A Beautiful Backyard Equipped with All the Entertaining Essentials

Parties at textile designer John Robshaw's Connecticut home feel like a mini vacation thanks to his worldly aesthetic and laid-back approach.

Two hours from his showroom in New York City, John Robshaw's 1840s farmhouse in Sharon, CT, feels a world away. Overflowing with his signature Indian block print fabrics, the house is a glamorous backdrop to weekend parties he and his wife, Rachel, throw for friends. To maximize time for socializing, they've designed a pre-party strategy. "It's about having everything set up in advance," says John, who opts for mismatched decor, strategically placed games, and a variety of drinks and snacks for guests to enjoy until dinner is served.

garden gazeebo outdoor seating

John sets up distinct gathering areas in the garden so guests mingle away from the kitchen. Encouraging people to kick back is as simple as pulling furniture into a group and putting out snacks and games.

out door garden bar shaded table
Annie Schlechter

A vibrant bar scene doesn't need to involve a vine-covered arbor. Set up a folding table in any nook, cover it with printed fabric, and add tall flowers or branches in a big copper bucket. "Going big with the flowers give a bar an exciting feel," John says. "It's instant atmosphere."

outdoor patio table setting garden view
Annie Schlechter

Entertaining outdoors is a chance to shake off formality. John uses an Indian sari as an oversize, flowy runner, letting it puddle on the ground. "You could also buy a few yards of fabric and drape it over your table," he says. Mix-and-match patterned cushions brighten vintage metal chairs. Sticking to a blue-and-white palette keeps the look cohesive.

"You're outside, and it's bright. You're competing with intense colors, so I like to go intense on the table too," says John, who juxtaposes hot and cool colors: pink and coral against blue and aqua in the place settings, vases, and flowers. Down the center of the table, flowers from the garden, bowls of fruit, and farm-stand berries still in their paper baskets emphasize the informal feel.

man sitting on chair in garden gazebo
Annie Schlechter

John uses metals—like brass trays and copper Indian bowls—as a neutral. "They're a kind of grounding color," he says. Printed plates from DBO Home stand out against contrasting chargers. "I love how chargers pop a plate off the table to add another layer," he says.

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Annie Schlechter

Annie Schlechter has been a professional photographer since 2000. Her work ranges from portraits and food to home and travel. She's photographed for numerous major titles and brands, such as Brides, Conde Nast Traveler, The Greenwich Hotel, New York Magazine, Grand Lux Cafe, and many more.

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