By Anya Cooklin-Lofting
From antique rugs on the lawn pulled casually from drawing rooms to fully-realised dining tables in fields of wildflowers, the picnic, humble or otherwise, can take many forms. For the Instagrammers and Pinteresters amongst us, picnics provide the perfect opportunity to really hammer home an aesthetic. You can take your picnic design ideas to the nth degree with place cards and menus, little floral sprays in bud vases dotted down the table, and your most prized tableware (formerly for indoor use only).
But never fear, you don’t need to be a professional stylist to achieve the perfect afternoon picnic with friends and family or for date night. Beyond tasty food and cold drinks (that stay cold), there are a few hacks for making sure your picnic has a considered edge. Just a bit of housekeeping: Keep single-use plastic to a minimum, take any rubbish home with you, remember your SPF and add frozen fruit to your drinks instead of ice cubes, which will dilute your picnic tipple of choice.
In the age of curation, styling and photographing everything we do and eat, take some time to think about how your picnic will manifest itself, especially if you’re throwing it for a special occasion. A loose theme is a good start, even if it’s as vague as ‘Italianate dinner party’ or ‘English summer luncheon.’ Not only will this influence the colours you choose for the picnic blanket or the style of crockery you opt for, but it will also make menu planning easier. Bruschetta and Aperol, anyone, or perhaps it’ll be pâté and citron pressé?
The idea is not to do away entirely with tablescaping – just try your hand at blanketscaping. It’s about creating texture, layers and dynamic heights around a centrepiece, even if that centrepiece is a beautifully arranged tray of homemade sandwiches. Depending on how much you can carry (or how many hands on deck you can wrangle), incorporate the crockery and serveware you use inside at home to give the picnic a highly considered, even magical feel. A collection of mismatched plates and trays looks charming on your dining table at home, so imagine quite how gorgeous it would look laden with food on the grass in a more casual, relaxed setting. This also goes for cutlery and glassware. Bettina Ceramica has some beautiful options for ceramic serveware (above) – a fantastic spot if that Italian theme speaks to you…
It’s no secret that our summers here in the UK are getting warmer, so it’s time to invest in some proper outdoor cushions and a good-quality picnic blanket. Accessories like throws and cushions are not only essential for the comfort of your fellow picnic-ers, but they also add an almost dreamy, cloud-like quality to the scene, encouraging people to relax and recline. There are some absolutely exquisite outdoor cushions available these days, many of which could very easily pass for indoor cushions. For example, Liberty’s new outdoor fabric collection, The Liberty Garden, reworks the company’s iconic prints and patterns in polyester to make them picnic-safe, while Andrew Martin’s outdoor cushions (above) and rugs are almost indistinguishable from its interiors ranges.
As much as it feels like summer has only just begun, as we approach high summer, the days will start to shorten, so it’s important to consider a light source if you plan on extending your picnic suppers late into the evening. Candles, especially citronella, create a particularly useful and atmospheric feel, with the benefit of keeping away pesky mosquitos. So too do cordless lamps, of which there are many available today. Pooky (above) and Lights&Lamps have collections of long-lasting, rechargeable wireless lamps that you can take outside to keep the party going into the early hours.