Low Key Outdoor Dinner Party

Now that Summer has officially arrived, read our 7 Top Tips to nailing a low key, stress free dinner party.

Image: Fresh Exchange

Stress Free Entertaining

So summer is almost upon us (thank-you Sun Gods!) and with that brings the very British trait of organising an impromptu BBQ or al-fresco dinner party at the first flicker of sunshine. If you haven’t had the opportunity to have a quick whizz around the garden yet (because let’s face it – it has been soggy to say the least!) check out our Garden Gains blog for tips on how to tart up your garden quickly and easily ahead of outdoor entertaining. 
Once you have your outdoor space looking guest ready, here are some ideas to pimp your party . . .

Seven Steps to Nailing the Casual Summer Garden Gathering

There’s nothing like the magic of a chilled summer dinner party where all seems right with the world—the table looks amazing, everyone is relaxed, and the menu hits the spot, so follow these top tips to get you there . . .

1. Marketplace not Menu

Fresh Produce. Image: Mon Cherie Bridals

Rather than scouring Pinterest for complicated recipes, check out what’s looking great at the local market. Food is such a good way to connect to nature and the seasons, so if you can, go for seasonal organic produce packed full of flavour. When you begin with what’s at the market, the vegetables will naturally take a starring role in the menu, but do go ahead and source some good quality protein or meat from the butchers if budget allows.

2. Set a Simpler Table

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Taking a pared-down approach to table settings is chic yet puts everyone at ease. Here is how to keep it simple: 

a water glass and one medium-size wine glass at each setting (no need for multiple wine glasses—a midsize one can work for red or white)

a white or light plate—food always looks best on a pale backdrop

a napkin folded on the plate—choose a cotton one, as linen often requires ironing!!

a fork and a knife  – no need to get all fancy-schmancy with multiple knives and forks relating to individual courses, and don’t bother with a spoon –  when you serve dessert, you can bring the dessert spoons or forks in a mason jar.

Place Cards are a great idea so that  no one feels the pressure of figuring out where to sit – they don’t necessarily need to be works of art, torn pieces of craft paper with names written by hand look great on a rustic table.

Once set, take a look at the place setting and make sure that each guest can access everything they might need at arms length so they can help themselves to bread/water and wine.

3. Herbalicious

Potted Herbs Image: Max Burnett

Of course, flowers are lovely, but for casual gatherings, consider center pieces featuring the herbs you use to cook. Buy in bulk, and use them for center pieces, cooking, and cocktails. Make little arrangements – Basil and Mint are perfect in the summertime – they look fab, smell amazing and guests can literally eat them off the table! Plus these arrangements are low level enough not to get in the way of good conversation (and by choosing them over flowers, you can keep your party expenses down a bit).

4. Take Time to Chill

Image: Mad About Wine

For many, having people over and feeding them can be stressful – especially when you hit last-minute hurdles. But the key is to relax – everyone (you included) will have a much better time. If you seem stressed, your guests may get a message that ‘this is a burden.’. When you invite guests to your home, your job is to feed them,  and take care of them for a night. So even if you’re totally stressed out and the chicken is burnt, just welcome your guests at the door with a big smile on your face and a big cocktail in your hand ready to handover to them!

Better yet, avoid the stress in the first place. Make something you’ve already made before, so you don’t get too caught up in a recipe. Finish the main cooking before people arrive – let the food rest; and reheat or add finishing touches once guests have arrived. Know the things that are a stressor for you – if you need to give yourself time to shower and straighten your hair, to put together the right playlist, or to have a glass of wine before people come, do it. 

5. Everyone is the Bartender

Image: Pinterest Source Unknown

The DIY cocktail bar might be our favorite entertaining go-to. It saves the hosts from the messy multitasking of trying to make drinks, greet other guests, take coats, and allows guests have fun immediately. Everyone loves putting their own trademark on their cocktail. It brings out the kid in a pick ‘n’ mix situation in all of us—like, “I put a squeeze of lime in mine and lots of crushed ice!” It’s the perfect way to loosen up a party.

6. Ask for Help

Cheers!

Not only can a few extra hands help practically, but most guests love to make a small contribution to bringing the meal together. Once guests have a cocktail in hand, you could ask them to take on a task—fill bottles with water for the table, dress the salad (since that should always be done last!), light the candles, help carve meat, or bring plates to the table.

7. Give a Toast and enjoy!

Madonna Face Glasses at Liv’s

Once everyone’s seated and served, kick things off on a high note with a toast. It doesn’t need to be a Father-of-the-Bride-Wedding cringey speech – just a quick toast to your health to set the sentiment for the evening ahead. And make sure you clink everyone’s glass and look them in the eye . . .not that we are superstitious or anything!

Garden Gains – Fast

Quick hacks to prep your garden ready for summer entertaining

So….after many a sun salutation and a few false starts, the weatherman reckons that June is set to scorch in a mid-month heatwave! We all know how volatile the British weather can be, but just incase the forecasts are true, we wanted to share some inspo and ideas on how to prep your outdoor space for entertaining and relaxing this Summer.

