How to Get a Deck Ready for Summer Entertaining

Winter is soon to be over (hooray!). If you are lucky enough to have a deck off of your kitchen, family room,etc., you have an ideal space in which to entertain. You will have to decide how you want to use the space, what resources (furniture, plants, etc.) you have available, and how to arrange what you do have the most effectively for what you have planned. The layout of your deck is important as is the number of guests and the type of event.


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    Clean. An attractive setting is important and that starts with the basics. Black mildew, clutter and bird poop are not inviting. Start by removing the trashcans, kid stuff, and garden tools and storing them out of sight. If you have a grill and will be using it, make sure that it is off to one side away from traffic flow and with access to the kitchen. Now for the fun part. The most effective way to clean most decks (wood, concrete, stone) is with a power washer. You can rent one or purchase a small one relatively inexpensively. You can also use it to clean most types of outdoor furniture. Furniture can also be cleaned with a mixture of household cleaner and oxygen-type bleach.
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    Now, consider how large your deck is and how it is accessed. Does it have an entrance from the kitchen? Does it have an adjacent staircase? You will want to have an obvious traffic pattern. For example, if your deck has access from both the kitchen and family room and you want guests to stay out of the kitchen, leave the family room doors open and set the food/drink table immediately opposite the doors on that side of the deck. Guests will naturally be drawn in that direction. If your deck is large enough, separate the food and drink areas to avoid crowding. Remember to keep traffic away from the hot grill.
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    Now, think about your seating and table arrangements. If you are hosting a small party of 6-8 and you have the appropriate size table and number of chairs, great. If not, use the table to serve the food and pull the chairs off to the side for separate seating. Serve buffet style. Bring out kitchen chairs or borrow folding chairs to augment seating. You can also use folding tables (or any table) covered with matching flat sheets for more table space. Pick a bright stripe or vivid floral pattern to go with the out-of-door theme. Also remember to have a small table for counter space next to the grill if necessary.
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    Dress it up. Use plants! Get cheap baskets and containers of varying sizes at the thrift store or discount store and fill them with flowering plants. You can use bedding plants left in their plastic containers to fill the baskets. Mix up the flowers for a great effect. Choose plants that are already full. Place tall ones in the center, smaller around the edges. Use small delicate flowers with large bold ones. Choose colors that coordinate with the tablecloths and furniture upholstery. The flowers can be permanently planted later. A nice finishing touch that hides the plastic pots is Spanish Moss. Place smaller containers on tables and larger ones on the floor in the corners. Try arranging containers of differing heights in groups of three for more impact. You can also place individual containers on stairs, but make sure they are not in the way of foot traffic.
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    For food and drink service, you'll want to use non-breakable plastic or paper. If you entertain a lot, you can get pretty reusable plastic plates and cups at the dollar store. Get a lot of really colorful paper napkins too. Remember to coordinate the colors with your table cloths. Again, use baskets to serve chips, crackers, bread, etc.. Line them with new dishtowels that look good with your tablecloths. Mix and match your serving pieces, staying away from too formal a look. Think bright pottery. Invest in a few serving bowls and platters, keeping in mind the type of food you normally serve and how many guests you'll be having. Wooden cutting boards are also great for meat, cheese, or fruit and vegetable displays.
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    Obviously, weather will be a consideration and you have no control over that. Have an indoor alternative or reschedule. You do have control over what time of day you choose to entertain. Consider the climate and the shade conditions on your deck. Avoid the heat of the day by scheduling earlier or later. Remember to have adequate lighting if you entertain after dark. Use candles in hurricane lamps and leave on the outdoor electric lights.


  • Save money by shopping at dollar, discount, and secondhand stores.
  • If you have a very large deck and a smaller number of guests, bring your furniture groupings closer together, in from the edges of the deck, to avoid the feeling of too much space and not enough people.
  • Fill up your food service table. Place serving dishes close together for a feeling of abundance.
  • Bring out your indoor plants if they are full and attractive. Cover plastic containers with planters or baskets.


  • Watch the grill. Be especially attentive if children are around.
  • Make sure you have adequate lighting if it gets dark. Keep an eye on candles.

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Categories: Walls Fences and Decks