Courtney Warren is a Texas-based interior designer whose work has been featured in Real Simple, Better Homes & Gardens, Good Housekeeping, Apartment Therapy, and Today.com. She is a frequent consultant on Fox 4 TV’s Good Day program in Dallas, was ranked in the top 3 percent of interior designers in the US by Houzz.com, and starred in the Dallas episode of TLC’sFour Houses. She delights in helping overwhelmed clients create beautiful spaces—and will never turn down a warm chocolate chip cookie or Diet Dr Pepper.
COVID 19 may prevent our local fireworks crowds from gathering and keep our neighbors from joining us for backyard burgers this year. But there’s no need to cancel your family’s Fourth of July celebration! What about a nostalgic family picnic featuring a colorful table, themed treats and a happy-go-lucky outdoor celebration?
We ALL feel like we’ve been at home way too much this spring, right? Time to get out of the rut and out of the house, even if it’s simply out on your deck! Now, if you opt for patriotic paper goods and red and blue plastic bowls of chips to go with your hot dogs, there is no shame in easy and fun! Whoop it up! The important thing is to celebrate our amazing country and each other!
I decided after a busy but claustrophobic late-winter-to-spring at home, I wanted to give my family a July 4th gathering in the great outdoors. I was aiming for something that felt like a cool coastal celebration, with a departure from backyard lawn chairs.
We found a terrific outdoor setting at Old Bison Ranch in Forreston, not far from our home. A stellar wedding venue, its gorgeous rolling property was a perfect backdrop for our special gathering. I planned a magical hangout day with a fun family feel.
We may think of the Fourth of July in terms of fireworks, American flag t-shirts and grilled hamburgers, but it’s called Independence Day for a reason. I hope kids still learn in school that July 4, 1776 is the date on our Declaration of Independence from Britain and marks the beginning of the United States of America.
It’s a historic day, and we didn’t let that fact pass us by when we chose our July 4th decorated sugar cookies from GeorgieGirl Bake Shop in Waxahachie. They not only look festive, they taste amazing! I wanted to create something memorable, so I asked her to make cookies that looked like letter felt boards, and boy did she comply. I can’t believe how realistic they look!
What a shame we can’t celebrate 4th of July in the mild springtime–the Texas summer heat can be brutal. To try to drop the temps a little, I drew inspiration for our picnic from beachy blues and white. The cool, coastal feel of my decorations brings to mind fresh ocean breezes. (See? You feel cooler already!)
Without forgetting the red in a traditional Independence Day color scheme, I leaned more on sea-and-sky blues and white to set my table. Dressing the table with a soft runner in mixed blues, I added blue and white china and light blue napkins from Etsy’s Kalkedon Towels.(I know it’s a difficult tendency to overcome, but we don’t always have to use navy blue for July 4.)
Mini baskets of bright red cherries at each place bring in just that needed pop of red to the blue and white scheme. In my large blue and white vase from The Mint Julep in Rockwall, just a few red poppies in the floral arrangement were an understated nod to our flag colors.
What do you think of a rustic wood picnic table with pretty table linens? You know me–I’ve got to have that vintage/new mix. As for using my pretty things for a picnic? Well, to me, a pretty presentation is part of what makes a special occasion special. So bust out your nice accessories now and then, even for a laid back event! What are you saving them for?
When it comes to setting a table, it’s always the right move to mix textures. I played the sheen of glassware and china against the weave of nubby textiles, and the grain of wood and basketry against the luster of gold flatware. I love to experiment with table elements for the combo that makes me go “Ah…” ! Do you?
Now, it’s true I focused on seaside blues on my July 4th table, even using aqua candleholders to bring out the sky blue in the runner. But I did go with all-out flag colors for my drinks and treats table. There’s no mistaking the occasion for this celebration. From the patriotic bunting that trims the table to the retro red and blue sodas, it’s all about the good ol’ red, white and blue.
Have you discovered retro Texas sodas? You may never be satisfied with your grocery store selection of sodas again! I picked up some Boylan red Shirley Temples and Lake Tahoe Blue Cream Soda from Hey Sugar Candy! in Waco.
My old-meets-new signature look shows up in the red distressed wood trencher dough bowl that holds our cookies and in the old crate for our sodas. Not to mention the 60’s red and white drink tray.
The simplest thing from your cupboard or the kids’ rooms can inject color and whimsy into your decorations.
And, so much gratitude to our friend and brilliantly talented photographer Chris at CJT Photography
Speaking of flowers, my arrangements always have an informal, just-picked look, but for a picnic, it seemed especially appropriate that they have that field-and-flower casual air to them. I wanted the look to feel fresh and spontaneous, like “Here’s what was ready to cut in the garden today”. Of course, placing the common stems in a more formal blue and white vase from The Mint Julep is just the kind of happy juxtaposition I like!
Charcuterie may have begun as meat boards, but there are no limits now to the foods you can serve on a charcuterie board! (This wonderful, large board was also from The Mint Julep.) I’m all in for nostalgic food, especially retro treats.
For our Festive Fourth picnic, s’mores seemed a fun treat to feature on a board. I offered lots of options for my s’mores bar!
So, just add fire pit!
Now we’re ready to make a traditional or gourmet rendition of a s’more.
I’d love to see your imaginative s’more ideas on my Facebook page.
I’m thinking it’s a childhood rite of passage to roast marshmallows for s’mores. To catch one on fire and blow it out? And to burn your finger or your tongue on a really toasty one? Or drop the perfect one into the fire? While it’s true that you can’t prevent all s’more mishaps, maybe you can help the little people a bit by pre-loading the marshmallows on skewers. I thought my skewers looked almost like sparklers sticking up out of that firecracker red pitcher.
Speaking of treats, making up treat boxes for all the guests seemed the perfect way to keep the patriotic festival going after the picnic. I chose boxes of gumdrops and star-spangled candies from Hey Sugar!, decorated sugar cookies (more GeorgieGirl Bake Shop favorites), a good old-fashioned bottled Coke, and some colorful fruit–a tasty reminder of a memorable day to enjoy later. The kids will have fun planting the little green succulent from The Greenery Gardens at Old Bison Ranch when they get it home. A bit of nature is always a good thing!
I hope you’ll have an opportunity to make some memories with loved ones this Independence Day. I know the sound of Joel’s guitar around the firepit, the ring of childish voices (and one that’s starting to change), with the sun shine dappling our shared table will be special July 4, 2020 memories for us.
Do you want to throw your own party? Shop this post…
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