Cute Picnic Ideas (From Centerpieces To Cheese Labels)

We’re back to share our latest “Try This” column in Richmond’s R. Home magazine


This time we offered up a slew of backyard entertaining ideas for our three page column, but the hijinx always begin when we have to shoot something months in advance- like hunting down Christmas ornaments in September, or in this case, shooting our not-yet-blooming backyard in March.

We worked with the photographer to place the patio table so that there was as much greenery in the background as possible (thank goodness for evergreens). It made sense in the close-up photograph that made the mag, but here’s a behind-the-scenes shot to demonstrate just how not-normal the table placement really was. Do you see the left leg in the mulch?


We also switched out our regular black patio chairs with white indoor chairs for a lighter look (which would actually work if you’re having an outdoor party on a dry summer day). And speaking of dry, you may notice that the ground is anything but. Well it rained for three days straight before the shoot (in fact, we ended up using our rain date since the first scheduled shoot date got rained out). And what does moist grass mean when you’re also shooting a picnic scene? For us it meant laying out layers of cardboard under the borrowed picnic blanket so it wouldn’t get muddy before being returned after the shoot.

We usually get a few questions about the process of being contributing editors and how our columns come about, so here’s a general rundown. The editor in chief calls us and tells us the theme for the upcoming issue (travel, architecture, the holidays, etc). In this case she wanted to see something having to do with outdoor parties and gatherings since she knew it would be coming out in May. After we learn the theme we take a few days to brainstorm a bunch of ideas and “pitch” them back to the editor in chief. For example we came up with the idea of doing a patio table setting and a casual picnic set-up and we shared a few of the individual suggestions that we’d include in our piece. For example, using a cake stand with fruit on it as a centerpiece…


… and making cheerful cheese labels to cute up your picnic…


… and filling a metal silverware caddy with ice and using it to serve cold beverages…


From our brief descriptions of each idea, the editor in chief then selects her favorites and approves our concept for the column. At that point the shopping begins. We run out and purchase supplies “on approval” (which means stores know we’re with the magazine and loan us things that have to be returned in mint condition or we’re in trouble with a capital T). Then we set up a shoot date with the photographer who comes out to our house where we have everything set up and ready to go. It’s just us and the photographer (there’s no prop stylist or lighting specialist) so we often find ourselves blocking a glare by holding up a sheet or even crouching under something to subtly hold it in place while the photographer snaps away. It’s really fun to see things come full circle, from an idea that we pitched to a bona fide magazine spread a few months later.

We also like to have a trial run with our propping in advance (realizing that a certain set-up is too crowded or bare in front of the photographer is a lot more stressful than being prepared in advance). Here’s our little practice run for this issue (laid out on the dining room table since it was raining cats and dogs outside):


And here’s the finished product- our cheerful little magazine spread (we highly recommend picking up a copy at a local Barnes & Noble to see it in all its glossy glory, or even subscribing if you’re not a near-Richmond resident).


Thankfully the strange placement of the table and the layers of cardboard under the picnic blanket are nowhere to be seen. And everything that we borrowed was safely returned the weekend after (although it was a bit sad to say goodbye to that fun striped little picnic blanket).


So that’s how it all went down with our outdoor entertaining article in R. Home. Oh and you can check out a bigger (readable) JPG of it right here (just click to zoom). Of course we’ve already shot another column that will come out in July (it’s SUCH a fun theme) so stay tuned…


  1. says

    So freakin adorable! I esp love the tablecloth and centerpiece! So jealous of your life, yet again! BTW, I got inspired by your blue fretwork pillow and put together some free artwork on my blog if you’re interested in checking it out!

  2. Noelle says

    Great job guys!! The colors are so vibrant and the green is delicious! Even though this photo shoot took place in March, you’d think it was a summer day in July. You’ve got a great eye! :)


  3. Martha says

    Congrats on the new article, it looks great! LOVE the cake stand idea. I have a square white one from TJ Maxx and I am off to fill it with fruit for my kitchen table! Thanks for the inspiration!

