dining outdoors in French style

by Sharon Santoni

I was so happy when Anita of Cedar Hill Farmhouse announced that this month’s French Country theme would be ‘dining outdoors’.    For us, here in Normandy, dining al fresco is an integral part of the summer.  Long evenings, warmer temperatures, taking time to enjoy a meal outside with friends, or family, or both.


It feels completely different to lay a table outdoors.  There is more freedom with colour, more space, cushions are scattered to make seats comfortable, flowers can be used in huge vases or in tiny glasses or simply laid on the tablecloth.   More than ever, the table becomes  the focus point and  a pleasure for the eyes.


 It is light until around ten in the evening at the moment, so early evening the candlelight is barely visible.   As friends arrive we enjoy a drink in the garden first of all before sitting down to eat as dusk falls.

Yesterday evening,  I laid my table and shot these pictures mostly before our guests arrived.

The dogs hung around, hoping for a ball to be thrown, a pat on the back, poised to be useful, country style.


As the light fades, the colours grow more intense, and we reach for a jacket or a shawl for our shoulders.   We are lucky here not to have many bugs to interrupt our dinner.

 In between courses I hopped upstairs to take an overhead shot, luckily my friends know about my strange habit of taking pictures at all hours …

and by the time it got really dark, we prepared to move indoors for coffee, and all that was left of our dinner table was a rumpled cloth and bright candles.   This is maybe my favourite moment in outdoor dining, when all the light is centered on the table itself, when the conversation feels more intimate, a privileged and fleeting moment.

If you would like to see what Anita and her other guests have to say about summer dining, French style then pop over and check out their sites.


Anita at Cedar Hill Farmhouse

Courtney at  French CountryCottage

Kim at Savvy Southern Style

and Debbie at Confessions of a Plate Addict








Confessions of a Plate Addict June 29, 2014 - 11:29 am

How beautiful, Sharon! I love the way you captured each moment…especially the candlelight! I am enjoying our little Country French group! Happy Sunday!…hugs…Debbie

Kim June 29, 2014 - 11:40 am

Sharon, I would love to dine with you outdoors in Normandy. How beautiful. I wish our nights were much cooler.

Delaine June 29, 2014 - 11:59 am

I’m envious of being able to dine outdoors! Here in the Mississippi Delta it is rare that the pests such as mosquitoes aren’t driving you indoors! Your pictures in this post are lovely as always. Merci!

Courtney June 29, 2014 - 1:40 pm

Absolutely beautiful!!

psharpe June 29, 2014 - 2:10 pm

Lovely…checked out all the blogs… great ideas. Thanks for showing us some of your ‘world’.

lindaraxa June 29, 2014 - 2:51 pm

Beautiful Sharon!

Colleen Taylor June 29, 2014 - 3:59 pm

This is just too lovely for words & oh so romantic Sharon. Dining outdoors is always such a fun thing to do. It is just different. Here in Arizona, dining outdoors is common even when the evening temperatures are still 100. The only way I can stand that is when our misters are on & that cools everyone down. These photos make me want to do this tonight! Thanks for sharing. I’ll pop on over to check out Anita’s blog.

Gee June 29, 2014 - 4:07 pm

How luvly… here I find my summer evenings are getting too warm for alfresco dining. Early summer I do indulge. But nothing as beautiful as yours…. I am inspired.

Lorrie June 29, 2014 - 4:09 pm

Eating outdoors is a pleasure we enjoy as often as possible. Sometimes it’s just the two of us, at other times, guests and family join in. A sense of relaxation envelops everyone. We have few, if any, mosquitoes to bother us so we can linger long into the fading light. Your table is beautiful, Sharon, and I love those oversized napkins. Bon dimanche!

Vicky from Athens June 29, 2014 - 4:45 pm

Oh what a beautiful setting! Here in No. Georgia it’s way too hot, humid and insect-infested (mosquitoes, in particular) to enjoy eating outdoors in mid-summer. But I can enjoy your summer nights vicariously through you! Thanks for sharing!

Rita C. at Panoply June 29, 2014 - 5:26 pm

Sharon, this is outstanding! From the first overhead photo through the time lapse of the evening hours – just gorgeous!

Linda June 29, 2014 - 5:56 pm

Sharon, these photos are just beautiful! I am so inspired. I love the flower arrangements, too. However, we have a very small outdoor space with room for pots of flowers and herbs and one tiny round table. No space to entertain guests. I would love to have more room out there to set a fabulous table like yours. Merci!

