With the warming of the season, the dusting off of the grill has begun, invites have been sent out, and the backyard grilling parties have started. If you’ve looked at Better Homes and Gardens, or any other home and outdoor magazines, they advertise the best way to create the perfect outdoor entertainment area, with full outdoor kitchens, and easy tips on how to install that new $10,000 dollar grill/oven/TV the manufacturing companies paid for. But here at Lavender, we were unable to cajole any grill maker to create and install our system, so we’re going with easy tips the average Joe can use to create his or her very own perfect entertainment area.
Comfortable all-weather sofas and armchairs are perhaps the best of the best. They allow guests to lean back and relax, while enjoying a brewsky or six. For better quality, look for the latest weatherproof synthetic fabrics in fadeproof colors for longer-lasting seating. It will ensure that the furniture you spent a little money on lasts more than one all-too-short summer. This does not include the ripped-up couch that was sitting out on the corner last week.
If money is a little tight, scatter plenty of other seating options around your patio area. Anything from floor cushions to beanbags will work well, and can be brought indoors, or stored in the shed when not being used. The more practical, the better. Stools that can be stacked will save space when not needed. They can double as side tables for drinks or food.
If, like many city dwellers, your space is limited, choose narrow tables and benches that won’t take up too much space. Provide seat pads to make the benches comfortable, while augmenting the scant furniture.
The cook is generally the host, and a damn good one he or she must be, because the host is providing food and booze. This means the host must make sure the grill is set up, so that the chef can be part of the party while cooking. It’s no fun hearing everyone laughing and talking, while you have to stare at a wall, and miss out on the whole raison d’être for the party.
Investing in a small outdoor kitchen can be a great idea. Now, it doesn’t mean the stainless steel beast that comes fully loaded with Internet connections. A simple dorm fridge and portable sink will do the trick. It allows food and beverages to be in the same location, so you don’t have to leave the party to grab extra or forgotten ingredients. If even this is too expensive, a reliable Esky cooler will do the job. We’re here for fun, not class. A metal tub or colorful plastic basket loaded with ice and booze will suffice as well, still containing much-needed thirst-quenchers.
Investing in some durable and reusable plastic plates and silverware is a must. They not only eliminate the waste of throwaway paper plates, but also the risk of a dropped plate breaking on impact. If green is your thing (and you hate cleaning up), you at least can buy the latest biodegradable picnic plates, so you don’t feel bad when you just throw them all in the trash.
If it’s a good backyard party, chances are it will last well past the food. This means you did a great job planning, but it will require you keep your guests comfortable beyond the first hour.
Glaring sun quickly can turn a great event into a sweaty, sunburned ordeal. If your deck isn’t covered already, consider investing in a shade sail or a giant market umbrella to give those guests who need it some shade time.
Because it’s Minnesota, wind is almost guaranteed, but should you pick a day when the wind decides to take a break, having a small fan or two along with your umbrella will give guests seeking shade or a breeze the relief they’re looking for.
As evening rolls around, it may be necessary to roll out a portable heater—gas or electric—or at least a large supply of hoodies that can be passed out to guests who didn’t plan as well as you.
Lastly, the lighting. With a wide variety of lighting options available, it’s really just a decision about what kind you want. Anything like tea lights, candlelight screens, or glass votives that will stay lit on windy nights will work.
Most importantly, examine your budget to see how much you’re willing to spend, and how easily what you buy can be stored when winter comes. Winter may last nine months a year, but memories of your backyard barbecue—if done correctly—will last a lifetime.