Friday 27 April 2018

The great outdoors - choose bold patterns when dining al fresco

Banish those dark clouds when dining outside - opt for bold patterns and hues

Eddington Tropicana pitcher, €11.99, Arnotts
Eddington Tropicana pitcher, €11.99, Arnotts
Touch Mel Porto serving bowl, €34.95, Avoca
Santa Cruz rug in lime & grey, reduced to €46.36, Cuckooland.co.uk
Diamond cushion, €34, Marks & Spencer
Pineapple lights, €6, Penneys
Penneys Lazy Summer collection
Serving dish, from €16.99, TK Maxx
Serving bowls, from €3.99; TK Maxx
Serving bowls, from €3.99; dish, TK Maxx

Caroline Foran

This year, the Irish summer has been touch and go, that's for sure. One minute, there's a violent, torrential downpour but then, the sun seems to take pity on us, gracing us with its presence for a few, magical hours while the inky black clouds make themselves (temporarily) scarce.

And at least the temperatures have been kind to us, right? Though we may well be the nation of weather pessimists, at the same time, we are most definitely the nation who'll make the most of the good weather; even if that's limited to an hour-long spell of sunshine. Perhaps it's because we've never been particularly spoilt by our climate, but one thing we all have in common is the joy of dining al fresco. When the opportunity presents itself, you'll be damned if you don't make the most of it. Take your outdoor entertaining up a notch, and transport yourself to more tropical climes, with these nifty tableware styling tips. 

Bargain hunt

Now's the perfect time to stock up on the various high street summer tableware collections - chances are you'll find lots of reduced prices before their autumn/winter counterparts arrive. Take the chance to get yourself a rattan or low-pile rug now that you can keep aside just for garden use. A rug under your outdoor table and chairs is the making of an al fresco soirée.

All things bright, bold & beautiful

When outdoors you can afford to go bold with your patterns and prints. Have a little fun with your plates by choosing colours and statement pieces. And if you've ever been tempted by coloured glassware, now's your chance. This will keep your table bright and colourful, so much so you won't notice if it happens to be overcast. TK Maxx is your best bet for quirky, patterned delph. And don't be too fussed about mixing and matching; al fresco dining should feel casual and relaxed.

Tread softly

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Penneys Lazy Summer collection
 

The ultimate al fresco experience will always feel like an extension of what's inside. This means you've got to add the kinds of comfortable, soft textures you might find in a living room to your dining set-up. Think knit throws, linen napkins, a vibrant table runner and cosy cushions. All of these things can be easily whipped back inside if the heavens decide to open. Marks & Spencer's homewares and Penneys' Lazy Summer collection (above) is worth scouring here.

Style enhances substance

For a proper garden party, consider setting up a makeshift bar outdoors. You don't need a fancy vintage drinks trolley here - unless you already have one of those inside - you need only a set of shelves or a side table. The art is in the styling. Think colourful bowls of sliced limes and other garnishes, a selection of glassware, a bright jug or decanter and some choice bottles of your favourite tipples. To keep this looking the part as the sun sets, add a small lantern with a candle or a battery-powered string of tiny fairy lights. It won't matter how rustic the table or shelves are. Add pineapples, coconuts and cocktail umbrellas if you want a tiki vibe. Homesense, recently opened in Cork and Dublin's Blanchardstown, is your go-to here.

Share value

When it comes to eating outdoors, it's all about digging in, helping yourself and sharing. The 'thrown together' look is not only on-trend, but lends itself well to our temperamental weather. For this, sharing plates and bowls of varying sizes works a treat, and brings your table to life.

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