With the desert’s bounty of balmy summer evenings and bright spring mornings, we want to spend as much time as possible outside. As a result, we find ourselves dining alfresco more often, whether that be eating a bagel for breakfast in the outdoor living room or planning a poolside dinner party for business associates.
“The feeling of dining with nature is beautiful,” says Zelda Walls, owner of Tabletop Elegance on El Paseo in Palm Desert. “You don’t feel as confined, and the air is wonderful. You have water, trees, and mountains that add so much to outdoor dining. … You can see forever.”
When customers come in to Walls’ store, they’re often looking for ideas to capitalize on the natural settings. Walls’ guiding rule for her customers is this: There’s no wrong way to set a table outside. “You can literally use formal and informal dinnerware outside depending on the mood you want to create for your guests,” she says.
Most clients want what Walls describes as “informal elegance”: extraordinary hand-painted pottery, handblown glass dinnerware, and flatware with unique designs. That’s not to say, however, that formal dining has no place outside. “You can set your tables with the most expensive, beautiful china in the world,” Walls says. “It all depends on what you, as the host or hostess, are trying to convey.”
To illustrate the outdoor-dining options, Walls created three tabletop vignettes at a home in Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert: a poolside brunch, an informal lunch, and an elegant dinner at dusk.
Handmade pottery from Vietri warms up lunchtime. “I like the nonsymmetrical aspects of the dinnerware,” Zelda Walls says. “I like the bright colors and the relaxing feel of the setting. It reminds me of Italy.”
Sleek glass dinnerware from Riverside Designs brings unusual shapes and color combinations to your brunch. Serve on small round tables for an additional fun touch.
Elegant Dinner at Dusk
Old World charm meets modern design in this formal porcelain dinnerware from Michael Wainwright. Flatware from Lynn Chase features a jungle theme, while the fringed black napkins tie the setting together.