Face it. You have trouble deciding what to wear when you go to a party, much less when you play the host. Before you start throwing clothes out of the closet, decide on your home’s attire. With these entertaining decor tips, the atmosphere you create might just inspire your wardrobe choices.
Make an Entrance
The first part of your home your guests will see is the front door and the entrance area, so you should think about these places first when planning your party, says Patti Minniear, interior designer of Patti Minniear Interiors who works with clients for special event designing. The most important rule to follow is “no clutter.” The front door and entrance should be clean and beautiful, sans dirty shoes and dog dishes. Beautify your entrance with a nice piece of artwork or mirror in the entranceway, Minniear says. And if the night has a theme, tie it into this area. If your home has a vestibule as the entranceway, a simple table or chair may be appropriate, Minniear says, but keep it simple.
Light up Your Life
Lighting is arguably the most important factor in creating a successful atmosphere. With all of the lights on in the house, the party can have a “sterile” feel to it, Minniear says. Invest in some dimmers. Dimmers run about $20 each, but once you have them, they’re yours. “People are more relaxed when it’s a dim light,” Minniear says.
Another way to achieve dim lighting is with candles. “Candles always make everything look good,” Minniear says. And you can tie in your theme (literally) with your candles with a nice colored ribbon around the candle. A grosgrain or front-wired ribbon can be wrapped around a candle and secured with a couple straight pins to add an extra touch of elegance, Minniear says.
You can also use lighting to highlight areas of a room with uplighting, Minniear says. Uplights are little canister lights that cost around $10 each. Put them behind a potted plant or tree or behind a piece of furniture like a big chair or sofa.
Next to lighting is color. Colors themselves are expressive, so use color throughout your house to express to your guests what mood you want to set for your event. For a calm atmosphere, use white with green accents. Use reds — particularly deep, dark reds — to express passion and strong emotion.
Most parties are fun, and orange is a bright, comforting color to achieve that atmosphere. “Orange just makes people smile,” Minniear says. To incorporate color into the decor, use a display of flowers. A whole display in the same color can really add some pop to your party.
Primp up the Powder Room
While they’re worrying about the dining room, kitchen and living room, many people forget the bathroom, Minniear says, but it is important to maintain the atmosphere anywhere guests will see during the party. “A dimmer in your powder room is brilliant,” Minniear says. Just make sure your powder room is dim and not dark. Candles and fresh flowers can also work nicely to carry the mood through to the bathroom.
Create a Flow
Besides beauty, you want your party design to have function. You don’t want your guests to be in a sardine can, Minniear says. So remove some furniture pieces to prevent congestion. Don’t remove seating, but not every chest and table is necessary. Get rid of all of the kids’ toys and dog accessories as well. Anything in the room that shouldn’t be at a party shouldn’t be in the room, Minniear says.
Rearranging furniture can also help open up some space for your guests to move. Recliners can take up a decent amount of space, but if you can push it into a corner, you can create more space despite the chair.
Stations can also create a nice flow. For a wine party, you can set up three or four wine stations throughout the house, Minniear says. At each station, have the wine, a complementary cheese and a short description of the selection. You can expand the station concept to any party, however, with a variety of appetizers or just interesting facts that can relate to your theme.
Delight in a Dinner Party
While linens make a nice touch for a party, you usually can get by with paper napkins with hors d’oeuvres, but if you’re down for a dinner instead of a full-house party, linens and china are expected. For a spectacular appearance, coordinate your linens with the theme. To help achieve coordination, you can rent linens, china or even chair covers from places like On Occasions Event Rental, Minniear says.
If rentals are out of your price range for china, places like Garden Ridge sell plain white plates for 50 cents each. Serving as charger plates, these white plates can make a big difference in converting your everyday table into an elegant dining experience.
Floral arrangements, though still recommended for dinner party decor, need to be low enough so that guests can see past the arrangement to the person across the table. As a rule of thumb, flowers should be one and a half times taller than their container, Minniear says. Also remember the rule of threes. “The eye doesn’t like looking at things in even numbers,” Minniear says. So whether you use floral arrangements or candles or a mixture, use an odd number of decorative elements.
Adding personalized touches to the table makes a great impression. With the holidays fast approaching, you can tie in the season with your table. A small, carved-out pumpkin with a tea light would work nicely at each place setting for Thanksgiving, and personalized ornaments would make your Christmas dinner party even more memorable.
The key to a good party is a reflection of you. “When you invite people over, you want them to enjoy your home as well,” Minniear says. So before taking action, keep these tips in mind as you make a list of ideas you would like to incorporate into your event. Consult magazines, ask for help and rely on your own decorative instincts. “By and large, people have good ideas, they just don’t trust themselves,” Minniear says. So take that leap of faith, have fun, try not to feel stressed and just go for it. Your guests will thank you.