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  • This large table takes up space when not in use, but one with removable leaves can open up the area for other applications in between parties.
  • Stones in this dry landscape are positioned to double as seats, and the steps too offer overflow seating for large gatherings.
  • Small spaces can become delightful fantasy themed settings for a magical night in Morocco without leaving your backyard.
  • This dining area is close enough to the pool to be part of the same space but divided by planting and a fountain.
  • This intimate space is made even more private by the lattice fence and dense background planting.
  • Larger spaces benefit from smaller informal conversation areas with comfortable furniture.
  • Though this large fountain is visually appealing, it can drown out voices in the outdoor living spaces immediately adjacent.
  • A spa doubles as the balance for this modern theme stone sculpture.
  • An in ground spa doubles as a water feature when made more attractive by creative tile and other aesthetic features.
  • Providing seasonal shade ensures that guests have plenty of room to gather in the exposure of choice.

Entertaining is a very personal thing. Each individual, couple or family is unique in how they view gatherings with friends, and what they do during such get-togethers is equally diverse. This is why a designer must view your project as a one of a kind endeavor, because its ultimate form is derived from your idea of entertaining, the available space on site and the budget to put it all together. However, there are some standard tips that you should be aware of that will ensure your ultimate design fits your life and your lifestyle.


1. Sit down dining for 4 (Plan for more)
If you choose a four sided table for dining, you are pretty much limited to that number of diners. But if the table is round, you can fit a fifth person or even squeeze in a sixth without appearing forced or feeling cramped.

2. Sit down dining for 10 (Open space between parties)
Sitting ten people for an outdoor meal takes a lot of space. Always consider that space when you're not entertaining. Can that area be designated for another use when guests are not present? To liberate this space plan for an expandable table. You can add leaves to seat ten, then shorten the table afterwards to create a more spacious view of the overall landscape.

3. Cocktail parties (Open for mingling)
Whether you invite friends or business associates, cocktails are always a highly social event. Guests mill around tasting hors d'oeuvres and refreshing drinks as they mingle. If this is a frequent entertaining option for you, the design should be open enough so the guests can wander freely without having to negotiate too many furniture obstacles.

4. Night Parties (About the light)
When you live for languid evenings with friends, the single most important thing is lighting. It's for safety, particularly if your patio and home are a multilevel site. Lighting every step and grade change not only givesa festive ambiance, it ensures that there will be no accidents, particularly with stiletto heels. Augment this with mood lighting, but only after you've made sure edges, curbs or obstacles are fully visible after dark.

5. Day Parties (Cool and warm)
Parties during the day can be an active family gathering, but for most adults this is brunch, luncheon or just an impromptu get together. While you are quite familiar with outdoor conditions on your patio, your guests may not be. Give a great deal of thought about shading, particularly that which can be moved around with the seasonal changes in the sun's position both summer and to let the winter light shine in.

6. Conversation (Audio sensitivity)
No one wants to talk over a loud water feature. For those with mild hearing difficulties, particularly the over 50 crowd, widely spaced seating could make intimate conversation impossible. Arrange your seating so it is easy to hear everyone without voice fatigue. It is far better to err on the side of seating being too closely spaced than to risk a more wide open situation where some guests may have difficulty.

7. Intimate chat (Sense of privacy)
It's not uncommon for large homesite living spaces to lack intimate spaces. This is where small gatherings of two or more people can occur with a feeling that they are protected from others overhearing their conversations.

8. Intimate parties (Transcend reality)
Strive for ambiance that can transform an ordinary evening into an outdoor dream. Small spaces allow you to create a really strong style that belies the reality of an ordinary neighborhood. Get this right and your space coupled with music and great food can become the equivalent of an exotic evening in Morocco or Tuscany.

9. Large parties (Keep it simple)
Any time you entertain on a large scale, avoid getting overly fussy about details. Spaces for these kinds of gatherings should be clean and open and quite simple in their layouts. This eliminates crowding. It also saves time and money on detailed ideas that will go largely unnoticed. Attention to the basics like enough seating for everyone, a clear access to food and drink make it intuitive to enjoy an evening.

