How to Safely Celebrate the Holidays at Home — Outdoors — Through Intimate Two-Person Dining
Many will be celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas, Diwali and Hanukkah from the comfort of their own homes rather than traveling this year. Though many will forgo large Fall and Winter holiday celebrations, some will continue their traditions — but with a twist. Outdoor dining has become more popular in recent months — beginning in the summer after the US lockdown ended — in both restaurants and at home. Restrictions around the nation lessened to allow restaurants to reopen — so long as they established properly socially-distanced outdoor dining. Millions are expected to take cues from local governments when planning their holiday celebrations this Fall and Winter. Families plan to reschedule holiday trips much as they did during the summer. In the summer months, a reported ~50% of those who had planned trips decided to cancel due to the pandemic.
Decisions to cancel have shot up in recent weeks as intense spikes in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations have emerged in hotspots around the country. Additionally, the CDC recently updated their guidelines for holiday revelers — recommending that families try to have small gatherings — rather than large ones including extended family — outside. They have recommended implementing preventative measures like mask-wearing, ensuring effective ventilation and distancing six or more feet from person to person. One way to make your holiday a bit safer — without resorting completely to Zoom or Skype — is to create a responsible outdoor dining area. Bistro sets — with a pair of chairs and small two-person table — offer the perfect size for a couple or small family. Follow below for tips on how to make the holidays memorable, safe and stylish from our “Bistro Sets for Entertaining Buying Guide.”
Bistro sets — often alternatively referred to as café sets — are primarily relegated to outdoor dining rather than indoor affairs. They typically feature a set of two chairs and a single, small table. The chairs will often be of bar or counter height rather than traditional dining or coffee table height. They are frequently foldable or easily stored. Modern bistro sets are available in a range of styles and materials.
Consider your region’s climate year round — not just during the Fall and Winter months but also during the Spring and Summer. The range in temperatures and fluctuations in relative humidity might limit the types of materials and designs which are most appropriate. However, if your area is hot and humid for part of the year and dry and cool for another, you can store your furniture. Some outdoor furniture can even be brought indoors when the weather is poor. In fact, this choice directly correlates to the indoor-outdoor interiors trend of 2020 and 2021.
Interior designers have demonstrated an enduring interest in removing the barriers between the outdoor environment and the indoor environment. They have encouraged homeowners to bring the outdoors inside. This might include carrying in furniture made of materials like wicker and performance fabrics or filling the home with houseplants. For sets that can easily transition from outdoor furniture to any home interior, we recommend the Cane Line Outdoor Aluminum Ceramic Dining Set. We also love the Cane Line Outdoor Aluminum Teak Wicker Dining Set. Both are available through Patio Living.
One of the best materials for outdoor furniture in humid settings might come as a surprise. Aluminum is actually an excellent choice for outdoor furniture in environments with high relative humidity — even those experiencing dew point humidity. Aluminum does not rust — unlike other metals like wrought iron. Neither does it absorb heat, making it safe to sit on even during hot months. While most aluminum bistro sets are fairly lightweight — making them inappropriate for windy environments — some are better reinforced and suitable for most weather events. For those in climates with rapidly changing relative humidity and/or temperature — and/or unpredictable weather events — try to avoid bistro sets consisting of multiple materials that might fight against each other during climate fluctuations.
Both wrought iron and steel are more suitable for dry environments than humid environments. This is because rusting is less likely to occur in a dry environment than in a humid environment. Wrought iron bistro tables might be just the ticket for a dry environment — e.g. Southern California, Arizona or Utah. They are especially ideal for windy areas because of the sturdy design and heavy weight of wrought iron. As such, bistro sets made from iron are virtually immovable by mild to moderate intensity weather events.
(Left) Cane Line Outdoor Aluminum Teak Dining Set, from Patio Living
Coated wicker, wood and manufactured wood are all suitable materials for cold environments. This is because they are less likely to communicate the ambient cold to the material itself — and then to the user. Just be sure to avoid moisture contact with either wicker or wood as they may absorb the moisture and warp. Consider adding cushions and backrests to bistro chairs on crisp mornings and during chilly evenings to warm up while still enjoying the outdoors!
