas can make that happen – not to mention they're a cozy touch to your outdoor autumnal space. Before you decide which sets you'll use, get a final head count. Then arrange your furniture to accommodate party traffic flow – keep open lanes between furniture groupings. 

Decorate your yard
The harvest theme may be apparent in your food, but you can support it in your decor too! Add throw pillows and blankets to your outdoor sectionals that feature fall colors, such as red, burnt orange, mossy green and gold. You can even decorate with bales of hay, corn stalks and pumpkins.