With our long, hot summers in Texas, we certainly need to think about ways to cool off when planning outdoor entertaining with friends and family. One of my cardinal rules for outdoor events in our climate is that you need a few air-conditioned spots for people to retire to for respite. I was at a beautiful baby shower one evening recently and although we spent several muggy hours outside, the restrooms in the pool house were well chilled and there was a chiller near one of the gathering places. Even just a minute or two of cooler temps helped keep us from overheating.
So, when entertaining, keep in mind easy access to a cooler spot and, of course, a restroom. We have a current project where a family is putting in a pool. Since they don’t have a bathroom on the first floor that would be appropriate for indoor/outdoor use, they are building a pool house. They are taking it a step further and including a bedroom and a small kitchen so it can be used for everything from pool parties to grandmother’s two-week visit.
Here is a photo of a cute pool house that was updated and redecorated during a down-to-the-studs renovation we did in River Oaks. The blue and green and white color scheme from the main house was continued into the cabana. Fun, family-friendly, small furnishings and accessories make the space refreshing and comfortable during the summer heat. A bit of coastal décor makes you think you are on vacation!
Happily, there was a lot of great space for a summer kitchen on the patio at this house too. A grill, outdoor sink and miles of counter space were added.
We really enjoyed decorating a luxury townhome in Hyde Park a few years ago. The top floor included a deck with some great views of the city. Although the rest of the house was very whimsical and colorful, we used a lot of white and gray and just some subtle color for the deck. With the expansive skies, the skyline and the city all around, we felt that the main focus should be of the views. Touches of coral and orange and a hint of blue blended in nicely with the surroundings.
This roof-top deck, shown above, is off the game room which is full of color. The client tells us that her friends’ children just love the game room and deck and run up to the fourth floor whenever they visit.
Once when we decorated a Heights-area home for a young couple, we found they had a huge yard and a big deck. They had just moved in but had not finished their landscaping. While adding furniture, art and accessories to finish out the interiors, we found that we could style the deck too. They had the outdoor furniture and we curated a collection of barware and entertaining items to make them party-ready in no time.
For the ultimate in outdoor entertaining, we loved doing this large family home in Richmond, Texas. The secondary structure at the home was designed to serve as a man-cave/entertaining area with a sports bar, loft office and a pool bathroom. The patios and overhangs also provide shaded space for two grills, an outdoor bar and an outdoor lounge. A fountain flows from above the fireplace down into the pool, which creates a soothing sound and a cooling effect. The cozy fireplace and seating below are toasty during our cooler months.
The pool is a work of art with nine different tile selections, a hot tub and spa, a tanning ledge, numerous waterspouts, fountains, colored lights and firepits! There are additional areas to lounge, including spaces for deck chairs and chaises and even room to seat 10 people for al fresco dining. This backyard really has it all. With the many water options, fountains and bubblers, keeping cool is never a problem! (You can read more about this project in “Inside the Manplex, Family Packs Full Checklist into Richmond Dream Home” in the Houston Chronicle.
Even if you only have a little bit of space, you can make the most of it. We recently renovated a condominium on the 15th floor and it had spectacular views. There are only narrow balconies but they overlook the bayou and are really charming. A small bistro table and chairs with a few plants turn it into what feels like an oasis. It’s the perfect space for a cocktail while waiting for the host to prepare a gourmet dinner! During winter months the doors can remain open because there are very few insects that fly that high.
Another important aspect of entertaining during warmer weather or really at any time of year is access and ease of use. It’s nice to have a table or bar for eating, close to the grill where the cooking will be done. As I mentioned above, counterspace is critical. I like to plan for a few landing areas. When you are cooking and/or entertaining outside, you have to bring a lot with you from the kitchen. Having outdoor fridges and beverage chillers helps but usually there still is a lot to carry.
Having a place to stage the food and hold spices and other ingredients is helpful. When possible, have another spot for the prepared food. This space can also be used for serving. Lots of grilled food includes a bit of self-preparation, like what to put on a burger or to top a hot dog so make room for that too or place condiments and sides on the table or the bar. A true summer kitchen requires some space!
There are loads of cute melamine products now. Some of them look like china! These are perfect for outdoor use. I like to buy big trays and platters so I can prettily present a charcuterie board or the burger fixings and carry them out all at once. You can find nice options everywhere from luxury design stores to discount retailers. We use these melamine products on our boat too. They are perfect for that as well. I don’t like eating with disposable items and I hate the idea of creating more waste so these easy-to-clean melamine pieces are ideal solutions.
I took a quick look on Amazon and, of course, they have some options. How cute is this platter? I could build a whole table around this motif.
Outdoor entertaining always inspires me whether it’s as grand as creating the perfect outdoor kitchen or simply adding a cute new piece to my tableware collection. Until next time find your inspiration or call us and we’ll help you discover it!