Quite often, we don’t have time to dedicate a whole day to a thorough de-weeding and gardening sesh, and don’t even get us started on painting fences. It. Takes. So. Long.

So we have rounded up a few suggestions on how you can update your outdoor space quickly, because let’s face it, at the first glimmer of sunshine we are creating a WhatsApp group called “I’m Walking On Sunshine” and inviting our friends and family over for an impromptu BBQ, so we need to have a few tricks up our sleeves for a little garden whip around.

Lighting

OK so the summer evenings are fairly light until about 10pm, but lighting is a great way to add a welcoming vibe and decorative flourish. We love stringing up some battery powered Festoon Lights across fences, sheds, playhouses or from one corner of the house to something else of height – like a tree – anything really!! These ones are in the sale at Festoon Lighting Shop right now – so head over to grab a bargain!

If you don’t have outdoor Festoon Lights and you are in a rush – get up those ladders into the loft and grab your Christmas lights – fairy lights aren’t just for Christmas! (A lot of Christmas tree lights are suitable for indoor and outdoor use)

Liv

If you do happen to have an outdoor power source and want to make a big impact you could bring indoor lamps outside, string up a chandelier in a tree, or use tiny garland lights as a table decoration.

Pots

You may already have some potted plants and shrubs outside, but we always think more is more when it comes to greenery – so supplement what you have with more. You don’t have to go out and spend a fortune – some local garden centres sell grasses and shrubs for a reasonable price.

When I get bored on my faux house plants, I transfer them outside – it means that I don’t have to spend a fortune on outdoor plants and don’t have to spend the time growing, maintaining and nurturing them.

Liv

We have a big range of pots online and instore, and we just can’t get enough of this aged, reclaimed terracotta pot, to add muted colour and loads of texture.

Candles

We just love a candle, especially a scented candle . . . especially and outdoor scented candle! Consider investing in some large outdoor citronella candles – not only do they smell amazing, they ward off pesky insects that usually cause one of your guests to start flapping and shrieking all over the garden! We love this one by one of our sustainable Cornish suppliers St Eval.

If you have little guests in attendance, perhaps use some LED candles for ambience and place some oil burners containing citronella oil up high in a safe place.
Try dotting a range of multi-sized candle lanterns around the garden space too – there’s something magical about the glow of candle light in a large glass lantern. We like to mix it up and place these ones on the floor and hang these smaller tea light lanterns from hooks, branches or wire.

IMAGE: PINTEREST SOURCE UNKNOWN

Floor Coverings

How infuriating is it when you’ve spent a back breaking day weeding the slabs or decking on the patio and a week later, they’re popping back through again?! There are lots of products on the market to keep those naughty weeds at bay but most take time to work and contain chemicals which isn’t ideal if you have small children or pets. So our trick is to cover unsightly areas of the garden patio with rugs. Rugs are fab for more informal dining situations, and perfect for children to sit around in a picnic set up, but they also add colour texture and comfort when creating an entertaining space outside.

You could even make floor coverings outside a more permanent feature by opting for some outdoor rugs. Most are made from woven plastic which means that they are weatherproof, easy to clean and won’t attract bugs. They are super lightweight too, so if you are off to the beach for the day they are easy to transport and make an ideal beach mat.

Serve and Dinnerware

We love nothing more than a big serve yourself feast, where everyone helps themselves and continues to graze throughout the day. This no fuss method means you can serve up on larger platters or boards like this reclaimed beauty. If you are really out to impress you can channel your inner creative, and design some beautiful grazing boards. Check out the wonderful Gather & Graze for some stunning inspiration! We like to treat our guests to a zingy little cocktail like this a-mazing Floradora gin cocktail by Hendrix served in our help-yourself water (or booze!) dispenser decanted into a pretty heavy cut glass tumbler.Cutlery in (easy to shuttle from kitchen to garden) caddy’s work well, and means you don’t need to spend time laying the table, as it is grab and go.

Throws & Cushions

When the sun has set and you’re braving the mossies for a few sundowners, the temperature may drop, so have a basket full of throws and blankets to hand, so that guests can wrap up and get super relaxed and cosy whilst still enjoying the great outdoors – this monochrome blanket marries cozy and boho together perfectly. Don’t forget to bring out all the cushions too – again you can opt for all weather cushions or maybe some from inside (depending on how civilised your guests are) like these gorgeous tasseled boho cushions of dreams.

If you do have the luxury of time and can be a bit more planned ahead of a scheduled outdoor event, why not look at taking on a DIY project that is a little more substantial. We love the idea of creating and building an outdoor Pizza Oven. Head here for a step by step tutorial – it will take roughly 2 weekends and a bit of muscle – but just think of those amazing homemade pizzas – we love this meaty offering from Jamie Oliver.

Now we just need some sunshine!!

Paris Show 2019

Here is Kate’s round up of what the gang got up to in Paris . . .

