Find out how we used string lights and a picnic table to turn an oak grove in the Texas hill country into a beautiful, peaceful, elegant yet rustic outdoor dining space!
Ok, so “rustic outdoor dining space” probably sounds a little over-glorified for a leaf-strewn patch of grass that formerly housed a chicken coop and a dog run… but I can’t tell you how magical it feels in person.
Creating an Outdoor Dining Space
Like much of the Texas hill country, the terrain out at Little Pax Ranch is mostly small scrub oaks and junipers. This little grove near the house and driveway caught our attention immediately because of the number of oak trees that grew in two adjacent circles.
We dreamed of using the larger circle like a living room – for corn hole and horseshoes and other outdoor games, while filling the smaller circle with picnic tables and lots of good food and drinks. But first, two things had to happen: we had to clear out the dilapidated chicken coop and dog run left by the previous owners, and we had to clear a couple of small junipers that were springing up in the center of the clearing.
Once those were done, we got to work on the two main ingredients to our outdoor dining area: rustic farmhouse dining tables (aka enormous picnic tables 😉 ) and string lights. We DIY’d both (tutorials coming soon!), and I couldn’t be happier with how it all turned out. We’re still considering laying crushed granite or something under the tables, but for now we are loving being out here in the evenings.
Rustic, Elegant Outdoor Tablescape
To celebrate the new space, I gathered a collection of vases, lanterns, and candlesticks from my home to decorate the rustic dining table. I filled in the centerpiece with a few oak and juniper branches that I clipped from the trees. I even put together a little video showing you how I did it. It was SO easy!
I think this combo of wood, candles, and greenery is golden. It’s got me thinking spring or summer garden parties, rustic outdoor wedding table settings, and rehearsal dinner table ideas. I think there is just something magical about natural greenery, white candles, and elegant accents.
I added some simple white dishes, gold flatware, and my new favorite stemless wine glasses to the sprawling centerpiece…
And we enjoyed a perfect evening by candlelight under the outdoor string lights.
Creating Casual Elegance Outdoors
I simply cannot get over how perfect this space feels. It’s casual enough for a swim suit and flip flops upon returning from the river, but elegant enough for an evening gown were we ever to host a small wedding reception (not that we have any plans for hosting anything that fancy… yet, anyway).
I think the magic comes from a combination of five things:
Outdoor String Lights
There is just something magical about twinkle lights. And by using commercial grade outdoor led string lights hung by stainless steel cable, I think we’ve secured that magical feel for a long time to come.
Huge Picnic Tables
This table is seriously enormous, providing plenty of space to dine family style or to contain an elegant centerpiece. There’s just something elegant about an enormous wooden dining table, even if it is just a picnic table with benches instead of dining chairs. And when the second one we are building is ready, the two end-to-end will be glorious.
Woodsy Outdoor Dining
The natural, woodsy feeling of this grove of trees is simply perfect. We could clear more juniper or clean things up more, sure, but I’m actually loving the gnarled growth of the oak trees and the remote feeling it gives to be surrounded by the woods.
Dining by Candlelight
Candlelight is always a good idea. It creates gentle, flattering light and magical ambiance. Plus candlesticks are always fun on tablescapes.
Real Dishes and Flatware
Is paper and plastic easier? Sure. And if we’re really being honest (because we’re friends, right?), I actually served my daughters mac ‘n cheese on blue plaid paper plates right here on this fancy table the night I photographed this. Ha! Once the adults were finished, they wanted to enjoy the beautiful table, too. But I digress…
If you want to help a casual outdoor space transform into an elegant dining room, then using real flatware and dishes can go a long way.
What do you think? Do you love outdoor dining, too?
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