Designer Kevin Walsh shares his hints to elevate your setup and make it convenient to grab your gear at a moment’s notice
“Why not make it chic?” Kevin Walsh says of his philosophy on tailgating. “That’s really my whole mantra with everything.” Whether you’re heading to a polo match, a fireworks display, a picnic in the park, or a football game, convenience is also key when it comes to packing up the car, unloading, and enjoying the day with friends. Here, Walsh uses items from his home as well as his Little Rock shop, Bear Hill Interiors, to set the scene for a laid-back day with kicked-up style. Follow his tips to create your own stunning setup.
Shop Your Home First
Make your setup a reflection of your own personal style and your friends are sure to spot you quickly in a crowd. To do this, Walsh recommends gathering items from around your home. Blue and white is a favorite combo of his, so he used the colors as a jumping-off point. If you have a breakfast nook or casual gathering space in the home, consider borrowing its chairs for your outing. The French bistro chairs shown here have a plastic covering that makes them outdoor friendly and easy to clean; plus, they stack for convenience. “The blankets are ones that I picked up for next to nothing, simply because I liked them. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve used them for table coverings or to wrap up on chilly nights outdoors,” Walsh adds.
Keep Your Gear Ready to Go
The hardest part of tailgating can be gathering and organizing your gear. Create a designated basket (like the large wicker one seen in Walsh’s vehicle) that holds tableware, blankets, and anything that won’t spoil, so you are prepared to head out at a moment’s notice.
Freshen the Look with Additions
To keep the setup from getting stale at event after event, add a few new pieces each time you pack the car. For this occasion, Walsh created a pennant garland from fabric swatches that were stapled to a length of grosgrain ribbon. “You could use paper scraps or something that is specific to the event; there are a ton of options to personalize this idea,” he says. Fresh flowers along with potted plants and herbs (which normally grace his back porch) also add vitality.
Serve Travel-Friendly Food & Drinks
This refers not only to dishes that you can prepare ahead of time and take with you to the venue, but also to fare that can be picked up and eaten while you walk around—finger foods, if you will. For this particular occasion, Walsh served fried chicken—a crowd-pleasing Southern staple, along with assorted cheeses, crackers, and pretzels. Other ideas include berries or grapes, small sandwiches or sliders, cookies or miniature cupcakes, and even deviled eggs. “To ensure everything is fresh, keep your cooler stocked with extras that you can use to replenish your serving platters easily,” Walsh says.
The same idea goes for beverages. Consider using acrylic tumblers—which Walsh notes can be picked up for close to the same amount you would spend on disposable cups—for water, cocktails, or wine. These cups are shatter-resistant and can be washed and placed in your kit to be ready for the next adventure. Walsh also brought water in a large vessel rather than using individual plastic bottles. “I particularly like that all of these containers are earth-friendly and that they allow you to coordinate your own look,” the designer adds.