Celebrating Deck Style: All the Right Stuff

Lisa from About.com Pool and Patio Guide shares her tips for organinzing our outdoor living space for the ideal Deck Day celebration.


A few years ago, I gave my husband a deadline: he had to finish the deck he was building by his birthday, which happened to be a “milestone” birthday. Nice present, right? He knew I was planning some kind of party -- most likely a family party -- and that I wanted the deck project completed.

What he didn’t know was that I was planning a much bigger surprise party right under his nose, and that the deck he was building ended up being the showpiece of the party. Stretching out across what had previously been an uneven, sad-looking cracked concrete patio, our new outdoor living space literally lifted the yard’s flooring right up to the exterior doors of our dining room, kitchen and den. It created another room, making that seamless indoor-to-outdoor transition -- a concept introduced a century ago in the designs of Frank Lloyd Wright.

The deck also served as a bridge between the dining room and kitchen and the den. As a result, the party traffic flowed smoothly, effortlessly. The deck design enabled guests to mingle, and was large enough to create several small hubs: an outdoor bar just off the kitchen, an outdoor living room with deep-seating furniture, a patio dining table with an umbrella, and small occasional tables with two or three chairs.

My husband and I had designed the deck together, and he and my son built it as well as any pros could have, for a lot less. The compliments and admiration my husband received for his deck-building skills were priceless, and hopefully eased the sting of turning older.

Since then, I’ve become a “dexpert,” (sorry!) at outdoor entertaining. A few tips:

  • Decide where to serve the food, and keep it in one location. Since our deck is right off our dining room and kitchen, I put the food buffet-style on the dining room table, along with plates and utensils.
  • Set up a separate area for beverages. You don’t have to own a bar to create one: a tallish table will work. Enlist a friend or family member to play bartender.
  • Instead of one huge table, set up several small ones. It’s outdoors; it’s informal: people don’t have to belly-up to a table. A few groupings of one or two side tables and two or three chairs work well, provided they don’t interrupt the flow of traffic. Place seating groups safely at edges and corners of deck.
  • Speaking of traffic, once your tables and seating are set up, walk through to ensure it flows smoothly. You don’t want chairs or tables blocking a natural pathway to the buffet table, nor do you want someone’s chair teetering on the edge of the deck.
  • Anchor seating groups with a container plant or two behind or to the side. If space allows and it doesn’t look contrived or cluttered, add some sort of garden ornament or party decoration near each group.
  • Think about lighting. Solar LED lighting is easy to install. You also might want to try candles, hanging umbrella lights or a tabletop gel pot. Place candles in the center of tables. The darker it gets and the more guests loosen up, the more likely that accidents can occur. Think about putting candles on top of a high concrete (not wood) wall or another place that’s safe.
  • Music or entertainment: outdoor sound systems and speakers are great, although you can improvise with whatever you have.
  • Be mindful of neighbors. Better yet -- invite them to the party and get to know them better.
  • Allow yourself to relax and enjoy the party -- often easier said than done.


How do you plan for outdoor entertainment? Share your own tips below!


One Response to “Celebrating Deck Style: All the Right Stuff”

  1. Joan Leonard says: