Outdoor entertaining: Six tips from Bob Williams and Stephen Heavner

Bob Williams and Stephen Heavner do a lot of outdoor entertaining. Here are a few tips they’ve learned along the way.

1. Roll each guest’s flatware into a napkin. Tie the bundle with a colorful ribbon or one that ties into your theme. It’s easy for guests to pick up. Williams and Heavner put the wrapped napkins in a large glass jar.

2. Consider providing trays. Leave a stack of trays for people to pick up with their food if they will be eating on their laps. These are helpful for carrying food from inside to outside or vice versa.

3. Cut down on cooking, especially in hot weather. Don’t think you have to make all the food yourself. Williams and Heavner like using neighborhood markets and takeout places to supplement a menu. At their party last week, they brought in chicken salad from Whole Foods that Heavner is partial to and their favorite Pitango Gelato in mojito, mango and pistachio flavors to add to the food prepared by caterer Susan Gage.

4. Create a mood with lighting. In a small terrace, lighting can be used to accentuate and define outdoor rooms. Working with landscape designer Robert Bell, Williams and Heavner chose a series of copper lighting fixtures that will age to a nice patina, complementing other metallic elements in the garden. To define the path along the terrace railing and guide the way for guests, they installed landscape lights on stakes in the rectangular planters to shine downward. Uplights, also on stakes, were put into the three large aluminum-finish planters to highlight the crape myrtles.

5. Good music = good times. Williams and Heavner installed a Sonos wireless Hi-Fi system that they can control from their smartphones. Two speakers fill the terrace with sound. They can access music from their music library or Pandora.

6. Offer a parting treat. Guests always remember the first and last impressions from a party. By the front door, Heavner and Williams left boxes of caramel popcorn tied in red, white and blue ribbons and sealed with computer-generated labels that read “Happy Summer.”

The home and design coverage of Jura Koncius has taken her inside hundreds of homes, from tiny studios in Penn Quarter to country castles in Warrenton. Jura also hosts the Home Front live chat, Thursdays at 11 a.m. ET.
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