The summer entertaining season is now in full swing but there is still time to enhance your property's party potential. Whether your personal aesthetic trends toward modern or free form or traditional, there are landscape design enhancements you can make in no time at all that are guaranteed to turn your yard into this year's au courant gathering place. Focal pieces are the key.
These elements designed to stand out from their surrounding environment are not only beautiful and useful but also curate your guests' experiences. In some cases they draw the eye while in others they serve to guide people from one functional area of the landscape to another. They can also camouflage undesirable views and provide a strong center for an outdoor celebration.
What follows are 11 examples of outdoor entertaining focal pieces that can be adapted for spaces both large and small.
1. A full service outdoor kitchen
If your idea of a perfect summer party involves not only a vast array of refreshments but also home cooking then you've likely had the experience of being tethered to your stove while guests mingle outdoors. An outdoor kitchen lets you spend more time enjoying your guests, even as you work your culinary magic. Simpler setups may include a grill, burners, and a refrigerator but why stop there? A fully stocked outdoor kitchen can include a wine refrigerator, dishwasher, warming tray, and brick oven.
2. An eye-catching firebowl
Adding fire features to your landscape design is about more than adding warmth (though a firebowl will do that, too). Firebowls are the perfect focal piece to pull together a gathering space because people natural congregate around the comforting glow of cheerfully dancing flames. Instead of placing a low-slung table in the center of a ring of chairs, install a firebowl and let guests chat over the fire until long into the night.
3. A sparkling array of hanging lights
Throughout the day trees provide shade and ambiance but at night they don't attract much attention – and yet those same trees can add magic to evening affairs when strung with hundreds of lights. Real candles lit in glass jars can be safely hung from many branches and will make every celebration feel more special. That said, for a safer and lower maintenance alternative electric candles or strings of LED globe lights offer illumination every bit as beautiful.
4. A place to play
If you find your lawn games spend more time out of the shed than in it perhaps it's time to make gaming a permanent element of your landscape design. Setting up a spot for horseshoes or a bocce court is a relatively simple weekend project. When space is no object and one of your entertaining goals is to wow your guests, a giant checkers and chess board can be a unique addition to your yard. Better still, it can serve as a dance floor when games aren't on the agenda.
5. A grand table that does double duty
When space allows there's nothing like having a table that seats 12 or even more of your closest friends and family – but imagine if that same table was more than just a spot to dine. Look for tables with built-in coolers, water features, and fire features to find a grand showpiece table that will make pulling up a chair the highlight of your guests' evening.
6. A statement mirror
What's true indoors is equally true outside – there's nothing like a large mirror to open up a small space. With a bit of weatherproofing any large mirror can surprise and delight guests at your next gathering.
7. A pergola-topped outdoor living room
For comfort there's simply nothing like an exterior living room with all of the amenities of your favorite sitting room. A simple pergola twined with grape vines or wisteria serves as walls and ceiling, all weather furnishings invite guests to lounge, garden art sets the mood, and small trees and shrubs are a reminder that an outdoor affair can be every bit as comfortable as an indoor celebration.
Succulent walls are a still-trendy way to add a touch of green to smaller spaces but beyond looks they don't contribute much to your landscape design. Get the same effect with a vertical herb garden that enhances your culinary efforts all summer long. Pair your vertical garden with simple seating to give your guests a spot to stop along with a cool conversation starter.
9. A built-in outdoor fireplace
Luxurious, yes, but an outdoor stone fireplace is a practical landscaping element. It not only adds value to your home, but also provides a comforting heat source in the cooler months. What may surprise you is that your outdoor fireplace continues to serve as a gathering place even in the summer season when chances are lighting a fire is the last thing on your mind.
10. A stocked wet bar
Though there's something nostalgia-invoking about pulling a brew from a classic red and white cooler, what's even better is having everything you need to whip up your party's signature cocktail at the ready from first guest to last call. A built-in wet bar can be part of an outdoor kitchen or a standalone focal point in smaller yards, and if it has seating it's guaranteed to draw a crowd.
11. A hedge maze or strolling path
What expansive properties often lack is a sense of intimacy. You can make your yard feel cozy and warm by giving your guests a clear path to follow as they move from one functional area to another. A hedge maze is an amusement that many of your friends and family are unlikely to have encountered before – designing the maze with two outlets lets the maze serve as a pathway. On the other hand a strolling path that highlights flora and water features is also an amusement, albeit a more meditative one.
Remember when choosing focal pieces to think in terms of destinations. Even smaller spaces can have multiple focal points if you take steps to differentiate unique areas of use. The points of interest you create will draw guests beyond the patio so the less visited areas of your property ultimately become some of the most beloved places for friends and family to gather.
As Director of Marketing and Portfolio Management, Sarah has successfully coupled her design talents with business acumen to refresh, refine and distinctly position five standout brands in the North American market and abroad. She continues to provide design direction for the brands’ variety of best-selling modern profiles and trend-forward color palettes while enhancing the prestige of the category among masons, builders, designers, architects and consumers.