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Outdoor Entertaining

There are only 15 weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day, with 93 official days of summer. We’re now in the thick of it, soaking up every afternoon at the beach or night out dining alfresco. The cool tranquility and casual vibes of the North Fork are an attraction for those who live near and far. If you live near, you can probably expect guests for long weekends at some point or another. And while we essentially live outdoors in the summer months, being backyard-ready is a must every fair-weather season.

The design of your outdoor living space is an important first step in outdoor entertaining, and may be overlooked. Fond of neutral colors and the beachy blues reminiscent of coastal living, interior designer Debra Gildersleeve’s design style tends to lean towards clean lines and mixing materials such as fabric, wood, and metal to create a space that is both functioning and inviting. The same goes with exteriors, as she explains that you can, and should, create this same feeling through design, allowing an effortless flow from inside to outside.

“The outside of your home is such an important aspect of design, especially on the East End,” shares Ms. Gildersleeve. “It’s an extension of your home – the outside should match the inside, and you want to express a similar design aesthetic in both the interior and the exterior.”

She also warns against clashing design styles such as a cool, modern interior paired with an overly floral or bright exterior. “You don’t want it to be distracting.”

With two showrooms and a design center at her family’s store, Renee’s in Mattituck, Ms. Gildersleeve works directly with the most discerning clients to bring their design visions to life. For outdoor furniture, she suggests brands like Summer Classics, Alfresco Home, Surya, and Jaipur.

“There are so many options to create an inviting space beyond just outdoor furniture. There are outdoor sectionals, rugs, lamps, and pillows; all of which can be used to design a beautiful and comfortable space,” shares Ms. Gildersleeve.

Hampton Hearth and Patio, which has showrooms in Southold and Southampton, carries patio and outdoor furniture, as well as grills and fire pits. “A popular thing is recycled material,” says Southold sales manager Bryan Wish. “It’s a heavy-duty plastic that basically lasts forever. The quality is very good; it’s a great investment.”

CRP Plastics for example makes each of their Adirondack chairs out of 579 recycled milk jugs to create beautiful and functional grain-finished lumber out of the recycled materials. They can be bright and colorful or light and neutral, but always make a statement. Stylish, functional, and a benefit to the environment… why not?

Mr. Wish says ample seating is important for outdoor entertaining, and often on a patio or deck there is a mixture. “You can have a dining table with six to eight chairs, plus casual seating on the opposite side with a fire pit in the middle of that,” he says to create a cozy entertaining space.

A trend for North Forkers that Mr. Wish has noticed is more of a contemporary style. He suggests teak products from Three Birds Casual for clean and sophisticated seating, and Telescope Casual for an array of outdoor furniture. To really revel in those warm summer nights, fire pits are a perfect addition to every outdoor space.

Now that you have your outdoor space designed with a dining table in place and lounge seating that meet your design aesthetic, there are few things to discuss that are more important than food. Living on the East End allows for a beautiful assortment of artisans, purveyors, specialty food stores, fresh and organic produce, and of course, wine.

“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients,” reads a framed quote that hangs in Lombardi’s Love Lane Market in Mattituck. These are words for chef and owner Lauren Lombardi to live by. “It’s a reminder of what the North Fork represents to me and how I translate those values into the kitchen.”

Ms. Lombardi suggests letting guests enjoy the North Fork bounty when entertaining by cooking simply and plating beautifully. “When entertaining at home it’s always best to choose what is in season and keep it easy and simple,” she says.

The Love Lane shop has a tasty variety of local and regional goods coupled together with imported Italian specialties. Whether you stock up on ingredients there, or have Ms. Lombardi’s team cater your event (which is so worth it), all of the pieces to pull together a fantastic meal with family and friends are available.

“I tend to go back to my family roots when entertaining, which is a very simple way of cooking – Mediterranean flavors, clean ingredients, and always cook with what is in season. Italy celebrates regional cooking in the very same way we celebrate what the North Fork bounty has to offer.”

Add to your table fresh and organic produce from Sang Lee Farms in Peconic, with unique and colorful varieties of specialty and heirloom veggies. The certified organic farm also offers a range of sauces, dips, dressings, roasted vegetables, salads, and baked goods at their farm stand and farmers markets.

Fill your glass and raise it with local wine from more than 50 producers on the East End. With craft breweries like Greenport Harbor Beer and Moustache Brewing Co., and even growing distilleries like Long Island Spirits, there’s plenty of options to keep the fun flowing and quench the thirst of your guests this summer.

Let the outdoors in your own backyard be your escape this summer. Whether you are joined by friends and family, or just want to cozy up with a book and glass of wine in hand, let this inspiration allow you to enjoy the fresh, salty air on the North Fork through the seasons.