(Left) Driade Bo Polypropylene Bistro Set, from Patio Living
Aluminum is an excellent option for hot environments — given its resistance to heat absorption and transfer. However, teak, wicker and high-quality plastic are also appropriate. Synthetic materials like polypropylene, polycarbonate and polyethylene are often heat and stress-resistance much in the same way aluminum is. However, many of these synthetic materials are also resistant to sun damage as they are frequently designed with UV inhibitors. UV inhibitors diminish the likelihood of color fading and surface cracking. Teak and wicker also perform fairly well, though teak outperforms wicker in many environments because it resists heat and is quite sturdy. Wicker can degrade in environments with significant climate fluctuations.
As you research bistro sets, be sure to keep in mind your personal design aesthetic and the styles of your existing furniture. While neither materials nor silhouettes must match the existing furniture exactly, there should be a through-line in at least one shared element. If your backyard or patio offers a blank slate, follow below to the final section of this buying guide for patio furniture trends.
(Left) Sika Design Alu Affaire Dining Set and (Right) International Home Miami Atlantic Koningsdam 3 Piece Round Dining Set, Both from Patio Living
Before purchasing one or more bistro sets, consider the size of your patio or backyard. You should also keep in mind the number of guests you plan to host. You might also consider the size of their households and the appropriate distance between groups. These elements are especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic when social-distancing and outdoor dining are best for safe and healthy holiday celebrations. While the majority of bistro sets are designed for couples, some are available with three or more chairs and a slightly larger table. Consider these for households of three or more. For small backyards or patios, avoid the larger, club-style bistro chairs and large tables, choosing spindly chairs and thin, high tables instead.
Chances are, the need for half a dozen — or more — bistro sets will come and go. The COVID-19 pandemic will likely lessen in coming months and the weather will worsen in many areas. The former will make social distancing less necessary than it is today and the latter will temporarily make larger outdoor gatherings more difficult. As such, one should consider storage when purchasing multiple patio or backyard furniture sets. Some bistro sets can easily be folded down or stacked for storage. Others — like those made from wicker and wrought iron — are fairly non-adjustable.
Classic white patio or backyard furniture is nearly always perfect for party receptions and outdoor weddings. However, it can also be a stunning — and unexpected — choice for the Winter holidays. White is the perfect backdrop for Christmas and Hanukkah decor. From the vibrant greens, golds and reds of Christmas to the elegant blue and silver of Hanukkah, white offers the perfect contrast. White is also incredibly versatile year round. It is ideal for the summer months as it rejects heat absorption and wonderful for the Spring when a fresh look is desired. Choosing classic white coloring in conjunction with a modern or contemporary silhouette elevates any bistro set. We love the Bend Goods Bistro Dining Set in all white and the Driade Bo Polypropylene Bistro Set.
Instead of heavy, bold silhouettes, consider contemporary designs with nods to earlier periods. Intricate patterns, delicate designs and complex elements offer an air of sophistication to your backyard or patio. They do so without overwhelming the landscape — or in the case of Thanksgiving, Christmas or Hanukkah, the food! Delicate designs are more versatile than chunkier silhouettes while mixed media offers interest and contrast. To capture this trend, we love the Bend Goods Outdoor Bistro Dining Set, with its multi-colored chairs. Better yet are the set's natural wood seats and abstract teardrop table stand. We also love the Palm Springs Rattan Cape Town Aluminum Bistro Set, which includes rattan, aluminum and glass elements.
Embrace the “grandma chic” trend by reintroducing wicker, cane and rattan to your outdoor space. For maximum effect, consider painted or coated wicker, which packs the most punch when looking for an antique or vintage vibe. A vintage-inspired silhouette with the lace and curls of Victorian architecture and interior design offers an unexpected twist in a modern backyard. Better yet, “grandma chic” — or “Grand Millennial” — styles of outdoor furniture effortlessly transition into indoor furniture, making the styles perfect for year-round entertaining. We love the Lloyd Flanders All Seasons Wicker Bistro Set and the Sika Design Alu Affaire Dining Set. Both work well for indoor and outdoor dining alike.