Imagine spending a lazy, sun-drenched day on the Mediterranean coast, sipping sangría and nibbling marinated olives. It’s a vision that inspired Golden floral designer Cori Cook to dream up this scene for an alfresco afternoon with friends in the backyard. Cook marries the perfection of a Colorado summer day with the laid-back, elegant vibe of a European getaway—and you can, too, with these four simple rules.


Leave Some Room

A dining space is, after all, for eating and conversation. Tabletop items and accessories shouldn’t block faces or crowd out guests. “Leaving some open space will help create a more inviting, livable dinner experience where people will want to linger,” Cook says.


Find Funky Furniture

Forget the wrought-iron patio set and instead opt for mismatched chairs and playful seating options—like these metal drums. Need more seats? Move your favorite settee outside for the event.


Create Color Contrast

To prevent a “matchy-matchy” feel, work in hues from opposite ends of the color wheel. Here, a turquoise runner makes the orange and fuchsia flowers pop. Balance pattern (seen here in the mosaic plates) with solid colors.


Dive into the details

To complete the look, Cook topped the plates with small Crate & Barrel spice bowls filled with paprika and cumin and finished with a flower clipping. The design move was “way more theatrical than practical,” she says—but that’s part of the fun.

Get The Look


In this arrangement (below), Cook used a diverse assortment of flowers: hydrangeas, roses, bougainvillea, gloriosa lilies, star of Bethlehem, ginger, Helleborus, and orchids, among other varieties.


Using floral foam placed directly into the urn, Cook first added a hydrangea (one of the “showstopper” flowers) and alternated with each of the other flowers from there. The slightly asymmetrical arrangement is perfect for a laid-back gathering.


Cook played with one color in a range of shades (orange, sherbet, amber) to create nuance and complexity.


To prevent your centerpiece from having a ’90s bridal look, combine flowers with different personalities:

1. Statement pieces that have bulk (hydrangea and roses).

2. Filler flowers for a natural look (jasmine vine).

3. Linear flowers to fill the arrangement vertically (ginger and tritoma).

4. Wispy gestures, or the playful sprigs that add shape but not stiffness (bougainvillea and gloriosa lilies).

Cori Cook Floral Design, 303-842-3273,