Setting the Summer Table
To simplify planning your settings, include pieces in your tableware collection that can serve more than one function. Earthenware pasta bowls are wonderful for pasta, risotto and polenta as well as for salads and gazpacho. Dipping bowls are another summertime staple for presenting fine olive oils, vinegars and condiments or savory nibbles like nuts and olives. In addition to holding beverages, wine and margarita glasses can double as serving vessels for fresh fruit salads, frosty sorbets and chilled seafood cocktails. And if you'll be hosting poolside parties, you'll want to have a selection of handsome (and unbreakable) Duraclear glasses and plates on hand.
Table linens help set the mood for summer dining. Options can be as understated as a crisp, white cotton tablecloth and napkins or as exuberant as a colorful paisley, geometric or floral print. To create visual contrast, mix solids and patterns or combine linens of different textures, such as a quilted cotton tablecloth with wicker place mats.
Summer's bountiful gardens inspire colorful table decorations. Floral arrangements are often casual and spontaneous, showcasing whatever is in bloom. Display a bouquet of just-picked flowers in a rustic earthenware pitcher, or use bud vases or tumblers to hold individual blossoms or newly cut herbs at each place setting. For a simple centerpiece that can double as a dessert, present an assortment of fresh fruit, such as plums, peaches and grapes, on an earthenware platter or in a clear glass bowl.
For dining after sundown, illuminate table settings with candles in varying shapes and sizes—from tiny tea lights and votives to dramatic pillar and taper candles. To create a natural look, place candles in bowls of sand, seashells or river pebbles. Nautical-style table lanterns bring the feel of the seaside to your gatherings yet won't extinguish in the breeze. For ambient outdoor lighting, group patio torches around your dining area.