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No summer weekend (or fall or mild winter weekend for that matter) is complete without grilling a few awesome meals in the great outdoors. So why isn't anyone ever enthusiastic about coming over to your place for some hot dogs, bean burgers, or even wagyu steaks? Could it be that your backyard barbecue decor is a little less than appetizing?
Well, look no further than these ideas to get the creative juices running. From hanging lights to a full-on bar cart, these simple tweaks will make your Labor Day or any old excuse for barbecuing all the more memorable.
Candles are fine, but unless you get an early start, you'll be eating your grilled emu in near darkness. Instead, transform your backyard with better lighting, whether by spotlighting a few significant trees or adding solar-powered lanterns along the walkway. Lorena Canals, a home living expert in Hastings on Hudson, NY, likes Christmas lights for their price and ease of use.
"Just put in a few wooden posts if you don't have a pergola to drape with them," she suggests. Place the posts around the seating and grill area, and string twinkle lights in between. Or go old-school and hit up the hardware store for half a dozen Tiki torches. Insert them into the ground to light the way to your backyard, or arrange them to light up dark corners of your yard.
Add a prep place
There's more to hosting a barbecue than tossing meat onto flames. Think dip mixing, salad tossing, and egg deviling. To this end, consider creating a flat surface that can be used for prepping side dishes and plating appetizers. It could be as simple as a couple of saw horses and a piece of plywood covered with a bright tapestry. Or invest in a built-in outdoor kitchen counter near the spot where you grill. Best of all: You won't have to leave the party to do your prep work.
Lay a rug
Define your backyard barbecue space with an outdoor rug. There are literally thousands of inexpensive options that are relatively easy to clean and maintain.
"Most backyard barbecue areas a have a cement, brick, or wood floor," notes Canals. A rug adds instant warmth to cold flooring and makes your backyard look like an extension of your indoor style. A fire pit is another smart bonus outdoors.
"You can easily build your own with a DIY tutorial online or pick up one at your local home or garden center," she says.
Or add a swing.
"A hanging chair or swing are two fun ways to inject a little energy into the party scene," notes Jessica Sutton, lead curator with Dot & Bo. In particular, bold geometric patterns look great outside, like this black and white rug for $197.
Tap into the power of pallets
If you have a few extra wooden shipping pallets hanging around -- or you know someone who does -- you can get very creative, notes Canals.
"Pallets can be taken apart and made into the most perfect seating areas for your patio," she says. Just toss on a few cushions -- and you're done. Or stand up two pallets and connect them with a slab of concrete to make a patio bar. Paint pallets in a coordinating color, install hooks on one side to hold bar towels, and then top it with a colorful set of melamine glasses on a tray.
Wheel in a bar cart
Your friends love you (really, they do!), but they aren't coming to your backyard to watch you fiddle with marinated octopus on the grill. It's all about the drinks -- fresh mojitos, icy cold lemonade, rum punch, summer sangria, or plain ol' beer. Add a bar cart or create an outdoor bar area off to the side, and stock it with an ice bucket, openers, and a serving tray, suggests Sutton. This bar cart from Dot & Bo is $272.
Arrange better seating
Your lawn chairs are most likely fine, but why not curate a look that's way more inviting? Backyard barbecue furniture should have the same consideration as your indoor dinner parties. Think cozy and comfortable, and toss out a few outdoor cushions in bold colors and patterns that pop. Or take a cue from Sutton.
"One of my personal favorite arrangements is simple: Place an outdoor sofa facing two chairs to encourage conversation, and then add a side table in between the seating or use an ottoman," she explains. A stool plays double duty, functioning as a table when topped with a tray or as additional seating when guests are over.