This article was originally written as a contributing guest post for Visions of Vogue. You can read the original article here.
Whether you’re planning a big beach-themed bash for July 4th or an intimate summer soiree, there are a few simple tips you can follow to make your dinner party a delightful success. Today, I’ve invited Kathy Kuo, founder of Kathy Kuo Home, to share some of her insight on the subject, including tips on finding comfortable outdoor furniture (no more hard wicker chairs!) and creating a romantic ambiance. Enjoy!
1. Pick a Palette
While it’s not necessary to have a strict theme, coming up with a loose central idea can help you harness your creativity when selecting décor and setting the table. First, you should consider the season. Since we’re talking about a summer dinner party, think of adjectives like “breezy,” “cloudless,” “dreamy,” “lush,” and “sun-kissed.” Then, use these key descriptors and take into consideration your existing space to develop your aesthetic. Does your home call for a bohemian beach vibe or is a sweet and lush summer garden party more appropriate? Once you have an idea for your ideal look (Pinterest is always great if you need more inspiration!), pick a palette and stick with it. Keep your large and permanent furniture neutral so that you can change out your dinner party palette throughout the summer with accessories and decorations. I personally love a classic blue and white combo if you’re opting more nautical, or try blush, green, and gold hues for something warmer and fantastical.
2. Designate Yours Spaces
Whether you’re hosting your dinner party indoors or outdoors (ideally both!), it’s very important to create a sense of space and utility. Set up tables in separate areas—an outdoor dining table for the food, an outdoor bar or rolling bar cart for drinks, and lounge chairs around an outdoor coffee table or side table for lively conversation. Make sure pathways between each area are defined and wide enough to encourage guests to roam. If you or your guests have kids at the party, provide them with their own special table with crafts and activities. I found this to be a great solution for keeping the kids from squirming and interrupting at dinner while making sure they feel included in the festivities.
3. Buy Comfortable Outdoor Furniture
One of the biggest mistakes people make when decorating their outdoor space is purchasing uncomfortable (and often low-quality) outdoor furniture. Luckily, as experts in the world of product design, we’ve curated an outdoor collection that’s as livable as it is gorgeous. Instead of hard wicker patio sets, upgrade to outdoor sofas and chairs that feel just as soft as an indoor sofa. Our pieces use state-of-the-art performance fabric that are durable and weather resistant while remaining soft and luxe both to the eye and to the touch.
4. Add Color Through Your Accessories
It’s summertime: don’t be afraid to have a little fun and add in color! Color adds energy and ambiance to your dinner party, and can easily be worked into your home through accessory pieces (like a brightly-colored garden stool) or through your dinner or barware. And don’t get too fussy with the china—an eclectic mix often feels more laidback, textured, and perfect for summer.
5. Keep the Food Simple and Self-Served
While Kathy Kuo Home is not your resource for summer recipes, I’ve been to many summer dinner parties, and without fail, the most successful ones keep it simple. Don’t fret over the menu when you should be focused on enjoying yourself, your friends, and the gorgeous weather. Think salads, fresh fruit, and cold drinks. That’s all you really need, and make sure that the food is self-serve to make things easy for yourself! The other key to being a great hostess is to keep the bar full! Stock a bar cart with the essentials: chic glasses, plates, ice, a cocktail shaker, and swizzle sticks. A bar cart is always a hosting must-have because it’s easy to wheel back to the kitchen when supplies get low.
6. Finesse with Florals
Once you’ve got your outdoor furniture and accessories planned out, the finishing touches are pretty simple. My go-to is always fresh florals. They bring nature into your space, look elegant, smell pleasant, and you can select flowers that complement or further bring out your color palette. Floating peonies and gardenias is one of my favorite ideas for a pretty centerpiece. Just pour water into a large serving platter or bowl (like this one), and trim the stems off each flower. Or, if you’re looking for something more traditional, you can never go wrong with hydrangeas. The most important thing to keep in mind regarding dinner party florals is to avoid flowers with too much stem height, you don’t want to obscure your guests from being to see across the table!
7. End With Party Favors
My last tip is super simple, but it makes a world of difference. Include a small takeaway for your guests to leave with. It’ll show your thoughtfulness and be something to help remember your special summer evening. Décor, candles, frames, centerpieces, or even just some chocolate or greenery can be such a sweet gesture.