One great pleasure of life is to be able to entertain outdoors when the weather, the company and every other component is just right. It doesn’t matter if the get-together is held during the day or in the evening. Even the season doesn’t matter, for a memorable Christmas or New Year’s party can be held outside even if everyone’s bundled up and kept warm by open fires and mugs of hot chocolate or hot punch. Here are three additions that can add panache to any party:
Firepits are just the thing for outdoor winter parties. They do not have to be expensive and can be made by the homeowner with some basic masonry skills. They can double as barbecues and serve as the focal point of the back yard.
Most fire pits are round or square, though some are long and narrow while others are vessels made of copper, steel or concrete. Firepits can also be actual pits dug into the ground and lined with rocks. These type of fire pits guard against sparks flying. Most are found in the midst of seating to create an especially cozy atmosphere. One spectacular fire pit was built in a keyhole shaped seating area that jutted into the middle of a lighted swimming pool.
A firepit should also be the right size for the area. One that is too small does not give off enough heat, which is important during a cool season party. The fire in a pit that’s too large roars so loudly that guests have to shout at each other to be heard.
Water features can be simple or sensational. According to Jacksons Home & Garden, the sound of running water or even the look of still water makes even the most raucous party a bit more tranquil. This is true even if the water feature is lit up at night, as many are.
Some water features are works of art. One example is a wall of random stone set into a wall of concrete. Sheets of water pour down the stone into a rectangular pool. An entire backyard is made up of a waterfall that feeds a meandering stream whose banks are decorated with boulders and cobbles and planted with semi-aquatic grasses. A more well-heeled homeowner can spring for an old-fashioned, tiered, marble fountain with an ornately carved basin supported by statues of naiads and mermaids. The water falls into a similarly extravagant lower basin.
A humbler waterfall can be found in the corner of an outdoor kitchen, while a Japanese inspired water garden has stepping stones over a pool of still water. Another Japanese-type garden is simpler still. Positioned beside a quiet pathway, it is made of some standing stones, gravel and a bamboo water spout. At the other end of the spectrum, a huge, arched, rubblestone and ashlar folly features a cascade splashing through the arch into a multi-level pool.
An outdoor party held at night is impossible without lighting. The lighting can be simple and basically there to make sure people can see where they’re going or it can be part of the entertainment itself.
There are several ways to add light without using electricity. One way is to set the tables with different sized kerosene lamps, according to Martha Stewart. The lamps can also be hung over the table. Oversize clam shells can be filled with sand and votive candles and arranged attractively on a tray, and smaller shells collected from the beach can be filled with wax and wicks and made into candles. Tiny medicine bottles can be filled with lamp oil and wicks, set securely on a cake stand then covered with a hurricane large enough for all of them. One lovely way to please a guest of honor is to have photos of them placed into a triptych, and fold the triptych around votive candles.
For more dramatic lighting, the homeowner can place lights in the trees. Lights that are higher up in the tree and about 5500 degrees Kelvin give the impression that the trees are bathed in moonlight. Mushroom and bollet lights both light the walkways and illumine interesting areas of the landscape, and LED tape can be hidden beneath the capstones of walls and columns.