Inspired Outdoor Entertaining from Domino

Outdoor entertaining under a pergola with Ballard Designs and Domino magazine

We’ve partnered with domino magazine to help you kick up your outdoor entertaining game up a notch! To inspire your next summer soirée, the editors at domino have designed three gorgeous outdoor spaces using products from Ballard Designs to create the perfect setting. Learn about their inspiration for these spaces, their best-loved ways to create a comfortable space, and even some of their must-make summer recipes! Below, domino’s Creative Director, Robert Leleux, shares how he achieves “the mix.”

One of the things that really distinguishes the domino style is “the mix.” You know, that compelling tension that occurs when you combine the traditional and the modern, the high and the low, the masculine and the feminine. It’s the magic that happens when you put all of the things you love together in one space and, somehow, it all turns out just right. Because when it’s right, a roomful of “mismatched” pieces manages to express the uniqueness and personality of its owner.

And that’s why so many domino editors are such huge fans of Ballard Designs. Their catalog is filled with stylish, personality-packed pieces–at reasonable prices–that make achieving that balance easy.

Outdoor entertaining under a pergola with Ballard Designs and Domino magazine

I’m really proud of this entertaining story that Editor in Chief Michelle Adams and I created together because I think we got “the mix” just right. Personally, I’ve always been inspired by those scenes in Merchant Ivory films where a clan of white-clad Victorians dines alfresco after dragging fine linens, silver, and furniture out onto the lawn. In those movies, everything always looks so effortlessly lovely. Of course, “effortless” is always the hardest kind of lovely to achieve. But that’s exactly the effect we were hoping for here.

Outdoor entertaining under a pergola with Ballard Designs and Domino magazine

Outdoor entertaining under a pergola with Ballard Designs and Domino magazine

Those period films teach an important lesson about outdoor entertaining (aside from the importance of exquisite art direction). In the Victorian age, there wasn’t a firm demarcation between indoor and outdoor furniture. (Even today, this is truer in Europe than it is in America.) There’s something very inspiring to me about that kind of entertaining. But then, I’m Southern, so there’s a part of me that loves the idea of hauling out the good stuff for my guests. On the other hand, I don’t like the idea of setting an overly formal table that seems forced or stuffy. That’s what I like about this table. It combines a lot of influences. It reads a little bit French, a little Italian, and a little Mexican. You can imagine that this is the scene of a casual Sunday breakfast or a special birthday lunch. Michelle and I both love the classic, timeless quality of the Café Collection—this scene could have taken place last week or 20 years ago. You can imagine so many of these pieces being used indoors or out. Those bistro chairs, for instance, would look great around a dining table or as side chairs in a living room.

Outdoor entertaining under a pergola with Ballard Designs and Domino magazine

Of course, since we were going for that domino mix, we wanted to play against type when it came to our surroundings. Since the setting for this scene was this gorgeous pergola, dripping with flowering vines, we decided to keep things slightly casual, a little dressed down. If we’d been in a more laid-back locale, we might have made some different choices—for instance, adding a white linen tablecloth and some silver.

Outdoor entertaining under a pergola with Ballard Designs and Domino magazine

In general, whether you’re decorating or entertaining, it’s a good idea to consider your surroundings with a critical eye and ask yourself, “What are the unexpected style choices I could make here?” Take a moment to consider the “opposites” of your selections. This is the kind of instinctual process that’s somewhat challenging to put into words, but what I mean is, if you’ve chosen, say, a formal dining table, pause for a moment to imagine what rustic chairs might (literally) bring to the table. Michelle and I hung this sleek wire lantern with rope in order to achieve just that kind of unexpected style tension. But the most important thing to remember is to have fun. You’re throwing a party, after all. Enjoy yourself!

Find all of the recipes for this party on our blog, How to Decorate, and find more entertaining ideas on our Entertaining Pinterest Boards.

For a chance to win $5,000 for the outdoor party of your dreams, enter to win our Summer Soirée Sweepstakes hosted by domino magazine and Ballard Designs. One grand prize winner will win $5,000 in Ballard Designs merchandise and three winners will receive $500 in Ballard Designs merchandise.


About the Author:

Caroline McDonald
Caroline lives for pairing together patterns, mixing furniture styles, and oogling over our newest furniture pieces. As you can imagine, her little 1920's craftsman is in a constant state of flux. Here on How to Decorate, it's her goal to help you turn your home into your own little slice of paradise.


  1. Holly May 19, 2014 at 12:54 am - Reply

    I would love to know about the color of dinnerware. I know it’s from Ballard but it is described on their site as ivory but in all these pictures it looks white. What color would you say it is?

    • Caroline @ How to Decorate June 6, 2014 at 9:43 am - Reply

      Hi Holly,

      Thanks for your comment. We’re so happy to hear that you like our dinnerware! The collection used in this space is our Brigitte Collection, and yes it is described as Ivory. You’re right, it does read as pure white in these photos, and it is a very crisp white. It has maybe a touch of cream in it, but most people would probably classify it as ‘white.’ Hope that helps!

      Best of Luck,
      The How to Decorate Team

  2. Kate Silverman May 16, 2014 at 7:13 pm - Reply

    I want to enter your contest but don’t understand how.

    • Caroline @ How to Decorate May 20, 2014 at 9:04 am - Reply

      Hi Kate,

      You can enter our Summer Soirée Sweepstakes by filling out the form on this page. We’re so glad you’re interested in entering. Good luck!

      The How to Decorate Team

  3. Gabby May 16, 2014 at 12:58 pm - Reply

    I love all these looks, where would I get those wonderful bistro chairs?

    • Caroline @ How to Decorate May 20, 2014 at 9:05 am - Reply

      Hi Gabby!

      Thanks for your comment. These are actually our Paris Bistro Chairs. You can find them here. We’re so happy to hear that you like them.

      Let us know if you have any other questions.

      The How to Decorate Team

  4. becky May 3, 2014 at 3:13 pm - Reply

    where did the white lantern come from? I don’t see it on ballard. Thank you!

    • How to Decorate Team May 5, 2014 at 4:41 pm - Reply

      Hi Becky,

      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, that lantern is discontinued. Sorry about that!

      Happy Decorating,
      The How to Decorate Team

  5. Lynn Henrion May 3, 2014 at 11:16 am - Reply

    Your Outdoor Entertaining display is gorgeous! Your explanation and use of that decorating “tension” is so apt in this kind of setting. I’ve been dying for a pergola for many, many years–I’m of Italian descent and my decorating taste runs to French country or Tuscan style–and “al Fresco” entertaining is intrinsic to my being. Even when it’s winter in Massachusetts, I find myself bringing that vibe into my indoor decorating as well. Maybe someday…

    Also, I’m a big fan of Ballard Designs and have been shopping from their collections and copying decorating ideas from their catalogs for years. Their partnership with Domino magazine sounds perfect. I’ll keep posted for more great decorating ideas.

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