Get your corn hole set and pitcher of margaritas ready. The season of outdoor entertaining is just around the corner, and if you're planning on taking advantage of the warm weather with a season full of al fresco dinners and cocktail parties, you've got some work to do. Besides figuring out what you're going to serve at your next soirée, making sure you're stocked up on a few key patio furniture essentials will make your next event a memorable one.
It can be fun to think about the details of your outdoor space, like boho-chic housewares, potted plants, and other decorative accents, but first you'll want to focus on the basics you'll need for seating and dining to create the ultimate entertaining zone. "Think of your outdoor space as an extension of your home," suggests Christiane Lemieux, CEO of The Inside. "Big or small, it’s possible to create an incredible outdoor experience with very little."
Design experts like Lemieux recommend making sure you've got plenty of seating options for when a few extra friends pop by, but no matter what style you're seeking out — poufs, lounge chairs, benches, etc. — materials are important to consider. "Make sure you’re purchasing items that are outdoor safe — there are rugs, throw pillows, decorative accessories, and furniture all created specifically for outdoor use," says Alessandra Wood, Vice President of Style at Modsy, who adds that choosing color and print strategically might also be beneficial. "Things do get dirty sitting outside, so if you can, keep your pillows inside or covered. I prefer busy patterns for outdoor upholstery — it’s much harder to see dirt, so it looks fresher."
With those tips mind, it's time to start creating your own ultimate social gathering place for the summer. As far as exactly which pieces to invest in for your best outdoor entertaining, see ahead for the six essentials that designers recommend shopping ASAP.
"Umbrellas are a key component to the perfect patio," says Wood. "Having an umbrella allows prolonged periods outside — so your outdoor space can be just as useful at your indoor living room."
"The porch is an outdoor room and what room doesn’t look better with the rug?" asks Thomas A. Kligerman, partner at Ike Kligerman Barkley. "Besides a rug centers the room and keeps the group together." And if you live in a more unpredictable climate, just make sure the rug you choose is relatively weatherproof. "A number of companies including Dash & Albert and Loloi make great indoor/outdoor rugs." adds Wood.
For the most luxurious lounging situation, a hammock is a no-brainer. "Sling hammocks are ultimate napping device," says John Ike, partner at Ike Kligerman Barkley.
Rocking Chair Or Glider
Speaking of cozy seating, don't underestimate the de-stressing powers of a rocking chair. "Rocking chairs [...] are a wonderful place to slow down and ponder the world," says Kligerman. "Maybe it’s like being a child again, being rocked to sleep."
You can also go for a glider that seats two for a similar effect. "Old-fashioned, yes, but [a glider is] an American summer classic," he adds. "Gently rocking to and fro on a warm night brings out the best conversations."
A multifunctional ottoman or pouf can be additional seating in a pinch, or a place to prop up your feet while you're relaxing with a book and/or a summer cocktail.
About those drinks, when you've got friends over it might be beneficial to have a designated spot to make them. "You always need a place to set up the margarita station, or the mojito bar" explains interior designer Alison Pickart. "When not in use, the outdoor console table can act as a potting station or a place to stage a vignette of potted citrus trees. Nevertheless consoles are often the forgotten essential in outdoor furnishing groups, but highly necessary for entertaining and aesthetic enjoyment!"
And while you're stocking your bar, don't forget some serve ware that can withstand a little outdoor wear and tear, like acrylic glassware sets. "They’re unbreakable, can be good-looking, and affordable," says Ike.