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Dining Alfresco

18th September 2013

Make the most of outdoor living by turning a meal into a feast for all the senses

Ah, the delight of dining out of doors! For those few evenings a year when the weather allows us to eat outside in our part of the world, we want that experience to be perfect. A casual barbecue may be well and fine, but why not bring out the fine china and crystal, whimsical decorations and fine linens to make it an evening to remember?

A courtyard enclosed with stone and brick walls is most likely to hold the sun’s warmth for the longest time. Climbing roses soften the ambience and add the extrasensory dimension of perfume to the evening air. A Virginia creeper and more roses grace the pergola giving the illusion of cover. An open fireplace is yet an extra touch: although it may not give off much physical warmth, the fire and the crackling of the logs greatly add to a welcoming atmosphere, especially as the daylight fades. Add to this the gentle murmuring of a water fountain in the background and you have a perfect setting for a relaxed evening with friends and family.

In the setting here, tightly bunched roses and hortensias provide the colour accent on the dining table. Interspersed between the low vases, ripe figs and bunches of grapes provide nibble opportunities for the guests, and give the impression of overboarding exuberance. The two sculptures of hares, presiding at either end of the table, add a touch of humour. The materials used for the place settings – rattans and linens – further underscore the summery feeling.

Formal dining under an open porch - Looks deceive here because what appears very formal at first glance, turns out to be quite cozy, after all. With a view onto a tended lawn and the garden beyond, the outdoors comes bounding in with the masses of seasonal flowers in low glass bowls on the long country-style table and on many of the other furniture pieces in the covered porch. In this case, the owner is an ardent gardener and has a greenhouse where he cultivates orchids, so these plants feature prominently in his displays and he has an everlasting supply that he can rotate.

Keeping the overall colour scheme in a neutral tone allows accent colours, such as from the flowers, to really stand out: the silvery grey of the flooring and the dining room chairs covered in summery toile, form an excellent visual backdrop for the crystal and silver accessories, such as the tall candelabra. Fine glassware and silver are paired with whimsical place settings and napkins, giving a contemporary and relaxed look. The extra touch of the colour-accented wine glasses that tie-in with the flowers and the use of the oversize champagne cooler give a sophisticated flair to the table.

Separated visually from the dining area by a low sideboard crowned with a magnificent bonsai tree, the seating area with its comfortable rattan couches serves as a space for drinks before or coffee after the meal. With its whites, soft greys and pale lilacs, it is tied into the main colour-scheme of the covered porch. Here, too, it is the abundance of flowers that can change the look from season to season, from event to event. It can even be carried through to the food being served as well – pink-iced cupcakes, anyone?

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