Do it With Flair: Great Tips for Entertaining Indoors and Out

Above photo credits: stylecarrot.com

This week I did something really tacky.

High Change on Bond Street, 1796.
The ultimate portrayal of bad manners: the society ladies are forced off the sidewalk as the bawdy (and may I add, pot-bellied) men push them off into the road. For shame!

     I have a very sweet friend who is one of the best hostesses I've ever known. She and her husband are always opening up their home to entertain, and every time they do it with grace and style. Regardless of the occasion (and sometimes there needn't be an "occasion"), their parties are fun and memorable. Often they are theme-based, but not in the come-dressed-as-your-favorite-Star Trek character kind of way. When I entertain I always think about great things she's done at her parties for inspiration.

     After being a guest at numerous of their memorable parties, I wanted to give them something as token of appreciation. I decided on L.A. interior designer and party planner Richard Nye's book  Flair: Exquisite Invitations, Lush Flowers, and Gorgeous Table Settings.   It's a smaller sized book and would look great displayed anywhere-- and the ideas in it are innovative and fabulous. To be honest, I have wanted to get my hands on it for awhile for myself. It is total eye-candy.

Joe Nye, photo courtesy Joe Nye Inc.com
Below I've listed some of my favorite tips from the book. I can't wait to try them out and would love to hear from you if you decide to use them as well!

Credit: stylecarrot.com
                          Upper left: Singerie-inspired invitations and little favor boxeds wrapped in fuchsia ribbon.                                           Upper right: Black bamboo flatware from Juliska.  
Lower left: A chinoiserie-styleparty table setting.  
Lower right: A prfusion of pink carnations in a silver mint julep cup.

"Do it simply, have a good time, and get a recipe or a routine down and keep repeating it. No one is going to remember if you served meatloaf at the last party. And if they do, who cares?" - Joe Nye
Nye's Tips for an Outside Party:
• Place plants like red geraniums into simple terra-cotta pots. Add some moss, so you can’t see the soil, and line them down the center of the table for a colorful centerpiece.

• Offer plenty of comfortable seating. Unless it’s a cocktail party where all your guests are standing, it’s important that everyone can sit in a comfy chair. The fabulous bamboo folding chairs from William-Wayne Co. are stylish and sturdy.

• My favorite type of meal is a buffet, especially for a large group. It’s perfect for an outdoor party, and you don’t have to plate the food inside and carry it out.

• Place plants like red geraniums into simple terra-cotta pots. Add some moss, so you can’t see the soil, and line them down the center of the table for a colorful centerpiece.

• A theme drink like sangria or gin mixed with limeade is fun and helps set the tone. Consider having a fully stocked bar, if you can. Most people drink wine these days, but it’s always nice to offer more.

• Freeze mint leaves, lemon wedges, or strawberries in ice cubes for a refreshing way to chill your cocktails or sparkling water.

• Use cloth napkins, and have plenty on hand for guests. It makes more sense environmentally, and you can buy them inexpensively at Williams-Sonoma. Or opt for high-quality paper napkins. Never buy thin paper or plastic plates.
• Don’t be afraid to mix a $2 goblet with your grandmother’s fancy china if they look right together.

• Great hosts usually blend hands-on work with a few well-chosen shortcuts and quick fixes.

• The most powerful arrangement is often one in which common flowers have been used in an unexpected way. (Nye suggests placing masses of a single flower in unusual containers, such as a soup tureen, mint julep cups, wicker baskets, or an ice bucket.)

• Tray meals—where guests pick up a tray with their place setting on it—are a nice, organized option for when you won’t be seating guests at tables or for outdoor meals.

Left: A mélange of blue-and-white ceramics mixed with yellow gladioli and oncidium orchids dress up the sideboard.
Right: The blue and yellow theme is carried over to the table, with blue water glasses, inexpensive bunches of yellow chrysanthemums and single yellow Fuji mums placed in teacups. The dinnerware is Torquay from Mottahedeh. Like the flowers, the cobalt blue-handled flatware provides an informal touch.
All images by Los Angeles-based photographer Edmund Barr. Courtesy of Rizzoli International.
     In case you haven't guessed by now-- the "tacky" thing I did? I bought the book for my friend. I wrapped it. Then I took it out of the wrapping and told myself I just "wanted to look one more time." And I did that again. And again.  Finally after three weeks of this, I bought her another one and kept the first book for myself.

   I know, I know. Tacky. But as a child I was also "that kid" who brought a happy meal with me into the Chinese place because I wanted chicken mcnuggets, not moo goo gai pan. So I place the blame on my parents. That makes me feel a little better.

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