So. We’re back from Paris, bursting with ideas about how we’re going to style (and physically fit) all of our wonderful new collections in the shop! Here’s a little trip report, sneak peak at our new finds for 2019, and a forecast of interiors trends for 2019/20.

Opulance Trends SS19 Paris Show Livs

Leaving on a Jet Plane . . . 

We flew eye-wateringly early from Birmingham to Charles De Gaulle and dashed straight from the airport to Parc Des Expositions which is just 10 minutes by train. We soon arrived at Maison Et Objet.

A quick coffee later (and a swift one for the road for MC) we dived straight in and walked the halls marvelling and sniffing beautiful candles, soaps and fragrances.  

Dip Dip Hooray

Our first purchase was these stunning candles from Ester & Erik, who have been making candles in Denmark since 1987 using a centuries old method of dipping on a frame, ensuring the candles are of the highest quality.  We fell in love with these candles at first sight, and painstakingly narrowed their 100s of colours down to just 9 gorgeous seasonal shades to take home.

Bouji Boho

Over the following few days, we walked the halls taking in all the décor and styling inspiration, making purchases along the way; we re-visited one of our all-time favourite suppliers, Madam Stoltz, whose stand, every single year is like a bohemian beach house dream. The way she puts together her collections is inspirational, and this year soft earthy tones ruled. Velvets in pinks, rusts, ochres and monochromes, curated artfully with brass, coloured glass, bamboo and wicker.

 Crafts featured large this year; Macramé, weaving and basketwork adorn the walls, and botanicals hang from the ceiling

Liv on Madam Stoltz

It was simply gorgeous, and physical restraint was all I could muster to stop Liv moving in! … And consequently, lots of lovely new stock is on it’s way from Madam Stoltz.

A Few of our Favourite Things . . . 

Along the way, we also bought: some fabulous lighting from one of our favourite Dutch brands, velvet dining chairs in a selection of opulent jewel shades, and a deco inspired brass shelving unit. We found even more plant pots with faces on, vases that hang from the ceiling, and a collection of utilitarian water and wine glasses that are super on trend.

This years trends were clear to see, rich earthy hues and desert shades. Raw cottons juxtaposed with luxurious velvets, and oversize everything! Enormous vases, opulent chandeliers, Art Deco inspired lighting, and botanicals, botanicals botanicals! There seems to be a real authenticity among interiors trends at the moment, ceramics feel handmade and linens are raw and honest.

Kate – on 2019 trends

Music is the Answer

The music on all of the stands at the Exhibition is well curated, with a heavy pulsing beat which gives a sort of heartbeat to the experience as you wander the stands. I have created a playlist of the music we found along the way. We’ve been playing it in the shop too, so do listen out when you’re next in store.

Trend Forecast

My personal highlight of Maison Et Objet is the Future Trends arena, where trend forecasters showcase interiors trends for the coming year. Trends are forecast based on all sorts of influences from fashion to cultural and economic. (read more about Trend Forecasting here). In this years case it’s a historical milestone; 2019 marks 50 years since the moon landings, and we will see reference to this throughout trends in 2019/20.  Opulent iridescents, futuristic metallics, dark galactic shades and in the case of Seletti, a collection of solar system inspired tableware.

There is a clear African influence that is prevalent throughout almost every collection, translated in one way or another. Bold monochrome tribal prints, and brightly coloured basket work, intricate beading and handicrafts sit alongside naive ceramics. This is interpreted differently from stand to stand, there is colonial antique style furniture, and a travellers curiosity collection, sat alongside taxidermy and finds from around the world.  Collections feel like they are put together because each individual item is loved, and the authenticity is felt throughout the trends here too.

It is clear to see that opulence is here to stay. I think we will be enjoying velvets and brights for a good while yet. The feeling is very much More-is-More – And that’s absolutely fine by me!

So having bought what felt like the whole of Paris, we dashed off with our suitcases to the airport to catch a late flight home! Phew – What a weekend!

When in Paris . . .

I think it’s important to mention just a couple of the places we ate and drank at over the course of the weekend (because everybody likes to be in the know if there’s a hidden gem to be found – right?)

We popped in to see the lovely people at Lou Lou’s Diner, which is a gorgeous Australian style diner which serves delicious healthy food and even better cocktails. We discovered it last year as it’s stumbling distance from our little Parisian hotel, and is stylish, well priced and the vibe in there is super chilled.  If you like cocktails, you’ll LOVE Lou Lou’s ‘Roses are Pink’

Toasting a successful trip at LouLou

We were also lucky enough to get a table at the incredible Chez Fernand, which describes itself as ‘French Cuisine for Wine Lovers’. 

Tucked down a little back street behind Notre Dame,  it is a total Hidden Gem – there were customers queuing in the cold down the street waiting to be seated in the tiny authentic restaurant.

Kate – on Chez Fernand

We had such a lovely evening there –  you simply must check it out when you’re next in Paris, but do book ahead!

Kate x