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When my husband and I moved into our apartment I was instantly drawn to the cozy little garden that now sits below our bedroom window. A simple string of lights hangs low over a weathered wood table, while a piece of fabric gives shade to a separate lounge area. Plants have taken over the outside areas, but rather than looking messy they provide a secret garden feel. A little picket fence runs along the perimeter and when you are sitting within its borders I find it easy to ignore the cars parked nearby and the voices coming from the nearby apartments. The setting is designed perfectly for long summer days and every morning I when I wake up to find my little backyard shaded with vibrant bougainvillaea and overgrown birds-of-paradise I forget that a big city is just beyond the front door. Last summer my husband and I made use of this space and would often sit in the lounges with a cocktail in hand, something on the grill, and a bit of music streaming from a phone. One particular evening we ended up sitting in our garden with friends late into the evening after a party we were hosting had ended. The string of lights cast a perfect yellow hue while a terracotta fireplace provided an extra glow and a campfire worthy plume of smoke. We kept it casual with cold beers, a little plate of leftover cheeses and cookies from dinner, and gathered chairs to form a haphazard circle of friends. The scene wasn’t primped or styled perfectly, but the environment couldn’t have been more perfect as the conversations drifted into jokes with friends and stories from the people that meant most to us.

This summer I hope to create the same friendly feel and grow upon the few gatherings my husband and I hosted last year. The large weathered table is the perfect setting for a buffet of shared food and drinks, but as much as I love the outdoor feel, I would like something that is a bit…cleaner. I teamed up with Rust-Oleum to test out their NeverWet spray which would be the best way to add a linen element to my outdoor dining table without destroying it in the seasonal weather. Using a raw piece of muslin and watered down gouache in a deep fuchsia and bold red hues I crafted a table cloth that can act as a simple barrier between the table and the food. My goal was to use that rustic inspiration and convert it into a tablecloth that didn’t feel too formal. Something that wasn’t too precious and was reminiscent of a drop cloth, albeit a much more interesting drop cloth. When painting the stripes I wasn’t careful to prevent splatters or uneven lines and used a wide brush to add strokes of varying color intensity. The thickness and color were designed in a very loose pattern giving the end product an organic look that mirrored the outdoor space.

A few weeks ago I peered out my bedroom window to find our neighbors dining with friends along the long wooden table. They had lined it with patterned linens, plugged in the string lights, and scattered pillar candles throughout the space. The scene had such an idyllic appearance, but what was much more exciting were the sounds of glasses and forks clinking against each other paired with muffled voices coming from the lively conversations around the table. I hope to mimic moments like these over the summer and put my linen cloth to good use with al fresco dinner parties and early evening cocktails around the table. While summer vacation doesn’t exist anymore and events need to be scheduled weeks in advance, I’m going relish in those moments with friends, gathered in our secret garden in the heart of the city.

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Rust-Oleum®’s NeverWet® contains breakthrough technology that protects virtually any surfaces with a superhydrophic treatment that dramatically repels water, mud, ice and other liquids.

Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Rust-Oleum® via Glam Media. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Rust-Oleum®.