Summer may be winding down, but while the going is good, we're planning to make the most of the balmy weather and extra hours of daylight. That means taking full advantage of our al fresco spaces, whatever they may be — wrap-around porch (jealous), back deck, or rooftop perch that's only accessible by crawling up a ladder and through a hatch. And when we retreat to our porch, patio, or what have you, we'll likely want to take along cold beverages and some snacks.
You're with us, right? Right.
That's where a serving tray comes in handy. But not just any tray will do. Brews on the back deck? You'll want something rugged and practical. Rosé on the rooftop? You'll want something a bit less sturdy, with plenty of panache.
Here are our favorite serving trays for every outdoor occasion.
1. For Sweet Tea on the Veranda: Deco Handle Tray, $59 at West Elm
While it doesn't exactly scream Deep South, this Art Deco-inspired throwback piece crafted in sturdy mango wood is a shoo-in for leisurely, gossip-driven sippin' sessions out on the porch. Pour us another, sugar.
2. For Post-Nap Sweets on the Sleeping Porch: Doily Serving Tray, $60 at Beekman 1802
Inspired by the fading "symbol of suburban gentility" known as the paper doily, this handsome black-glazed stoneware tray from potter Jasmine Crowe is the perfect vehicle for cookies, tarts, and other bite-sized indulgences. We think Mary Berry would approve.
3. For Beers on the Back Deck: Decker Galvanized Tray, $29.95 at Crate and Barrel
Timeless and unpretentious, this galvanized sheet metal workhorse with cutout handles is a no-brainer for backyard BBQs. We imagine it looks best filled with beers, brats, and baskets of steamed shrimp.
4. For Margaritas on the Patio: Harper + Oldham Cactus Tray, $31.95 at Fishs Eddy
Maybe it's just us, but this square tray featuring a whimsical illustration by the late, great Charlie Harper seems custom-designed for a round of prickly pear margaritas.
5. For Popsicles on the Stoop: Melamine Rectangle Serving Tray, $12.99 at Target
Cutout handles and a size that can pretty much accommodate anything make this vibrant, durable, and affordable tray a great find for any occasion. But the striped tray's pop colors are best complemented by edibles that are similarly hued — we're thinking a smorgasbord of frozen treats.
6. For Rosé on the Rooftop: Splash Tray by Hisham Bharoocha, $42 at Fab
We know ... throwing a pool party isn't always in the cards for apartment-dwelling urbanites. Maybe it's never in the cards, but if you have access to a rooftop, a solid imagination, and this splashy, made-in Sweden melamine tray (preferably holding a few glasses of rosé), it's all the easier to daydream of crisp chlorinated water and inflatable swans.
7. For Crudités on the Terrace: Cooper Hewitt 'Spinne' Square Tray, $38 at notNetural
This laminate wood tray gussied up with a pattern based on an early 20th-century Viennese textile print is no doubt eye-catching. And given the tray was designed as part of a collaboration with New York City's premiere design museum, we think it would find a perfect home on a big city terrace, balcony, or, umm, fire escape.
8. For Mai Tais on the Lanai: Marimekko Karuselli Round Tray, $44.50 at FinnStyle
Certainly one of Marimekko's more eye-popping floral prints, this retro-tropical "Merry-Go-Round" tray screams Finland meets Hawaii. It's bound to be the star of the show no matter what you serve on it, but we say go with the flow with a round of Mai Tais — or maybe a pu pu platter?
9. For Iced Coffee on the Front Steps: Brooklynese Cawfee Tray, $22.95 at Fishs Eddy
For New Yorkers and other urban dwellers, there's no better summertime activity than brewing a big pitcher of iced coffee on a lazy Sunday afternoon and heading out front to the stoop to watch the world go by. This fiberglass tray is conveniently step-sized yet big enough to hold an extra glass and an ample amount of snacks in case the neighbors pop by for a chat.