CTW Features

There's something about eating outdoors that magically seems to make the food taste better. Maybe it's the sunshine, the stars or just the company, but it's an experience you can make even better by increasing your tabletop's style. From dishes and placemats to centerpieces, there's always an easy way to step things up.

1. Catch the wave

Think bright colors, nature-inspired patterns, vintage style and green design. Mick Santiago, owner of Chicago-based Mick Santiago Design Limited, is a fan of the recycled glass dishes from Riverside Design Group. The company's wares come in bright blues and greens and frosted glass to please your eyes and your social conscience. Read on for more design ideas to take your tabletop from brunch to a nightcap.

Brighter Breakfasts

2. Wake up with color

Look for dinnerware and linens in today's trendy colors: aquas, greens, oranges, and blue and white. "They're all feel-good colors," says Kathy Peterson, a Palm Beach County, Florida-based design expert. And they'll likely put smiles on your guests' faces.

3. Take a brunch buffet to new heights

"Think lifts and layers," Peterson says. "It's adding eye candy. It's going to be much more appealing and inviting." Break out a cake stand to display the bagels or use a multi-tiered dessert stand to hold fresh fruit. A runner over your table cloth adds even more visual interest.

4. Choose a fun motif

Right now, Aimee Beatty, in-house stylist for Pier 1 Imports, is seeing a lot of floral patterns, butterfly motifs, stripes and patchwork. Try incorporating these trends with fun, colorful placemats, such as the store's pink or green butterfly-shaped ones, to make your white dishes pop.

Laid-Back Lunches

5. Go casual and earth friendly

For a greener alternative to plastic, serve up a few sandwiches on Gibson's Earthkind dinnerware. It looks and feels like plastic, but it's actually made from bamboo. Choose from bright colors and nature-inspired patterns.

6. Think eclectic

"I would say the biggest thing right now is mixing and matching," Beatty says. Try combining patterned dishes with solid ones or even putting a different colored glass at each place setting. You might add a garden touch by layering colorful, flower-shaped dishes over regular plates.

7. Bring in a piece of the past

Vintage is popular, Beatty says, and it can give your table that great found-object look. Choose accessories from your own house, or buy vintage or vintage-inspired pieces. Pier 1 has vintage trays, for instance, that you could line up down the middle of a table to act as a table runner.

Designer Dinners

8. Add inexpensive elegance

Dress things up by laying a small mirror or two in the middle of your table. "You can put anything you want on top of it," Peterson says. "Just think of it as a tray." One of her favorite ideas: Place candles on top for a reflective glow.

9. Take inspiration from Mother Nature

"Whenever I do something outdoors, I always like to work from the natural, earthy palette," Santiago says. He often chooses more vibrant versions of Earth tones: citrus and lime greens, gold, orange and persimmon. This creates an instant connection to the garden.

10. Get creative with table accessories

Santiago recommends looking around the yard for something you can clip and put in a vase - anything from a few cherry blossom branches to blooming flowers. Or fill inexpensive votive candle holders with water, float single flower heads in each and put one at every place setting.

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