Flavorful, richly-spiced cuisine paired with the intricately patterned, lantern-lit backdrop of Morocco proved just the inspiration we needed to revamp the standard summer barbecue. This three-part series provides planning inspiration and how-tos for executing your own Moroccan-style outdoor evening.

Don’t miss the other articles in our Summer Entertaining series:

Part II: The Essential Spices

Part III: The Feast


Though we love a summer barbecue (who doesn’t?) we wanted to host an outdoor gathering that was a little less expected. Choosing a theme—here, Moroccan nights—paired with expert advice on how to pull it off, helped us create a more memorable experience for our guests.

To set the scene, we spoke with Boulder interior designer and stylist Stephanie Waddell. She has experience bringing fantasy to life for Boulder’s Catamounts theatre, and planning its community gatherings and farm dinners. Here, Waddell provides easy DIY tips (and inexpensive, attainable resources) for transforming your outdoor space by bringing the indoors out.

5280: How do you concept around themes?

Waddell: I go to places like Pinterest and pull tons of images. I often start by pulling individual images I like and put them on a design board so I can see how they work together. I mix colors to see what looks good, identify items I love, and decide what is missing. For Catamounts, each time I had to hit a few major categories: lighting, plates/utensils, textiles (including napkins and runners), fresh flowers and greens, and themed decorative items. I pull colors and items from images that can be sourced quickly and locally. I shop World Market, Target, and do tons of thrift shopping.

(We followed Waddell’s advice and created our own Moroccan Nights Pinterest board.)

How would you create a Moroccan vibe outdoors?

Bring rugs, pillows, and even curtains (if you have a place to hang them) outside. I like the idea of low tables. Get giant pieces of plywood from Home Depot or something and place them on cinder blocks. Then drape textiles over the top. Hang lanterns from trees, or it would be neat to place lanterns or hurricanes around in the grass (as long as they are enclosed). If you have a setting where you can do string lights over your sitting area, it would be pretty. Bring poofs out if you have them!

How do we decorate the tables?

You want to make sure a table feels full and festive but not so full that you have no room to set things. Create different levels of heights. For example, make the flowers the highest, candles lower, and a mix of cool decorative objects.

What type of decorative objects could we use to set a Moroccan tone?

This Moroccan restaurant in Chicago had bowls of spices (like cinnamon sticks, paprika, and more) in the entryway that you could pick up, touch, and smell. You could create that sensory experience on the tables: Set out little tiny dishes all over the table, each filled with interesting Moroccan spices. You could wrap cloth napkins with twine and stick a cinnamon stick on each one. You can also put out bowls of dates and figs or other dried fruits—some of which you can eat or use to garnish your food.

Next up: In part two we continue to spice up summer with Dan Hayward of Boulder’s Savory Spice Shop. In part three chef Dana Murrell of Green Chef shares her recipe for Moroccan steak and Capital Tea’s Lisa Brio teaches us to brew classic Moroccan mint tea.