Al Fresco Entertaining

Setting the stage for a fashionable outdoor gathering.
Belden Brick and Supply
Photography courtesy of Belden Brick

Whether you live on a coveted lake or a modest lot, there are plenty of ways to get your outdoor space garden-party ready. Here are some of the latest accoutrements to make your al fresco get-togethers more memorable.

Extension tables are among the current trends, according to Ashleigh Kosin, designer and owner of Bell Tower Lake House Living Co. in Richland ( They can seat a family of four without taking up much space and accommodate up to 12 for a special occasion. Durable materials include teak and marine grade polymer, while self-storing leaves offer added convenience.

Outdoor kitchens, bars and living areas also are big in today’s backyards, where comfort and casual entertaining go hand in hand.

“The whole living room is transferred outside with deep seating, a big coffee table or fire table and Sunbrella fabrics with lots of colors and selections for outdoor pillows and rugs to make your outdoor space an extension of your home,” Kosin said.

The outdoor living trend is not going away. If anything, it will continue to grow as a way of entertaining.
— Rhonda Belden

Adding a cantilever umbrella creates the illusion of a ceiling and an outdoor rug forms a floor, she adds. Non-breakables like polypropylene placemats and acrylic dinnerware make gatherings fuss-free. Other decorative accents include table runners and lanterns.

Kosin’s clients have been known to grow garnishes like mint in Mexican pottery, which they set on stairs ready for making cocktails like mojitos.

Patio furniture can be combined with colorful elements like ceramic garden stools and stylish storage boxes that double as a buffet when entertaining, she said. Just remember that nothing is maintenance-free. She recommends using furniture covers to protect fabrics and materials from “a pop-up storm in the morning when you plan to host a dinner party at night.”

Bell Tower Lake House Living Co.
Photography courtesy of Jim Powell/Bell Tower Design

Inside Out

People are spending more time outdoors with family and friends, says Rhonda Belden, marketing manager for Belden Brick & Supply in Grand Rapids (beldenbrickand, with locations in Kalamazoo and Saginaw. More folks are sharing Sunday meals, often outdoors in an intimate setting with gas fire pits and fireplaces. Modern styles tend to be simple, lightweight and clean and outdoor kitchens take some pressure off the hosts.

“Everything is right there when you have guests over, so you don’t have to go inside and out. You can stay with your friends and family,” Belden said.

Fundamental features include barbecue grills, refrigerators, kegerators, counter space and custom stone or brick. Square and rectangular pavers are popular as are styles that resemble wood.

“They look like kitchen tile, but they’re more robust,” Belden said adding that retaining walls can create a cozy environment. “It’s all about the experience. The outdoor living trend is not going away. If anything, it will continue to grow as a way of entertaining, and with a fire element to keep you warm, you can grill year-round.”

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