Conjure up an outdoor party that gives your fall get-together a breath of fresh air. Enchanting and informal, this  set-up makes the most of an underused space. Containers of plants and floral textiles bring the outdoors in.


Table and chairs setup in a barn

The warm days and cool nights of fall are the ideal season for partying out of doors. Any excuse for a gathering will do. For our gathering, we hosted a book exchange so our reading friends will have some new material to get them through the winter days ahead. Each guest brings an established number of old books to swap with friends and discuss over a well-laid table.


Barn party

We set up our soirée in a freshly swept barn that looks out over a vista of yard and pasture. It always helps when entertaining to establish a look and color scheme to guide your outdoor party planning.


Vintage console table

In keeping with our bucolic surroundings we carted out some rustic furnishings for our get-together: a large farm table, an old console table, and a worn cupboard to hold our supplies. Drinks stay cold in an old standing washtub filled with ice.


Candelier over the rustic barn dining table

To keep things softly lit as day fades into night we added a candelier over the table. Suggested by our red barn, the decorative touches, such as a floral patterned rug, table linens, and painted chairs, follow a warm palette, enlivened with sprightly pops of blue.


Potted enamel tub on rustic bench

Engage all the senses by creating a bower of container gardens filled with aromatic flowers and herbs. A small weathered table supports a large tin tub filled with Coleus Torch, Pennisetum Fireworks, Euphorbia Diamond Frost, Lantana Citrus, Ipomoea Emerald Lace, Scaevola New Wonder, Lysimachia Goldilocks and Calibrachoa Saffron.


Child's chair on a wall with potted flower

A child’s chair, well-loved and well-worn, hangs from the wall of the barn, creating a small shelf just the right size for a kettle filled with Osteospermum Sunny Olivia.


Vintage Hoosier cabinet

Freed from kitchen duty, the lower half of a vintage Hoosier cabinet provides the hardworking storage we needed for our outdoor party, while the upper half displays more personality. Vintage collectibles, such as old canisters, cookbooks, and canning jars peek through the top cabinet doors and share space with fresh clementines, sweet potato vine, and cut flowers.


Books and jars

Celebrate the written word by combining a stack of books with the embossed script on old Ball canning jars, product logos on vintage containers, and elegant handwritten text chalked on a country-school slate.


Framed slate menu

Give the menu a decorative treatment as well. A small framed chalkboard announces the bill of fare near the spot where guests drop off their book offerings for the exchange. A silver bowl of nibbles rewards them.


rustic barn Table setting

Create imaginative place settings with your favorite collectibles. Brown Spode transferware plates mingle happily with mismatched silver flatware, and canning jar glasses.


Scrabble place cards

Keeping to our literary theme, we created place cards from old scrabble tiles.


Painted chair

Refresh timeworn chairs with a quick coat of paint. Chalkboard paint lets you add a clever literary quote. Here’s how to renew your old furniture.

Prep the piece:

Wash the piece with warm, soapy water and let dry thoroughly.

Give it some tooth:

Lightly sand a wood piece with a fine grit sandpaper and wipe with a dry tack cloth.

Take it outside.

Find a spot outdoors that is protected from winds. Spraying in the wind can cause a dull finish on your furniture and carry the paint where you don’t want it (on your car or house walls, for instance). Lay down a large sheet of cardboard to protect your surface and place furniture on top.

Give it a spray:

Spray the furniture in wide sweeping motions at least a foot away from the object to avoid creating drips. Let dry and apply a second coat.

Seal it.

Finish wood furniture with a coat of spray polyurethane.


Chairs around table

Mix-and-match rules when setting our table, from the chairs to the silverware.

A motley group of battered and dark wooden dining chairs offered the right amount of seating but the lackluster finishes demanded a quick makeover with paint. A variety of hues in orange, plus yellow and a bit of blue, gave each chair a new character, further enhanced by a stripe of blackboard paint on the back for a chalked quote.

And there you have a party setting befitting an elevated conversation about literature, in a down-to-earth calming environment. Don’t miss our next post when we plan the best part of our entertainment—the food!


Thanks to our hosts Ginny and Kevin Randall.
Plants courtesy of Proven Winners.


© Caruth Studio

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