This Cozy Backyard Party Makes A Case For Outdoor Winter Entertaining
As summer fades, so too does our time spent entertaining outdoors. We pack up the patio furniture, put the barbecue away and bid goodbye to alfresco parties for another year. But for Tracey and Robert Gerschwiler and their daughters Brooke and Abby, a fresh blanket of snow is no reason to take the party inside. With easy, nature-inspired decorations strung around their almost two-hectare property near Collingwood, Ontario, the backyard is the perfect place to entertain, no matter the season. Here’s how they create a cozy and comfortable atmosphere for outdoor winter entertaining.
Make the firepit the focus. The toasty atmosphere created by flames makes a firepit a go-to spot for winter gatherings. To encourage people to gather, Tracey and Robert, together with friend and designer Kristen Vermeulen, added wooden benches draped with plush sheepskin and hung string lights on poles. Thick buffalo check blankets are strewn about for added warmth.
Light the way. Swags of evergreen garlands woven with string lights lead guests toward the festive entertaining zone. “It pulls people toward the backyard,” says Tracey. The couple, owners of Gerschwiler Building, designed the home’s exterior to reflect their love of a spare, natural aesthetic.
Create a winter floral display. Metal buckets dressed with pinecones, berries and evergreen branches are the perfect winter alternative to a summer bouquet and add a moment of lushness against the rustic cedar split-rail fence.
Keep the look simple. A shed made from galvanized steel and shiplap pine is a charming spot for an oversized holiday wreath. “Robert constructed this shed with help from our oldest daughter, Brooke,” says Tracey. “At the time, it housed six pygmy goats!” After their daughter moved out, the structure was repurposed as a garden shed.
Eat, drink and be merry. Food and drink makes the party: to keep guests from having to head back into the house for a snack or a refill, Tracey sets up an outdoor hot chocolate and cookie station — everyone’s favorite cold weather sweets.
Consider every vista. Since the backyard view is on display from inside the house, Tracey dressed up the area near the back door with simple Christmas trees, grapevine balls and a stack of firewood. “On a snowy day, it’s so beautiful to look outside to the pine trees and the chicken coop,” says Tracey.
Decorate unexpected areas guests might visit. Draping garlands across the chicken coop fence invites guests to wander over and visit the property’s feathered tenants. Even daughter Brooke’s blue heeler, Rex, loves to pop by.
Forage for decor. Robert and Tracey clip boughs and branches to decorate with while strolling through the woods, usually accompanied by their bichon frise–poodle, Cooper. The property has been in the Gerschwiler family since 1978. “As a kid, I planted pine seedlings with my parents and brother — about a thousand at a time,” says Robert. The seedlings are now towering trees at the back of the property.