Thomas J. Story
Be sure to have lots of seating options
Okay, so you’re the type whose calendar is booked, and most of the time it’s you hosting the dinners and cocktail parties. Then take a cue from Chris and Eric Fenmore, who give new meaning to the word “social,” often hosting a dozen or so people and cooking all the food. At 1,800 square feet, their home in Corona del Mar, California, can feel a little snug. So Chris designed a backyard that lets her move the party outdoors. “Cooking and dining out here are pure pleasures,” she says. “I feel like I’m in an elegant campground.”
Design Chris Fenmore, Garden Studio Design, Newport Beach, CA (949/673-5450)
Kitchen location “Since guests always gravitate toward the cook and the bartender, I thought if I moved the working areas to the back of the yard, it would lure people deeper into the garden,” Chris says. “And that’s exactly what happens.”
Ample work surface A 12-foot countertop gives Chris plenty of room to set up a bar, prepare food ― “I like to do the whole process out here, not just grill” ― and lay out a generous buffet. “You need at least 6 feet to do it properly,” she says.
Concrete countertops Chris believes tile and granite are too fussy for the backyard; they also show dirt and dust more. Concrete looks more outdoorsy and is easier to maintain.
Lots of seating options Because she wanted to be able to seat at least 10 adults, Chris shopped for the most generous table she could find. A bench seats a lot of people, while chairs allow visitors to move around and open up the space visually.
Springing for a fireplace “The glow of a fire is irresistible,” says Chris. “If it’s on when guests arrive, they’re drawn to it within minutes.”
Do it this weekend:
- Invest in a set of inexpensive melamine plates and cloth napkins for outdoors. They’re a stylish way to reduce waste.
- Set up an outdoor bar on a potting bench or table with a tray to hold accessories.
- Place potted herbs and small trees like olives or lemons around the dining area for a lush alfresco feel.
More: Build an outdoor lounge