From setting the table the night before to using black candles on the dining table, entertainers extraordinaire share their best ideas for throwing an elegant, easy bash.
1. Go Overboard on the Candles
"Go heavy on the tea lights. Rather than 10, I would do 40," says designer Thom Filicia.
2. Make a Playlist
Music is an essential part of a party atmosphere. "Play a mix, from bossa nova to big band to disco. Start mellow, build, bring it back down," says Filicia.
3. Create Flow
"Pass hors d'oeuvres so guests will circulate," says designer Frank Delledonne, who often entertains in his New Jersey living room. He also advises to use serving bowls that are from different sets. "If they match, it will look like a catering hall."
4. Consider a Buffet
"I come from a huge Italian family, and they come over all the time for family dinners," Delledonne says. To feed a crowd, "Serve buffet-style, with food that can be eaten in one forkful."
5. Prep Ahead
Do what you can the night before, such as setting the table, so you can cut down on stress.
6. Don't Go Overboard on the Flowers
Elegant flowers are easy to pull off. Choose a monochromatic arrangement and display it in a plain glass cylinder.
7. Try a Cozy Tablecloth
To add warmth to an entry table in her family home in Idaho, designer Chipper Joseph layered two plaid blankets. "Tablecloths are old quilts, blankets, wool throws," she says. "I don't think I even have a real tablecloth."
8. Have Comfy Seating
Upholstered chairs - whether in a cozy corner or around the dining table - encourage hours-long lounging.
9. Try Black Candles
For an intimate dinner party, use black candles. "They disappear," says the homeowner of a New York house designed by Markham Roberts.
10. Remember to Relax and Have Fun
Grabbing a quiet moment before guests arrive can help put you at ease. One homeowner's entertaining tip? "A drink with my husband before the party."
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