Playful Party Decor
Complicated planning and pricey decorations? We wouldn't dare suggest such things, especially in summer-season of naps, lounging and total relaxation. No, a successful outdoor get-together only requires good friends, decent weather and a few inexpensive pieces of flair. We found 13 quirky decorating items-all for under $20-that make party prep almost (but not quite) as easy as lounging by the pool. So dive in!
Transform a Simple Pail
Convert these utilitarian carryalls into charming party-favor holders or use them as containers for party necessities like utensils or rolled-up napkins. Another idea: Turn pails into centerpieces by putting potted plants inside. We like these metal ones for their bright colors and versatile size. Bright Metal Small Pails, $10.00 for a set of 12; PlumParty.com.
String Up Some Lights
These solar-powered lanterns bring a minimalist chic flair to any party. During the day, their batteries soak up the sun's rays; at night, the brightly colored spheres will softly light the revelers below-no wires or plugs required. Soji Solar Lantern, $20 each; Bambeco.com.
Make Grilling Easier
Take the work out of lighting a grill with this inventive contraption called the FlameDisk. You simply peel off the cover, light the holes and you're ready to get cooking. Unlike charcoal, it's recyclable and, because everything's contained in one disk, cleanup is a breeze. FlameDisk, $3.99; uGOgrill.com.
Go All Out with Pretty Plates
This distinctive dinnerware is one way to decorate without spending a lot of money. True, they cost more than paper plates, but they can be reused for party after party-saving money, and resources, over time. Wrought Irony Dishware by Working Class Studio, from $6; shopSCAD.
Borrow from Your Camping Supplies
Take a second look at camping items: Sturdy, cheap and multipurpose, their rugged lines and retro shapes make them appealing candidates for party gear. These stackable cups and bowls can also be reused for future get-togethers. 12-oz. Cascadian cup and Cascadian bowl, $1.95 each; GSIOutdoors.com.
Decorate with Recycled Objects
Over the past decade, it's become popular to turn found or discarded items into elegant adornments. These votive holders, for example, are fashioned from bicycle parts. Thanks to their innovative designs, they look lovely lined up on an outdoor picnic table or porch windowsill. Recycled Tea Light Holder, $12.99 each; Elsewares.com.
Use Chopsticks for Fruit
Another object that's been given new life: chopsticks. Kwytza Kraft cleans discarded ones and transforms them into lamps, soap dishes and other home accessories. Piled high with fruit, this basket adds a unique shape to a table and collapses into an almost-flat form for easy toting. Small Folding Basket, $16; ChopstickArt.com.
Dress Up Your Beverages
This fresh take on the cooler is made from a lightweight, insulated material that makes for easier carrying. It's not merely practical; it's also a great way to update the look of the whole get-together, thanks to the graphic pattern and modern color combinations. Insulated Tote, $14; NeelaBags.com.
Set Out Sleek Utensils
Traditional utensils seem overly fancy for a carefree outdoor affair, but plastic knives, forks and spoons contribute to landfill waste. One smart alternative? Cutlery made from renewable, biodegradable materials like bamboo. The streamlined aesthetic and subdued hue are an appealing bonus. Service for 8 Flatware Set, 24 pieces for $9.95; Cooking.com.
Forgo Traditional Linens
Because of its versatility-it's incredibly cheap and easy to clean-oilcloth makes an excellent outdoor decoration. Just buy as much as you need from a local fabric store and cut it into the desired shape with standard scissors. When needed, clean it with a soapy sponge. Oilcloth, prices start around $2 per yard; Oilcloth.com for store locations.
Dust Off Your Jars
First produced in 1884, the Ball mason jar comes in a variety of sizes and sometimes retails for less than a dollar. Consider using them as a recurring motif: Place candles in small ones, store utensils in a large one, and put flowers (stems cut short) in shallow jelly jars, loosely arranged. Ball mason jar, about $10 for 12; FreshPreserving.com.
Baste with Pizzazz
Grilling tools don't have to be humdrum. Case in point: this branchlike baster, meant to mimic a pine tree branch. As well as adding a festive air to the grill, it's a fun way to get older children interested in cooking, since they'll like using the faux-wood handle and bright-green silicon brushes. Twiggy Basting Brush, $12.50; FieldMuseum.org.
Serve Up Some Polka Dots
Forget stuffy silver trays; summer's the time to delight guests with tables full of bright colors and fetching designs-like polka dots. These melamine platters are just right for a poolside get-together; if you really want to get dotty, buy the matching plates and cups. Multi Dot Platter, $18; PlumParty.com.
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Playful Party Decor