Growing up in the Washington, D.C. area, Frontgate product stylist and mixed media artist Jacob Lynn experienced many patriotic celebrations. The nation’s capital brought annual parades, fireworks displays and endless inspiration for hosting a spectacular outdoor party full of national pride. This year Lynn helped design Frontgate’s patriotic picnic, fit for a Memorial Day or Fourth of July celebration; he’s breaking down how he achieved the incredible look.
Frontgate (FG): Explain how you created a festive feel that doesn’t look overly themed.
Jacob Lynn (JL): I think the key is to be subtle about it. Not everything needs to have every element of what’s being celebrated. For example, for a Fourth of July celebration, some classic bunting used on the backs of chairs and on serving tables does the trick. Using different pieces within the space that reinforce those red, white and blue colors is really all you need.
FG: Do you have any favorite summertime centerpieces?
JL: There are tons items that make for great summer centerpieces. I love a bowl of seasonal fruit that can double as garnish for a drink, such as lemons or plums. When choosing fresh flowers in the heat of summer you must be slightly strategic. I love the look of hydrangea, garden roses and peonies on an outdoor table, but they can quickly wilt from the heat. I’ve found that adding ice cubes to a flower’s water and placing them in the shade will keep them perky while outside. Lastly, by mixing in small lanterns, your table can easily transition from day to night.
FG: How do you include elements that elevate an otherwise casual gathering?
JL: Embracing eco-friendly, multi-use plates and cutlery rather than disposable options instantly elevates an outdoor gathering. Dinnerware such as Frontgate’s Alfresco Melamine won’t risk breaking or collapsing like paper plates. Every Saturday when I was growing up, my family and I would go to concerts in the town park. We would sit on our picnic blanket while listening to the bands play, and my mother would unpack her picnic basket with all the essentials. As the sun went down, it was a breeze to pack up and throw everything in the dishwasher to get ready to reuse next week.
FG: Tell us how you used design elements to tell a full color story.
JL: Color plays such a vivid role in how we interact with the world. Color can soothe, invigorate and be used to create dynamic movement. National holidays in the U.S. are all centered around the red, white and blue of the American flag. By incorporating these three colors, you can really push the feel of Americana. Mixing these colors throughout the space – such as placing cobalt blue bottles in a red beverage tub and [adding] a berry cake with mounds of white Swiss meringue topped with berries – really drives home that color story.
FG: What are some ways you decorate differently for an outdoor party versus one indoors?
JL: The biggest difference when hosting guests outside is the need for reducing indoor-outdoor runaround. Beverage tubs eliminate the need to make multiple trips in the house for refreshments. Simply use beverage tubs on their own or use as a vessel for carrying drinks outside to stock an outdoor kitchen or refrigerator. Additionally, having a serving tray on hand for food and accessories can cut back on the number of trips you need to make indoors.
FG: What are some overlooked picnic essentials?
JL: A bottle opener and a roll of paper towels are always great to have on hand. Someone is bound to ask for a bottle opener, so having it at the ready will save you a trip inside when they do. And since you never know when a spill might happen, paper towels will keep you prepared for anything.
FG: Favorite finishing touches?
JL: It’s the finishing touches that make or break a styling. Using a cookie cutter to make watermelon stars to float in the beverage dispenser was a quick way to enhance the decor here – and a similar approach can be taken for any holiday. Clean folded edges on a napkin are a simple finishing touch that helps a table look pristine when set. I also love to have something for my guests to take home at the end of the night. I make a batch of muffins or cookies and wrap them in parchment paper to serve as a reminder of the good time we had.
FG: Favorite summer cocktail recipe?
JL: For a party I like to have both a non-alcoholic drink and a premixed cocktail. One of my favorite cocktails is a classic Mint Julep. Here’s how I make it:
What You’ll Need:
- 8 mint leaves
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 2 ounces bourbon
- Crushed ice
- Make the simple syrup by pouring the water into a large pot and bringing it to a boil. Add the sugar, stir until it dissolves, and then turn off the heat.
- Grab your glass of choice, and place mint leaves at the bottom. Then add ¼ oz simple syrup. Muddle together gently.
- Pour in the bourbon, stir and top with ice.