Instead of talking style I will talk about function. Whenever you are designing an outdoor space for entertaining, you must fulfill the function before the styling can begin. My 5 tips are to design a backyard for grownups.
Plan well defined areas
Staying at the exact spot for the entire party during is quite boring. The best party designers know that time seems to pass faster if you move your guests around from one area to the next.
To make the best use of this trick from the trades I suggest you plan a barbecue / food preparation area, a lounge area and a dining room. Place the lounge area as far as you can from the dining room.
Do not put too close either the barbecue from the dining room because of the heat and the smells. Plan to get a few sitting places close by the barbecue. A simple bench works fine. This way, a small number of guests can hang around comfortably with the cook.
Create a bar station
Nice outdoor bar furniture is widely available in stores so that custom build furniture is usually unnecessary. I suggest wood or stainless steel finishes for their durability. I really like the sleek look of the stainless steel shelf unit than we see here in the backyard of Peter Fallico, a popular host on HGTV Canada.
If you can, plan three or more bar stools. One design element that I adore is the long, deep cooler box. It is so chic. You can have it custom build to fit your space. Think about having a cover shelf for when you do not use it as a cooler.
Mix out the lights
Lighting creates the ambiance. It is as important outdoor as it is indoor. Plan for electric fixtures but leave room for candle lights and solar battery-operated movable lights. This way, you can modify the lightning according to the mood suitable for your current event.
Vessel is a company who makes great portable models for adults and children. You can see several luau portable lamps hanging along the modern Moroccan inspired lounge from an episode from Take it Oustide TV series.
Provide some shaded areas
Sun may be too hot sometimes and too much of a good thing makes it bad. I always protect the dining table from the sun because eating under the sun is not pleasant. It hurt the digestion. You can plan for a removable at will shading solution.
On this point, many backyards missed the boat. Putting some shading structure creates a sense of intimacy that is desirable on a backyard. It adds drama. And with such a large selection of sun block outdoor fabrics, this is no reason who cannot find one that you like.
Have a fire place
Everybody enjoy a fireplace. For colder nights, they are even a necessity. Since this is not something that can be moved easily, place it wisely. People like to circle around a fire. But the fire should not feel uncomfortable when you sit on the lounge or the dining room.
To enjoy your backyard longer, think about adding patio heaters. They are quite affordable these days.
Buy online: Lighting products by Vessel
Peter Fallico’s Backyard taken from Canadian House and Home magazine, Cottage Issue July 2007
Four projects from Take it Outside TV series
+ Revealing the Secrets of An Amazing Entertaining Backyard