Not enough light
Even though your backyard bash may start when the sun is shining, there's a good chance guests will still be enjoying themselves past sundown. But if you don't have adequate outdoor lighting party-goers won't be able to see each other – or where they're stepping. "Colorful hanging lanterns and string lights make an outdoor space festive and help to add vibrant punches of color even after the sun sets," Soto says, and suggests opting for solar string lights to illuminate your yard when the sun goes down. We love these hand-blown glass LED lights (Amazon.com, $49), which provide a soft glow when strung over your deck or patio. This way you can keep the party going without worrying about your electric bill.
Soto also suggests lining the perimeter of your party area with solar stake lights -- a simple way to create pathways to lead your guest back to the street in the evening when the party is over. We like these simple solar stake lanterns (Target, $25).
Not having enough privacy can be frustrating when planning a patio party. It's nice to feel secluded rather than on display. If your yard could use a little more seclusion, there are a few ways to create a more sheltered space without compromising on style. Soto suggests using large planters as a way to better define the area and create a more intimate setting. "Tall, sleek planters and beautifully manicured greens serve as easy space delineators. These can easily be rearranged to suit your needs for any given occasion," the designer explains. Our pick: Sophisticated zinc-finish planters (Crate & Barrel, $100) that will add a touch of urban elegance to your yard.
Lack of color
Nothing says summer like bright, bold color, so if your backyard is looking drab, it's time to spice up your space with some cheerful hues. "When it comes to a backyard party, I say you can never have too much color," Soto says. She suggests sticking with two or three shades that complement each other — for instance, white, yellow and lime, or purple, blue and gray. This will help bring the space together and make everything look more fun and festive – important factors for outdoor entertaining. Where you add color is up to you, and the possibilities are endless. From serveware to vibrant lanterns strung around the yard to bright blankets spread on the ground for guests to lounge on, "you can bring in color just about anywhere," says the designer. We love a colorful table, so these cheerful orange plates caught our eye (CB2, $1.50-$2.50). Eco-friendly and bamboo, they're also biodegradable and dishwasher safe, so you can use them all season.
Trend alert: Melamine is a huge trend for outdoor entertaining and it's both chic and affordable, Soto says. Look for a wide a variety of colors that mimic costly ceramic dishes in pattern and style as another way to add color to your table.
If you don't have a lot of shade in your yard it won't take long for guests to feel like they're melting – not the most ideal situation for you or them. But blocking the blazing sun is as simple as getting a durable umbrella. The key is to look for one made from strong fabric that will last for several seasons, and that's mildew- and UV-resistant. Soto also suggests using umbrellas as another opportunity to add color to your yard: "That's why I tend towards bright reds, oranges and yellow umbrellas." We're partial to these vibrant market umbrellas (Pottery Barn, $79-$149) that come in a range of hues including cherry red, jade green and light blue. They also have a convenient staked end so you can easily put them anywhere you need extra shade.
There's nothing like creating a stylish and festive party atmosphere, only to have guests sit on furniture that has seen better days. It's easy to forget about outdoor items because they're not used year-round, but think of your yard as an extension on your home – an area that deserves quality pieces. Soto suggests investing in outdoor furniture made of premium grade-A teak, the best-quality wood for outdoor furniture due to its high density and oil content -- plus the look is fresh, outdoorsy and does a great job anchoring the yard and creating a sense of cohesion. We love the Smith & Hawken Avignon teak dining collection (Target, $429-$1,999), a contemporary and durable outdoor furniture collection.
Pulling it all together
The key to a successful outdoor space is planning, Soto says. "Each space will have its own unique problems -- just be sure to outline them before you start planning, to ensure you are meeting your needs as you shop." The designer also suggests thinking about your yard as just another room. "When decorating and creating an outdoor space, people need to remember it needs just as much decorating as interior spaces."
Here`s to stress-free summer entertaining all season!
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