Madonna/aka/Ms. Lemon June 29, 2014 - 6:04 pm

You have set a lovely table. I especially love that you have set the bouquets on each end. While I love flowers, I hate trying to have a conversation over a large bouquet.

Lory Bernstein June 29, 2014 - 6:37 pm

I’m absolutely loving this theme you have all presented! Each one is a pleasure to enjoy. You’ve got every element working together here to communicate a most delightful al fresco evening. The rustic neutral picnic table functions as a background canvas upon which to build your art. The floral cushions are gorgeous and provide a lushness that is only underscored by the fruits and floral bouquets. The scattered blooms on the table add a touch of relaxed whimsy that keep it from feeling too manicured and I love that the whole thing is enveloped in greenery, giving it a grounding. The candlelight is the icing on a delicious cake!

Jan June 29, 2014 - 7:10 pm

How beautiful and inspiring don’t get the chance to dine outdoors so often here in England !! But managed to have a lovely lunch in my English cottage garden this week for my friend Zoe who is over for a short stay from France

Maria Luiza June 29, 2014 - 9:32 pm

For a little while, it was like being there with you, enjoying the beautiful table full of flowers, the evening scent and the always adorable company of some dogs!
Thank you, have a happy week!

Sarah June 29, 2014 - 10:33 pm

Perfection ~ just as it should be in the Normandy country side. Your table is filled with delights from the floral cushions to the woven napkins to the gorgeous flowers. Like I said, “Perfection!”

Isabelle B @ Anti-Aging-Science June 29, 2014 - 11:32 pm

Stunning. I love the big vases of flowers at either end of the table, and I love the pink and grey and green theme…and the way the light fades to just candle light, and well, I love it all really! Just stunning.

stacey snacks June 30, 2014 - 1:04 am

One of my most favorite meals in France was dining at your outdoor table a few summer ago…..I am mentioning it in a post this week, as a matter of fact!

Anita from Cedar Hill Farmhouse June 30, 2014 - 1:48 am

Ahhhh… a delight to the eyes. I think it must be as close to heaven and I can imagine sitting around your table as the light dims… sigh.

La Contessa June 30, 2014 - 1:50 am

Beautiful……..and i adore how Ghetto gets closer and closer to the plates!

Jeanne McKay Hartmann June 30, 2014 - 5:55 am

Sharon, your table is absolutely gorgeous! Love the bright pinks and worn textures, the perfect contrast to the soft, summer light. Here’s to many happy evenings under the twilight skies and the stars! XOXO

jack June 30, 2014 - 7:58 am

so beautiful

Toni Robson June 30, 2014 - 1:35 pm

There is just such a feeling of living life to it’s fullest when you take the time to enjoy a feast outdoors. I love being in my garden so much my husband and I have just recently built a pergola area large enough to fit the outdoor table setting he made. With such a small house it gives us the freedom to entertain my extended family comfortably and still enjoy the garden. Love your setting, the colours are so fresh and pretty, just makes me think of spring.

Heather in Arles June 30, 2014 - 3:02 pm

These are some of my favorite of your photographs in quite some time, Sharon – just magical. And no, I am not just saying that as G&G are in them!

Peggy Braswell June 30, 2014 - 4:17 pm

here in S. CA we can take advantage of the summer nights + eat outdoors + stunning images. xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

Tabitha June 30, 2014 - 6:38 pm

O how lovely; what perfect expression of word, moment, detail, mood, thought, ambience.

Angelina July 1, 2014 - 12:24 am

Love the color palette!!

Emm July 1, 2014 - 2:04 am

What a lovely progression of pictures through the dinner and the evening. Although I notice that Ghetto also progresses, from under the table to up on the bench. Hmmmm.

The Enchanted Home July 1, 2014 - 11:36 am

AMAZING!! Love it……it is truly beautiful and magical:)

Parsimonious Décor Darling July 1, 2014 - 2:43 pm

This is absolutely enchanting…..I am ENAMORED!! Visiting you from The Scoop.

portefeuille July 3, 2014 - 7:33 am

Wow, so beautiful, thank you for sharing…

ann pauley July 4, 2014 - 5:41 am

Love to know what you served in your french tureens!

Sonya Wodicka July 4, 2014 - 11:50 am

You have solved a problem for me: setting a large table for 4 diners has always baffled me. Very stylish and beautiful!

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Bareera March 30, 2015 - 3:19 pm

Superb @@@


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