My preferred method of entertaining tends to be last minute: an impulse late-afternoon lunch spurred by a find at the farmer's market; friends dropping by unannounced at dinner time. Parties pulled together on a moment's notice always seem to be the most successful. The secret? An arsenal of tried-and-true strategies, such as this easy outdoor table setting featuring a few simple pieces you might already have in your cupboard.
Above: I was inspired to create my own napkin holders after a visit to SF restaurant Bar Bambino (photo via architects Aidlin Darling). Create similar napkin rings with lengths of rawhide; I used rawhide remnants from The Hide and Leather House in Napa. Online, Amazon offers 20-yard spools of Tandy Rawhide Lace for $21.99.
Dishtowels make a cheap and easy substitute for napkins. Above L: Admete Dish Towel of 100 percent linen: $6.99 for a set of two. Above R: Elly Dish Towel made from cotton; $2.49 for a set of four. Both from Ikea.
Above: Mary Rose Dinner Plates from beech wood are made traditionally by a wood turner in the UK on a foot powered lathe; a 10-inch plate is £29 from Robin Wood.
Above: A less expensive option is the 10-inch Acacia Wood Plate from Mimi's Mercantile for $10.
Above: Anglais Ivory Stainless Flatware by Alain Saint-Joanis; $160 for a five-piece place setting at Manor Home & Gifts.
Above: The micro-thin Marta Cooler Glass is $2.50 from CB2.
Above: Use whatever greenery is on hand for table decor; we love geranium leaves, parsley, rosemary, or whatever else is currently growing in the garden.
Above: Pottery Barn offers Hanging Mason Jars for $7.50; alternatively, create your own with used jars and a length of wire.
Above: Clear recycled wine and beer bottles with the labels soaked off make excellent candleholders. Alternatively, Amazon sells a dozen Clear Claret Bottles for $29.74. For more ideas on creating candleholders see our post DIY Candleholders for Outdoor Entertaining.