Recently I had a fabulous group of women over to talk about design and outdoor entertaining. There’s nothing better than to be sitting in the garden in the company of others you enjoy and respect, with a glass of wine, surrounded by nature.
Cocktails and conversation came about as an idea with Westchester Home Magazine to spend time with some of the creative friends I’ve met as a designer. What started as an evening to discuss outdoor entertaining, ended up for me as an evening of gratitude that I know such talented and giving women. As in life, the most important part of a gathering is the people with whom you surround yourself.
Who better to have co-host the evening than executive editor of Westchester Home, Jenn Andrlik. Her warm and open personality makes events like this possible. Jenn has a special talent for bringing Westchester’s designers together.
She was joined by her associate and my longtime friend at the magazine, Ana Mantini. Ana has been a huge supporter of our firm and I appreciate her enthusiasm.
Jana Phipps, aka “The Trim Queen”, was the very first person I thought to ask. She is an embellisher of all things related to trim. A tastemaker and influencer in both the fashion and interior design worlds, Jana came bearing gifts of handmade napkin rings. Using Pindler’s new trim collection, “In the Details,” she styled them with tassels from her own passementerie. View her colorful website or follow her @trimqueen for more inspiration.
Joanne Santis, a fellow designer and forever friend, owns Joanne Tangen Designs. A CIA trained chef, she helped me get the evening meal together and shared her thoughts on entertaining. Recently, she authored her first children’s book, a favorite with my grandchildren! The book and story can be found here.
Soli Pierce, owner of Sherwood Forest Design rounded out this amazing group of women.
Carrying a salad in one of her hand-made bowls, she arrived with her beautiful energy and a recipe for a well lived life. Her website showcases her beautiful bowls, Sherwood Forest Designs. or follow Soli’s blog, and instagram.
As I prepared for this evening, the designer in me considered how to make the night feel special. I’ve made the mistake of worrying too much about the details, and have come to realize it’s really about making my guests feel welcome.
We host many gatherings at our home. Large, small, formal and yes, some with pizza and paper plates. But for this night, as well as others, these are some elements I consider to make the night flow.
It’s nice to set up different areas to entertain throughout the night, just as you might inside your home. We started with drinks on the porch and had dinner by the pool.
Try to bring the feel of the inside of your home outdoors. At this point in my life my house is somewhat pared down and simple. I love my outdoor furniture from Kingsley Bates. It’s rustic and ages naturally so it blends in with the surrounding trees and stone walls…the imperfections are there, but that’s ok…memories are made here, upkeep is not a worry.
When I set the table I pull from whatever is around in the yard, flowers, leaves, branches…The leaves work as wax collectors for the candles, the flowers add color, and the branches add height, texture, and layers to the table.
I like to serve family style with lots of finger food. It makes for a more casual evening and helps break the ice. Ask your guests to join in to help with the prepping or cooking. I especially delight when my family is all here and we are chopping, prepping and grilling together as the music is playing and the grandkids are dancing at our feet.
A great cheese board is everything! All the elements of great design can go into this board, as cheesy as it sounds! We taste food with our eyes; texture, height & layers all are elements to add to the display:
I picked up this tip from following Tieghan Gerard, creator Half Baked Harvest @halfbakedharvest. One of my favorites of hers is the “The Lighter Cheese Board.”
Don’t save things for that one special occasion. I can remember going to my grandmother’s house as a little girl. She would tell me to get out her good china…just for me. I was special to her, so she made me feel special. Use your good pieces even if they are mixed in with your casual pieces. Make people feel special in little ways, but don’t go overboard. After all, you want to enjoy the night too.
Make memories. Years ago my husband and I were lucky enough to have dinner upstate in a wine cellar during the winter. It was chilly and draped over the back of each chair, was a throw. Such a small thing, but I always remembered it. Over the years I have borrowed that idea and on cool summer nights, I wrap a pashmina over each chair or bring out a basket of throws.
I hadn’t thought much more about it, but recently I saw an old friend who had been to dinner at our house and had wrapped herself in one of the pashminas. I had forgotten, but she hadn’t. I was so happy that we had created a memory. The feeling of the night stays long after the details fade.
View the video here