Time for a Picnic

One of the reasons I love exterior design so much is simple: I love being outside!

What better way to spend summer days outside than having a picnic? With the first day of summer and Father’s Day this Sunday, picnics are basically mandatory. To all the dads out there, happy day of celebrating you and all you do. Now let’s talk BBQ!

My hometown of Austin, Texas has some incredible parks. Recently, I’ve found myself lounging on Sundays at Zilker Park and the local Barton Springs. Taking in the fresh air and watching dogs play, surrounded by families soaking in the sun, is a great way to rest after a busy workweek.

While the parks are a great escape, you don’t have to venture too far to gather in true picnic-style. Your own backyard can be the perfect setting to throw down the blanket.

Let’s look at what’s inside the picnic basket: (My whimsy way of saying, let’s get your backyard ready for hungry guests!)


  1. The “Blanket” – Where (or what) to serve your food on.

Photo credit: Kate Zimmerman Pictures

No matter the size of your yard, there’s always room for a picnic. You might have space to create a built-in BBQ, while smaller homes do well with a butlers stand or bar cart.

If you’re looking at creating a built-in grill area, for cohesive design, I suggest integrating a complementary stone that goes with the home’s façade. Having a small sink, grill and under-counter refrigerator makes entertaining guests a breeze. An outdoor kitchen is well worth the cost if you entertain a lot, and can increase the value of your home as you add usable square footage to the buyer.

Photo credit: Molly Winters Photography

If your outdoor kitchen space is uncovered, consider building a pergola or installing shade sails to avoid the sun while standing over a hot grill. Parasoleil has beautiful panels that can add an artistic pattern to your outdoor space, while offering significant shade.

If space in the yard is limited, use a bar cart or butler stand to set out dishes and drinks. The White Austin 3-Tier Cart is a great option.

ProTalk #ProTip: If you’re planning a new build or larger remodel, create a pass through window from the kitchen to the backyard. Drinks, condiments, oven baked dishes can all be passed through the window for quick access.

I’m loving this design—the outdoor space is so integrated into the architecture of the home!

Photo credit: Pearson Design Group

  1. The Ingredients – What do you really need for a successful picnic?

A good picnic basket is key because you have to set the mood! For more complicated meals, I like vintage enamelware dishes because they’re durable, light and recommended for outdoor use (not to mention beautiful!). I also like incorporating fun paper straws, mason jars and garland to complete the look. Kitchen paper placemats & compostable wooden utensils are a smart choice for the environment and also look great.

Games and good tunes are other necessities. Check out the Picnic in the Park playlist on Spotify for some picnic-perfect music!

Flowers are the final touch. For picnics, I say go as authentic as possible and gather a handful of the closest wildflowers and ornamental grass in sight.

  1. The Menu – What to eat?

The best part about picnic food can be summed up in one word: FRESH. The farm-to-table movement feels more personal when we are eating outside in nature.

While there are a million picnic recipes out there, I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite tips:

  • Experiment with refreshing punch ideas, like this Cranberry Basil Spritzer
  • Consider fruit infused ice cubes to give your water an extra refreshing kick! Simply chop fruit up and load into an ice cube tray, fill with water and freeze. Viola! Fruits like strawberries, raspberries and pineapple work well—add some mint for more fun!
  • Appetizers! Like I mentioned earlier, I love a good olive/cheese/bread platter. In the cheese section of your local grocer, they often have small samples of fine cheeses you can try.
  • Layer your preferred salad ingredients into a mason jar. Pour the dressing the bottom, so it doesn’t wilt the fresh vegetables.
  • For dessert, why not throw your pie in a jar? Check out this key lime pie recipe—perfectly portable!

Good design (and good picnics) should engage all of our senses. From smells and sounds to sight, it all must relate to give one complete, beautiful experience. The goal is always to create a space that feels comfortable and inviting to you, your family and your guests. When you serve guests in your own backyard, you know you’ve got one happy home space worth sharing! So, what do you say…is it time for a picnic?