  4. says

    Wow – when I pick up a magazine, I swoon over the pictures, forgetting that the pictures were probably taken MONTHS prior to publishing. Thanks for the reminder! Your “picnic pictures” are beautiful, even if they were taken in March!

    Thanks for sharing, and I’ve voted (again) – you’re up by around 100 this morning! Keep reminding us of voting, because I don’t remember to vote unless you post! HAHA!! Just promise, if you win, you’ll share what you do with us!

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Hey Amy,

      You know we’ll share every dirty detail! In fact we wrote a post a while back where we dared to imagine what we could do with such a big chunk of change. It’s definitely not in the bag or anything (we’re expecting to be biting our nails for the next eight days) but it’ll be really interesting to see how it all turns out in the end!


  5. says

    Love the centerpiece with the fruit! You mentioned that you hated returning a fun striped picnic basket but I didn’t see a basket in the pics above. Did you mean picnic BLANKET? :)

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Ah yes, blanket not basket! How strange that my fingers just automatically typed “basket” after the word picnic. They really have a mind of their own these days…


  6. Yvette says

    I’m looking for centerpiece and decor inspiration for the 4th of July. It will be my sons 1st birthday on July 2nd and are planning on having his big bash on the 4th. Are you planning on posting any cool Fourth of July party themes???

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Hmm, good question! We don’t have anything on the agenda yet but off the top of my head it might be cute to do something with red apples in blue tin buckets (you can get cheap metal ones and spray paint them blue) down the center of the table with a burlap runner. Or maybe white bowls full of red strawberries with a blue runner? Of course there are always mini American flags you can work into arrangements (a big bowl of red apples with mini flags sticking out would be cute). And cupcakes or tarts with strawberries and blueberries on white icing would be oh so patriotic and delish. Hope it helps!


  7. says

    I LOVE your behind-the-scenes photos and such. So interesting to see how things *really* work. I voted for you guys today! I can’t wait to see what you do with all that dough!

  8. jbh says

    Richmond and R Home are lucky to have you. And it’s fascinating to me to see the behind the scenes working of a photo shoot. Thanks so much for sharing, and congrats on your very successful pitches! Seems that editor loved your ideas.

  9. Kellye says

    I love the cheese markers! So cute and fun. I had a graduation party and served gourmet flavored potato chips (idea from your wedding album. I covered wooden clothes pins with cute paper and used them to hold signs identifying the chip flavors. Thanks for sharing all the fun, simple, AFFORDABLE ideas.

  10. Sam & Jacci says

    Ooooh, girl, that cake plate creation is one of my all time favorite Sherry Petersik centerpieces! (Oops, or did John come up with that one?) Anyway, the alstromeria were definitely the ticket. Gorgeous combinations… you’re getting really good at this design stuff, ya know? ;)


  11. Lara says

    I’m a huge fan of height/depth on the table – I always love seeing cakestand centerpiece ideas! I have a subscription to Richmond magazine and always look for your articles and ideas – they definitely add a little extra color and fun to the magazine! Keep up the fantastic work (John, it’s definitely a bit different from the PSP & Whethermen guy I met at UVA, but I love the creativity you and Sherry bring to all your projects…I’m hooked on y’all’s site!)

  12. says

    Congratulations on the article – how much fun! In the future, when I have the opportunity to do work with mags like this (Fingers crossed :) that is)I may have to hit you up for some tips !

    Great work guys! Oh, and just to add to your 4th of July comment – I just saw super cute metal pails at IKEA over the weekend in all kinds of colors, including a great 4th of July Blue – plus they had handles and lids. Anyway, thought someone may want to save some time from having to paint them if they wanted.

    Good luck in all your endeavors – oh and hope you win the BHG competition :)

  13. Charlotte says

    I LOVE those yellow ice cream bowls! where are they from? it doesnt say in the sources. I must say, as a fellow 27 year old Richmond newlywed and new homeowner, I am very proud of your accomplishments!

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Hey Charlotte,

      They actually were a gift from a friend (they were hand made at a pottery place) but you might be able to find something similar on ebay or at a place like World Market that sells ceramic pieces. Hope it helps! And thanks for the kind words. Made our day.


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