Talk Takeaway: Design with Martyn Lawrence Bullard

Posted on Aug 7, 2013 10:45am

On today's show, Interior Designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard shared his tips for the perfect summertime backyard beach soiree.



I love summertime. I love spending time outside when it's beautiful out and of course I love summer vacations. Why not bring all those things together and throw a party that's a vacation right in your backyard? You can do anything from going to Mexico or India or Italy… but one of my favorite summer vacation spots is the beach! You don't need to travel thousands of miles to go to a tropical beach… you can bring the vacation to you. Creating a beach vacation party is easy – all you have to do is mix lightweight fabrics to create that beach environment. Even if you're on a rooftop in Chicago, it's easy to create a beach set-up and have the illusion of being far away from home.

Use emerald green and coral orange – these are the big colors this season.  If you add those colors with blue and white stripes and ivory, it will give you an updated vibe for summer and a great pop of color.


BRING your indoor furniture outside.

A fun way to entertain in the summer is to bring your indoor furniture outside. Think about what you can take from inside your house to use for a party. I like to blur the lines between indoor and outdoor. Don't be scared to do it – with my clients, we'll look at the weather and if it's going to be nice for a couple of weeks, they'll take their furniture and leave it outside for weeks. It really creates a very comfortable environment for dining and has a great look for any party.

Take your dining room table from inside your house and bring it outside.  Then decorate it beautifully with beach accessories like shells and coral to give it a beach feel. Also grab chairs from inside your house – don't worry if they don't match – grab them from your dining room, your study, your bedroom, or any room in your house! It will give your party a nice eclectic look.


Set the mood with lanterns and candles.

Having the perfect lighting is so important to throwing a great party. Use hanging paper lanterns and hurricanes with candles to set the mood. Lanterns are an amazing option and they are pretty inexpensive. When you hang them from your trees it's very beautiful and can give your party a very elegant feel.  Candles are also inexpensive.  Take glass hurricanes, fill them with sand and then add a candle in the middle – these candles will make you feel like you're at the beach. It's like being at the ocean at your favorite tropical island. All these elements really create an amazing atmosphere for nighttime.


Create a tropical feel with palm leaves.

I love to use palm leaves to create a tropical feel. You can use the palm leaves in many ways. Take big palm leaves and throw them in a vase on a side table. Large palm leaves instantly add a tropical feel. You can also use the palm leaves in your table settings – add them as decorations on your table. Incorporating all the elements throughout the party will really bring everything together.


Use summer fruits for centerpieces.

I love to use summer fruits for centerpieces. Summer fruits can be so beautiful, colorful and an easy and inexpensive way to decorate a party. Put pineapples, mangoes, papayas and coconuts in a bowl and that's all it takes to make a gorgeous centerpiece. Best of all, you can eat the fruit after the party so nothing goes to waste! It's a fun and resourceful way to give your summer party that extra seasonal touch.


Serve appetizers in seashells.

Serving food at your party that you can eat at your favorite beach destination is a must – but you can also incorporate your beach theme by serving your appetizers in big seashells. This little touch brings great color and décor to the party.



I like to create a "Chill Zone." After you're done with dinner and the party is winding down, create a separate space that's all about relaxing and socializing – it's super easy to set up. Bring another couch from inside you house out for the chill zone. You can create the same beach vibe on your lawn with a rug, shell decorations and even some rattan furniture – but this space should be much cozier than the dinner table because it's all about relaxing. You can throw extra pillows on the ground to make things more comfortable. Make sure you have a pitcher of your favorite summer drink and some chocolate cover berries which are a great summer dessert.  This is the perfect way to end the night with your friends.

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