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Who says outdoor entertaining has to involve a big, fancy patio set? Keep it simple and go for a picnic table!

Photo Blog June 14 Picnic Table Dining Cedar

I’ve always loved the romance and practicality of a picnic table. I found this handsome solid cedar example at The Home Depot for $347. It’s the essence of classic cool, but could do with some dressing up, no?

Photo Blog June 14 Picnic Table Dining Fabric Tacks

Let’s start with a tablecloth. Again, this couldn’t be simpler. I found this graphic gingham fabric for under $10 a yard at Designer Fabrics. Just have a length torn to size, and don’t even bother hemming it. Keep it loose and casual. Remember to pick up some brass thumbtacks at Staples ($2) to hold the cloth in place!

Photo Blog June 14 Picnic Table Dining Candles

Next, let’s turn up the romance. We need candlelight. But for a simple and sweet picnic table, I’d suggest cute and unexpected votive candles instead of big flashy lanterns. These ones are rustic and unusual and can be found at Crate & Barrel for a song. But you could do something similar with recycled jars and wire. Just sprinkle them down the table.

Photo Blog June 14 Picnic Table Dining Cooler

Now, how about a fun cooler in a fresh colour? One that’s electric and keeps things really cold? This little beauty is available at Canadian Tire for $125. It’s like a portable chest freezer!

And on the right, a slightly lower tech but lovely lemonade dispenser. Remember when you were a kid at school and they’d truck in a giant dispenser of McDonald’s ‘Orange Drink’ on play days? I think every kid loved it! You can relive those days with a dispenser like this one from Crate & Barrel. It’s old school (like play day) but so much more chic.

Photo Blog June 14 Picnic Table Dining Napkins Ikea

And now for this summer’s best, coolest, and cheapest find — the $3 nautical/Ralph Lauren-style paper napkins from Ikea. They’re $3 for a pack, people! If you do nothing else to spruce up your picnics and patios in 2010, please snag these before the summer collection is gone! Oh, but leave some for me. Love these.

Photo Blog June 14 Picnic Table Dining Flags

Oh, and one more hit of fun — I saw these map markers while searching Staples for thumbtacks. They’re $3 for 50! How fun would they be on vanilla frosted cupcakes? Or mini burgers? Or big burgers? Or…

For more formal outdoor dining inspiration, check out our Patio Tables & Umbrellas photo gallery.

Photo credits:
1. Cedar picnic table, The Home Depot
2a. 5139, Designer Fabrics
2b. Thumbtacks, Staples
3. Wire And Glass Candleholders, Crate & Barrel
4a. Mobicool Power Cooler, Canadian Tire
4b. Clear Cold Beverage Jar With Stand, Crate & Barrel
5. Midsommar napkins, Ikea
6. Map Flags, Staples

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