While sitting lazily in my friend’s inviting and fresh white kitchen with views of her French-inspired garden recently, I told her how much I loved drinking tea and spending time with her in her home. She replied that few people entertain at home anymore.
Statistics do show that entertaining at home is on the decline. In 2012, The New York Times declared the act of hosting guests at home “endangered” and published an article about the death of the dinner party by Guy Trebay titled “Guess Who Isn’t Coming to Dinner.”
I happen to think the dinner party is anything but dead – it just looks different today than it did in the past.
While restaurants and bars seem to be the meeting place of choice, dining in a restaurant has some constraints. When you are throwing a party at home or even inviting friends over for something as simple as coffee or tea, the guests’ interactions take on their own rhythm and generate their own energy.
I have memories of my mother polishing silver, ironing tablecloths and napkins and setting a formal table. People arrived dressed up; the energy was electric. Stories and laughs were shared. My mother, for days after, was exhausted but still high on the fun they all had.
In 1999, Ina Garten of “Barefoot Contessa” fame came on the scene with her first cookbook and shortly thereafter her Food Network series sharing advice for entertaining. I read her books cover to cover. I watched her series religiously.
If she had a white bucket for icing drinks so that guests could help themselves when they arrived at her parties, I bought one, too. When Ina said she preferred to serve food on simple white plates because food looked better on white plates, white plates were purchased and stacked in my pantry. I still love her entertaining style and have adopted it as my own.
The trend now is not registering for or purchasing formal china, crystal and silver settings. But newlyweds, couples and friends are opting for experiences, often shared with friends and family in different ways than a formal dinner party. The events are more relaxed.
Summertime is an optimal time to invite friends over, no matter what your style is. I encourage you to open your homes and enjoy the long days of summer with friends.
Getting your yard party-ready doesn’t have to take much time. Sweeping the patio, wiping down the outdoor furniture and planting a few fresh flowers in pots can make your yard feel renewed. Placing cut flowers in small containers and white pillar candles around the table is simple but adds that special touch to a gathering.
Preparing a menu that fits the guests’ dietary restrictions while taking advantage of the season’s bounty is easy and delicious in the summer. My chef friend suggests foods that can be served at room temperature and set out buffet style so that timing isn’t a problem when the party finally decides to eat. Also, batch cocktails are a great way to let guests serve themselves without needing to bartend.
Don’t forget to bark out a command for Alexa or Google to play the party music you love and take time relaxing and laughing with friends at home.
Entertaining at home is rewarding. It helps us to feel happy and connected to people we love. Keep it simple. Make it fun.
Celeste Randolph is an interior designer in Los Altos. For more information, visit celesterandolphdesigns.com.