10. Seasons (Necessary coverage)
In climates where summer rainfall is common, design an outdoor entertaining space with a portion that is fully covered. Make this large enough so that you can both cook and dine beneath this protective roof even if there's a cloudburst or foggy mist makes conditions damp.


11. Buffet dining (Credenza a must)
A buffet frees up the hostess for activities other than serving each and every place setting. Design a credenza flush against a wall to make a buffet easy to do. This table can otherwise be used for collections of plants or outdoor art that makes it attractive all the time. If you decide on an impromptu gathering whether for coffee or cocktails, you have a convenient out of the way place to arrange your favorite foods and snacks without having to bring in a table or move another one around to fit.

12. Bar (Party central)
The bar can be ground zero for outdoor entertaining. This is not just a place to store bottles and mixers, but it becomes a social locale if the host is on one side making drinks and guests are on the other side of the bar milling around. Designing a place for the bar ensures this does not impinge on the outdoor kitchen which can become overly crowded during mealtimes. There is the option to use a portable bar unit that you can bring out for a large party, then put it away again so you need not see it all the time. For this to be successful you must include it in your space planning by knowing the size of the portable unit you want to use and making sure there's available power to operate a blender.

13. Wine tasting (Accommodating the aficionado)
For those who love fine wines, nothing is more important than to accommodate them into the plan for an outdoor entertaining space. A bar for wine tasting may be more expansive than a bar since the users will sit while they sample wines. Amenities include a chiller for wine bottles, racks and wine glass storage make it easy for impromptu enjoyment alfresco.

14. Hors d'oeuvres (Double duty walls)
Whether it's Spanish tapas or ordinary dip and chips, nibblies are essential to all sorts of entertaining. When designing the hardscape, raised bed walls, partitions and other constructed masonry elements that make a convenient place for hors d'oeuvres. Key is to make the wall cap wide enough and smooth to fit a tray or platter without it overhanging the edge.

15. TV (Sports outdoors)
Outdoor flat screen TVs eliminates the old problem of all the men inside watching the game while wives and kids are out by the pool. To unify these groups, creating an outdoor area for a TV can increase a party's unity considerably. Positioning a TV where it's free of glare and direct sunlight, with designated seating areas increase the popularity of any outdoor living space.

16. Swimming pool (Juxtaposition)
Because the pool is the most expensive amenity, it's role in your entertainment milieu is both active and passive. It's a visual thing, illuminated at night, sparkling in the day. Entertainment spaces that are too far from poolside tend to split the party into two separate camps. But when the living spaces are designed with clear links to the pool, there is just one large area with varying uses. And when swimmers are present, this creates a more festive resort-like environment for cocktails and dining day and night.

17. Spa (Double duty)
The role of a spa in intimate parties cannot be overstated, but when it is a beautiful in-ground part of the landscape, you can make this double as a water feature. Interesting tile, programmable LED lighting and telescoping fountain heads turn this remedy for aching bones into a high profile water feature. Do not overlook the ability to make this spa serve double duty as a visual amenity and as therapy.

18. Self contained kitchen (Center of the universe)
Just as the kitchen is the center of the home, your outdoor kitchen always becomes the center of outdoor entertainment spaces. This keeps the hostess there with her guests rather than in the kitchen. Failure to understand this results in the outdoor kitchen separated from living spaces, which can potentially recreate the same separation you are trying to solve.

19. Grill (Think twice)
Unless you supply your grilling space with protective cover, it's vital to consider whether it's wise to permanently position a built in. Large portable grilling units with all the amenities allow you to reposition them as the sun's position changes or the weather turns with the seasons. It can be positioned in one location for an intimate gathering and in another place further out for a large party. You can even move it close to the house for a quick and easy grilled meal in winter weather.

20. Built In Seating (Permanent furniture)
Don't limit yourself to portable furnishings. Outdoor living spaces with seatwalls are more versatile than those that rely strictly on freestanding furniture. They allow you to enjoy the space in every season, and in the summer the ability to apply colorful cushions to the seatwalls adds a festive flair.

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