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.