In good com­pany

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The balmy nights of sum­mer make a mag­i­cal back­drop for din­ing al fresco! Ev­ery­one has ac­cess to the dark night sky, the twin­kling of the stars and glow of the moon. So how does one go about plan­ning din­ing out­doors? Plop down a blan­ket and have a pic­nic and en­joy a ro­man­tic meal with your loved one. De­sign an out­door din­ner party that your guests will never for­get. Let me share my plan­ning steps for cre­at­ing the per­fect out­door din­ner party dur­ing the won­der­ful mild weather sea­son.

Of course, I care­fully plan the guest list. Les and I dis­cuss­what per­son­al­i­ties would cre­ate a nice syn­ergy. We en­joy great in­tel­lec­tual con­ver­sa­tion and laugh­ter. Once the guest list is com­plete and con­firmed, I plan the menu.

Next of course is mak­ing sure all the chores are done so that there is no pres­sure the day of the din­ner. For ex­am­ple, mow the lawn (don’t fret, it’s small and the rest is drought-tol­er­ant blue grama), dead­head the gar­den, clean the house, and wash the win­dows.

A day or two be­fore the din­ner, we shop for all the in­gre­di­ents we need to pre­pare the dishes for our spe­cial evening. We do prep work (chop­ping, brin­ing, or any­thing nec­es­sary) to make the “day of ” as easy as pos­si­ble.

Then the fun be­gins. We de­cide on cloth nap­kins, din­ner plates, serv­ing dishes, and ta­ble dec­o­ra­tions. Usu­ally, there is a bit of a tug-of-war for the fi­nal de­ci­sions on the dec­o­ra­tions. We both en­joy cre­at­ing the per­fect ta­ble. We use a very long Lithua­nian linen fab­ric that has an amaz­ing hand for a ta­ble cloth. We have a chan­de­lier that we use out­doors (with a dim­mer) and we make sure all the light bulbs are good. We scour our col­lec­tion of hur­ri­cane can­dle hold­ers and de­cide whatwe­want to use on the ta­ble or in any other ar­easwhere we might sit with our guests. Set­ting up the ta­ble is next, and we wait to light all the can­dles un­til 15 min­utes be­fore our guests are set to ar­rive.

We usu­ally re­ceive the guests in our en­trance court­yard, which is sur­rounded by a quiv­er­ing cadre of aspen trees, day lilies, hostas, and Asi­atic lilies; a softly gur­gling stone foun­tain; and com­fort­able out­door seat­ing. Here, we en­joy ap­pe­tiz­ers and wine or cham­pagne and lively con­ver­sa­tion, in­clud­ing de­sign­ful in­tro­duc­tions.

We then re­treat to the backyard gar­den where the ta­ble is now set and the can­dles are lit. It is a de­light­ful sight to be­hold. At­ten­tion to de­tail and the ef­fort and cre­ativ­ity make our guests feel over­whelm­ingly welcome. The meal is coursed out and plates are cleared af­ter each course. We en­joy the ex­pe­ri­ence com­pletely, indulging in mean­ing­ful con­ver­sa­tion. The last such out­door din­ner party took place on the 4th of July. The evening was amaz­ing, as we have a ter­rific view of the city’s fire­works dis­play. The night was brought to a supreme fin­ish with sounds of oohs and ahs and our guests feel­ing like we had ar­ranged front-row seats for the col­or­ful ex­plo­sive dis­play!

Lisa Sa­muel ASID, IIDA, is a Santa Fe na­tive and prin­ci­pal of Sa­muel De­sign Group, lo­cated in the heart of down­town Santa Fe. She is an award-win­ning in­te­rior de­signer known for cre­at­ing unique in­te­ri­ors im­bued with warmth and el­e­gance. Lisa (info@samuelde­sign­group.com) is pas­sion­ate about good de­sign that sup­ports well-be­ing.

Draw­ing by Lisa Sa­muel: The din­ner party de­sign

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