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We took a look at seven different takes on outdoor entertaining and broke down what, exactly, makes each scene work, from dynamic color pairings to secretly simple plating swaps. Check out the breakdowns below, plus what to buy to make each your own.
What's working and why: Stark black and white make a stunning background for vibrant summer fruits and veggies. The brushstroke print of the table runner mellows out the harsh contrast in color with an imperfect, hand-done look that plays well with organic materials like wood and, of course, food.
Serena & Lily
What's working and why: The palette is grounded in summer classics—navy, white, rattan, raffia, and warm wood grains—repeated in different iterations throughout. White plating with a navy rim is complimented by dotted napkins and striped blankets in the same hues. Rattan chairs bring texture that's echoed by raffia placemats and seagrass-wrapped glasses.
What's working and why: Class up a picnic with simple presentation upgrades. Swap paper plates and plastic utensils for durable but elegant-looking enamelware, and check out some of the fake-fancy "glassware" on the market, which is made of tough plastic that's crystal clear.
What's working and why: An outdoor couch in a timeless—but, quite frankly, boring—color gets a happy pop from bright, double-sided pillows and an equally vivid side table.
What's working and why: More evidence of pillows-as-accessories, this time uniting black and white with jade green by coordinating graphic stripe and chevron patterns. Different scales of those simple motifs can be repeated in other textiles, like throws and rugs.
Crate & Barrel
What's working and why: The color story plays into its surroundings, melting cobalt into the backdrop of surf and sky. This visual neutral is mimicked from bench to chairs to to umbrella, complimented by furniture with clean lines so it's less about what you're sitting on and so much more about where you are.
What's working and why: Watercolor illustrations on plates and napkins breathe life into an age-old nautical theme, a perfectly playful backdrop for an all-ages afternoon feast.