Here's some summer outside makeover ideas

Day, dusk or dissolving into night, now is the time for some midsummer magic says Kya deLongchamps who offers some fast, cheap and creative props that will allow you, your neighbours and friends to revel in the outdoors at the season’s peak.

MIDSUMMER’S DAY offers a reminder that we are about to freewheel downhill to the steel skies of autumn.

Shakespeare evoked the immersive pagan spirit of midsummer in the intoxicating mystery of the night — ‘where oxlips and the nodding violet grows, quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine, with sweet musk-roses and with eglantine.’

I don’t want to encourage hedonistic fire leaping in Cork suburbia this evening, but a sense-stroking evening of pleasure beyond the French doors — I’m in! 

Take hours, not days, raid the secondhand and Euro stores, and get crafty.

After that, it’s just a matter of letting your latent creativity out of the box and following the dream through with immortal abandon.

Lighting the way

Here's some summer outside makeover ideas

After food and drink, night-time enchantment demands staging. Set against ‘night’s embroidered cloths’, LED fed by batteries or solar is mesmerising thrown up as strings, nets and singles. 

For candlelight, tea-lights are laughingly inexpensive by the bag, and why not dig out those Christmas twinklers for double duty? 

Don’t use indoor intended mains fed lighting outside, and plug any electrical powered elements through at residual current device/plug (RCD) and the right amp loaded joiners.

Jam some jars

Take strings of battery or solar LEDs, curl, and stuff them inside thickly sided glass jars. Screw the jars shut if you like. 

Leave the switch near the top and turn them on after dark (you may only get a few hours from a pound shop set). Preserving jars, in fact any jar with clear or lightly coloured glass will do for a table, post or tree. 

Try tying up a few at the screw top with garden twine, creating different lengths, gather the string at the top with a drop of at least 50cm, over a butcher’s S-hook and suspend as a cascading chandelier. Use glass paint if you fancy a harlequin set. 

Place over temple height or thrust them well into supporting branches.

Shell shine

This uptown Martha Stewart number is a cheap but classy mariner’s tale. Make up a large, shallow rectangular tray filled with about 5-7cm of any sort of clean sand (lock up the cat). 

Save some scallop shells (try begging some from your local fishmonger or from the English Market in Cork) retaining the natural hinge if possible. Place a tea light in the shells at the pearly centre.

Terrace a few into natural up-lighters scattering smaller beach finds or glass horticultural beads around their base.

Lantern lit forest

Paper globes set on wire can be fitted out with LED battery lights to create softly bobbing orbs over the table or jewelling distant trees. A variety of sizes looks best. 

Buy them complete from €8 from outlets including IKEA or pick up a three pack of party shades from retailers including Woodies DIY for just €8.39. 

Save yourself the worry and don’t use these or any paper pieces with candles. 

Good old food tins can be decorated with punch patterns using a nail and small hammer, ideal for starry solstice lamps.

Fruity ice buckets

There are many varieties of these sumptuous frozen containers. The easiest is a quick vodka/spirit bottle-wrap. Take a large fizzy drinks bottle and cut it down to a deep vase. 

Stand your spirit bottle inside and poke citrus slices, herbs and berries around the gap. 

Squash in as much as possible, allow stems and petals to breach the surface. Top with distilled water (it freezes clear), and stand in the freezer. 

Cut away the plastic mould and stand on a plate, fluffing flowers and fruits around the base. 

To make a bowl wfor loose bottles, ice-cream, or whatever, fill a larger plastic container with 5cm of water, freeze, put a smaller bowl inside and weight it before filling as before.

Horn of plenty

Here's some summer outside makeover ideas

Pineapples are a great focus for feasting at those bacchanalian knees ups, and fat juicy ones are just €1.50 at Lidl. Spray the spiky tops gold. 

Throw some vegetables in (cheaper than flowers), for eccentric, edible place setting posies. 

Baby carrots, purple sprouting broccoli and more fabulous fruits like pomegranate split open to reveal their colour, can be sacrificed for tables and wreaths created for rails and posts.

Float and flowers

Choose a glass vessel and use the entire depth and magnifying quality of water to layer interest. 

White stones, sea glass and shells in a range of sizes can be left on the bottom or poke through shallow water to create a more interesting table-scape.

For an alternative to the surface flower, take a large, stiff colourful flower head, and a perfectly formed glossy leaf or two. 

Put them into a high-ball size glass, fill with water, sealing the surface with a candle. Faux flower heads are fine too.

Middle Eastern magic

Oriental and Arabic themes thrilled in the 1920s and are popular this year for Waggy and celebrity bashes. 

Get your more lithe guests writhing on the lawn on rugs, throws and cushions using pallet tables (€1-€5 a piece). These can be run into as long a table as you like. 

Check the palettes for splinters and nails first and stack two or three for greater comfort. 

Moroccan lanterns set at intervals over long runners can start some imaginative set dressing. Include flat sheets suspended on stout poles as desert shelters.

Heaven’s cloths

No table-cloths? If a bed sheet doesn’t suit, buy packs of identically sized cheap tea-towels in your colours, and sew up to size, right sides together. 

Use pinking shears to ensure the seams are short and allow the cloth to lie flat. 

Dress up all those dull chairs dragged from the house by winding their backs Puckishly with sinuous creeper cuttings from the garden’s borders.

Try Pininterest’s area for budget summer party themes — masterful, inspiring and including everything from decorating the garden in costume jewellery to posing an old picture frame for a ‘selfie’ dress up booth. 

Start with rule one of all great decorating: use what you already have.

Cork Midsummer Festival continues all this weekend. For events and happenings go to


Here's some summer outside makeover ideas

Make a summer flower arrangement for the garden party with an old bottle or vegetable crate.

  You will need

  • An apple crate or timber wine box, more than one for a long table. Ask at your local independent fruit and vegetable outlet or off-licence.
  • Moss. You could gather in woodland or buy from a florist. Take from dead wood to avoid interfering with growing trees.
  • A variety of flowers from the garden, plumped with one small shop bought bouquet of small stiff blossoms and leaves.
  • Ornamental cabbages, succulents, small fruits anything you have on hand is fine.
  • Chicken wire over damp material such as balled newspaper or florist’s oasis for the inside of the crate to prop and feed blossoms. For more formality, stand three or four clear jam jars inside the crate and simply add arrangements to those.
  • An old white cotton sheet, as soft as butter, as a tablecloth. The contrast of textures is irresistible.

To Make:

  • Sand any rough edges from the crate. Give it a quick wash with emulsion or white poster paint if you don’t like it bald, otherwise leave any lettering on show.
  • Insert your support material and arrange it evenly over the base of the crate.
  • Start building your arrangement. For a forest floor look, keep it low and relatively even with plenty of greenery including wild Irish ivy for softness. Fatten with shrubby cuttings from the garden.
  • Arrange moss over the edges of the crate — how much disguise you want to give it is up to you.
  • You might like to puddle some moss and stones around the arrangement on the table itself.
  • A long table can take 2-3 crates, or put a long rough plank down the table surface with the crate/crates as a centrepiece.
  • Line the plank with clear glass tumblers with smaller arrangements and stud the gaps with votives.


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