Bold, bright and hard to break

Special to The Times

Paper or plastic? Between those Chinet divided plates and those goblets with detachable bases, the alfresco table used to be a crashing bore. Now, shatterproof is chic. Acrylic barware in a lemonade hue and water-colored mosaics and swirls look light but stand sturdy. Melamine, long typecast as '50s kitsch, has made a striking comeback in Umbra's unconventionally shaped Delish collection, which offers a striking profile with a matte brown exterior that resembles stoneware and semi-gloss interiors in white, red and pastel green and blue. If all plastic seems too drastic, look for organic materials that are equally resilient outdoors and add a homey warmth to summer dining. Whether it's a free-form serving slab or a whimsical bread basket, wood brings a rustic flavor to the table. A pitcher clad in basket-woven wicker can even turn afternoon iced tea into a picnic.

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