Throw the ultimate summer soiree
The summer is the perfect time to hone your entertaining skills by inviting friends and family over for a get together. Whether you're planning a simple supper, a formal lunch or an alfresco garden party, the good news is there are plenty of creative touches that will help you raise your game without breaking the bank.
The secret to any good social gathering is of course planning and top of the list is creating the right mood. Steer clear of harsh overhead lights and choose soft, atmospheric lighting. If you have dimmer switches, turn them down low to create a gentle glow. Alternatively, go for candlelight using lanterns, candelabra, tealights and wall sconces. Add strings of fairy lights to doorways and windows or if your gathering is outdoors string paper lanterns from trees for a magical feeling.
Flowers, flowers and more flowers. Use floral arrangements to bring colour and life to your table settings. Depending on the style of the occasion opt for natural country bouquets using lily of the valley with ivy or for more a formal centrepiece mix old fashioned pastel roses, lilacs, water lilies and viburnum. For a spring theme use primroses, tulips and daffodils.
If you really want to wow your guests, go to town with your table settings and let your imagination run riot. Start with some spectacular floral centrepieces, add beautiful crystalware, a crisp linen tablecloth or a glamorous table runner, matching napkins, smart place mats and your best china. Add place cards with your guest’s names written in elegant antique script. Handmade little gifts for your guests can be placed on dinner plates ready for them to discover when they are taking their seats. Invest in the best quality dining table you can afford as it will be the star of the show at a dinner party.
Room or garden decorations will all add to the festive feel. Plenty of balloons, ribbon garlands, bunting and garlands will create an instant party mood. Mirrors, too, can be brought out to add glamour by reflecting light. It's little touches like these that lift a space from the ordinary into the extraordinary. Wow guests with statement pieces, ranging from spectacular lighting to wall art and sculpture.
When planning outdoor entertaining, if you are catering for larger numbers make sure you have plenty of folding bistro style tables and chairs, or even benches to accommodate extra guests. Offer lots of cushions and blankets for when the evening turns chilly. Fire pits are extremely popular and can double up as sculptural centrepieces depending on the design you choose.
1. Spectacular Moroccan themed party setting complete with palm trees and poufs in rich colours, Jewel outdoor fabrics, £52.50-£63 per metre, www.extex.co.uk
2. Set the mood with this Portofino Lantern - £14.99 (small), £24.99 (large) - available from Love Aroma stores and online at lovearoma.co.uk
3. Stylish outdoor living space for dining and entertaining by landscape designers Harrington Porter, www.harringtonporter.com
4. Beautiful floral arrangements will transform any table setting, table arrangement vase, £15.95, www.annabeljames.co.uk
5. This innovative fire pit looks like a traditional bonfire, but it's actually a stunning steel design created by sculptor Cathy Azria, Wigwam fire pit, made to order from £2,900, www.bd-designs.co.uk
6. These smart dining chairs are upholstered in a classic dark grey linen that will look equally good at brunch or dinner, Gallery dining chair £199, www.blueisle.co.uk