My husband and I enjoy alfresco suppers on our courtyard when the weather is pleasant, usually in spring and early summer, and again in late summer and early fall. Al fresco is Italian for “in fresh air” and can encompass picnics at the beach or under the trees in the woods or a grapevine like this one — or simply under a patio umbrella.
Alfresco lunches of my childhood were in our screened summerhouse under massive oak trees on our place. My sister and I filled yellow plates with sandwiches and/or salads and carried them, along with glasses of iced tea, then trekked through the gardens to get there. Hubby and I don’t own a summerhouse, but we do have a lovely courtyard just outside our back door. Although we’re empty nesters now, I still enjoy laying the table “properly” by covering the glass top with a summery cloth, such as wide blue-and-white stripes and woven blue mats, Blue Willow dishes and wine glasses.
Here are a few favorite ideas from Carolyne Roehm’s A Passion for Blue & White.
I prefer to use place mats in a cobalt blue to set off the plates. Mine happen to be woven straw from Pier One Imports. They contrast nicely against the patterned cloth.
Here is a setting on polished glass table surface. The designer has borrowed a porcelain planter to use for the centerpiece. I’ve been doing that for years! I have several pieces of blue and white porcelain that I’ve collected from The Enchanted Home.
But I am careful not to overdo with too many or too tall arrangements.
Although I’m often tempted to play with tall florals made even taller with bent twigs snapped from a dogwood tree, a low center mound works best. Here we see a small collection gathered in the center for a charming effect.
Carolyn Roehm utilizes a lot of stripes in her blue and white designs. It was this round table setting, pictured above in an old House Beautiful magazine, that first inspired me to buy the Sunbrella fabric from a local store and make my own tablecloth and seat covers.
Sometimes views borrowed from the gardens, whether ours or the next-door neighbor’s, are all that’s needed for a dramatic alfresco effect. Whatever else is added down the center of the table serve as accents.
Carolyne Roehm’s A Passion for Blue & White was published in 2008 by Broadway Books, an imprint of the Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.