There's a perfect middle ground with picnics. It lies somewhere between sitting on a shirt with an open tub of hummus and stressing out about every last detail, from the blanket to the flatware.
To learn how to better walk the line, we called on Liz Martin of Charleston Weekender to help us out. Her online shop and design services specialize in helping everyone live every day as though it was the weekend—a mantra we can certainly get behind.
Your Picnic Foundations
"I'm all about using things that have multiple purposes, and that you can reuse to get more bang for your buck," says Martin. Buying a sturdy picnic blanket you can use time and time again is a solid choice, but so is something like a Turkish towel, she explains. "I call the Turkish towels my perfect weekend companion, because they dry so fast I can use them as a beach towel, as my picnic blanket, as my living room throw, or as tablerunner if I'm entertaining at home."
Turkish Towel, $36, thecharlestonweekender.com.
Navy Polka Dot Picnic Blanket, $53, justajoy.co.uk.
This extra-spacious blanket includes a waterproof backing, which is always useful.
Limited Edition Lemon Curd Picnic Rug, $158, tollymcrae.co.uk.
Treat it right, and this Tolly McRae blanket will last a lifetime. It's made from high-quality wool that is naturally moisture resistance while still being ultra soft. (The leather strap also makes for easy transportation.)
While Martin doesn't advise blowing your budget on entertaining, she does believe a few expensive items will help you in the long run. "It might feel unattainable, but you don't actually have to spend that much more to get handmade items. I think it's important to mix and match versatile things that are less pricey with nicer, handmade pieces that you can appreciate, cherish, and hold onto," says Martin.
The Canvas Weekender, $99, thecharlestonweekender.com.
This cheeky weekend bag is as sturdy as it gets, thanks to the canvas, leather handles, and metal feet on the base. It can also fit just about everything you'll need for your picnic, beach trip, or weekend getaway.
The design of this latigo leather and canvas bag favors height over width, and the aluminum frame makes it sturdy enough to carry all your outdoor eating essentials. Its fine craftsmanship is impressive enough to double as your work bag, too.
Retro Style Picnic Bicycle Pannier by Goodordering, $103, notonthehighstreet.com.
If you're a frequent picnicker, the insulation and assorted compartments on this bag make it a solid investment.
Your Picnic Tools
Martin is a Southerner through and through, which means she never says no to entertaining—even if it's on short notice. And if she's planning a quick get together, she relies on what she calls her "wow" pieces to get her by. That can be anything from fun plates to interesting silverware. "Throwing little flashes of color and interest distract people from the fact that maybe you're not the best chef, for example," says Martin, with a laugh.
Dapper Animal Salad Plates, $10, westelm.com.
Designer Rachel Kozlowski has dressed up your average dinner plates with cute and dapper animals. Picnic appropriate? We think so.
Falcon Enamelware Plate Set, $34, teaandkate.co.uk.
Sure, these enamelware plates don't have cute animals on them, but they are porcelain-fused, making them the most distinctive picnic plates we've ever come across.
Batik Print Serving Set, $36, leifshop.com.
No one will think about judging your food because they'll be too distracted by these handmade Kenyan spoons.
Grocery Cutting Board, $24, fermliving.com.
Going the cheese-and-charcuterie route? This retro-inspired cutting board is a must, then.
Mint Enamel Serving Tray, $36, shopterrain.com.
Your stacks of picnic-approved sandwiches will look great piled high on this mint-colored serving tray.
Enamel Cup, $10, opendoorshop.com.
Don't worry about breaking glass, opt for an enamel cup like this one. Your wine will taste the same, we promise.
Coastal Tiffin Box, $29, johnlewis.com.
If you don't want to worry about cleaning plates after your picnic, pack your food in these cool tiffin boxes.
Lennox Ice Bucket by Sunnylife, $55, opendoorshop.com.
It's not a picnic without an insulated ice bucket. Or at least it's not a picnic anyone will show up to.
Your Next Level Picnic Food
As the chef behind three concepts under one roof—Wise-Buck Smoked Meats, Feathertop, and the soon to be opened Scarecrow—Damon Wise probably doesn't have much time for picnics. But, when he does, he always makes sure to do them right.
The inventive "Snack Boats" like sour cream and charred onion dip with dukkah spice and crispy potato, as well as the creative sides including curried cauliflower with pickled raisins, mustard seed, and herbs at Wise-Buck Smoked Meats make the restaurant a common pit stop for picnickers on their way to Charleston's Hampton Park. (We're guilty as charged.)
If you want to tackle the picnic fare on your own, Wise suggests stopping by the farmer's market first. "You should be inspired by what's at the market and base your picnic around that," urges Wise. "Pack a variety of different, easy things to make. It could be a cucumber that's delicious and sweet, and it's dressed with olive oil and vinegar. It should be creative and not structured, just let single ingredients sing, really."
For more on Wise-Buck Smoked Meats, see wise-buck.scarecrowandco.com.