Growing up in a small town, I love the feeling of a close-knit community, where folks look out for each other, and everywhere you go, you’re greeted by a friend. When Dan and I moved to our little lake cottage, we were thrilled to discover that this special neighborhood was just like a small town. People are friendly and welcoming. And, best yet, they like to gather together and have fun.

My favorites are the girls’ night out happy hours. Usually, they are spontaneous — someone throws out an invite, and everyone shows up with a bottle of wine and an appetizer. When the weather is nice, we sit out by the lake, swapping stories, laughing until our sides hurt, sharing our lives.

Now, it’s my turn to host. I have the perfect reason for a celebration: welcoming a new friend to the neighborhood. My friend Nancy has nabbed a house just a few doors down from ours, and I can’t wait to introduce her to my new tribe of girlfriends.

Like so many of my good friends, I met Nancy through Nell Hill’s. As we worked together on creating beautiful spaces in her home, we built a wonderful friendship. So when Nancy was looking for a weekend home near the city, I was thrilled when she found the perfect fixer-upper near us. (She promised me I could write about it when she’s all done!)

I’m always looking for an excuse to set a beautiful table, so I decided to make my girls’ night out into a dinner party on the deck. I’m no cook, so I’ll pick up a lovely salad from a nearby restaurant. Instead, I’ll put my energy into making the table a feast for the eyes.

When Dan and I were looking at the houses around our little lake, I was surprised by the number that had their kitchen on the lower level. Now I understand why. We love entertaining on our lower patio, and it’s still our favorite outdoor space, but it is a pain to cart everything up and down the stairs a million times when you entertain. So to remedy that problem, my girls’ night out will be on the deck just off our kitchen.

Until now, I’ve filled this long, thin space with a line of Adirondack chairs, a great place to sit with your morning coffee and watch the wildlife around the lake. I found an inexpensive zinc table that fits the space like a glove.

I’m so drawn to the color combination of blue and green right now. I love how fresh, cool and pure it feels. So I’m using it as the inspiration for my dinner table. The vintage inspired table cloth is the perfect base. Then we layered up with a mix of dishes — a white dinner plate, topped with a leaf majolica salad plate and a blue and white bread plate. Never be afraid to mix patterns, shapes and sizes on your table — each layer makes the table more interesting.

This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity’s blog at

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