Tip #1: Take it Outside
Tip #2: Add Whimsey
Tip #3: Serve Lively Cocktails
Tip #4: Gild the Lily
Tip #5: Include Festive Accessories
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Dinner parties and intimate gatherings in the home mean more than ever these 2020 holidays. ‘Tis the season to make the most of your time with the people you can safely get together with. So why not spice things up with an extra serving of style and wit?
Party planner extraordinaire Rebecca Gardner is swooping in to save us all from the been-there-done-that house party. Gardner founded the new, super buzzy housesandparties.com website. Now, she is sharing her expert advice on unique essentials and accessories that will take your hosting to the next level with PaperCity.
The captain at the helm of the chic ship that is Houses and Parties is a notable party expert. With House and Parties originally starting as a a full-service event and interiors design collective in Savannah and New York City, Gardner is making waves with the newly launched e-commerce arm of her stylish business.
She first established her event design firm in 2010. A decade later, Gardner is applying learned magic to create an online retail experience for devotees of the elegant and unusual.
Gardner is a true life of the party amongst the society set around the country, designing events for stylish creatives and celebrities such as Lauren Santo Domingo. She has even been named a top event designer by VOGUE and Harper’s Bazaar. Her beyond stylish Savannah home, which was recently featured in Architectural Digest, is a true testament to her classic style with a whimsical twist.
The expertly curated collections on her new entertaining shopping destination includes treasure both lavish and modest. But they all carry the same goal of taking entertaining to the next level and charming with unexpected delight. The site features items ranging offbeat gifts and small tokens all the way up to the most treasured dishware and serving plates that will no doubt become family heirlooms.
PaperCity caught up with Gardner in the wake of the launch to get the expert’s top tricks and tips for unique home entertaining and how to put on that memorable intimate dinner party that will keep your social circle talking for years.
From unexpected tabletop surprises to festive and quirky cocktail hour ideas and accouterments, Gardner brings some serious party tricks for all things home entertaining. It’s a vivid peak into her party girl prowess.
Gardner’s social media accounts note that she is known for drawing influences from” irreverent authorities” like the lovable and lavishly excessive Auntie Mame (a personal icon of mine too). Gardner encourages her clients and customers to go the extra mile and step outside the norm to make those memories extra epic. Why not set the tone for a real let-loose soiree?
“Normalcy is a paved road: It comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow” is how the famous Vincent van Gogh saying goes. You could certainly say the same about a boring at-home gathering.
Swipe through the gallery to find out Gardner’s tips and tricks for entertaining.
Thank goodness Texas temperatures allow for almost four full seasons of outdoor dining. Still, Gardner slyly notes: “Don’t underestimate the liquid sweater.” The certain laissez faire of nature seems fitting for a let-loose gathering with your nearest and dearest. The outdoors doesn’t have to mean only paper plates and picnic tables.
Past parties by Gardner have proven that a lack of roof over your head means no lack of extravagance.
“I like to hang paper lanterns en masse from low tree limbs. The more the merrier. Please don’t dumb down your tabletop outdoors. Use your good things, the effort sets the tone,” she advises.
Gardner reminds us that tablecloth are meant to cover even folding tables, so any table-less space can almost instantly have an inviting table with a properly printed tablecloth and elegant dinnerware.
Housesandparties.com even offers overachieving and deep pocketed hosts a strapping uniformed butler for hire to deliver a basket of five Labrador puppies to your fresh air venue.
“Set the table, add a little something, then add a little more.” Gardner says. “I like tables that surprise and delight guests. It’s my love language. A way to say ‘I’m so glad you’re here. I made this little spot just for you. Have fun.’ ”
Gardner suggests adding a collection of figurines, wrapped candy or event plastic toys from Amazon. Charm your guests with engaging little sussies that they don’t normally see. Unexpected items that add depth and memory to your table is an underestimated power.
“If you pull out your fancy China — you can get away with anything,” Gardner says.
“You don’t always have to serve dinner. Invite friends for a drink and keep it casual. If it ends up a screaming blast, order dinner,” Gardner says.
Gardner relies on items like a standing champagne bucket to cure space issues and keep the glasses readily full. Brightly colored punch bowls and pitchers will take any humdrum happy hour to legendary levels. Cocktail napkins with intricate quirky embroidery are the details that will keep your guests talking.
In lieu of complicated fussy canapés, Gardner suggests caviar and potato chips for the perfect mix of laid-back elegance.
An intimate dinner party also lets you spend more time on someone extra special. So why not dress up and be fancy? Gardner’s philosophy of using the fun and fancy even in unconventional times seeps through her curation of elegant items available on housesandparties.com. Sure your finest China plates and most fragile crystal are prized possessions, but what good are they sitting in your cabinets?
Gardner encourages people to pull those items out and let them live out their purposes of elegant servitude while you entertain your most special people and make memories.
Go the extra mile with handwritten menu cards and place cards. The Happy Menocals set of cards with tassels are Gardner’s favorites for their dual purpose of both depicting the cuisine as well as serving as extra jewelry for guests after a boozy dinner.
Never underestimate a festive accessory’s ability to bring out the giggles. You can liven up almost any gathering with festive accessories and chic costumery. Silly hats or wigs or unexpected props are just what an aspiring host needs to take the party to the next level.
Deck the halls and the guests with holiday tinsel or bring pop culture in with hilarious masks. Jovial props will truly bring the party to your dinner party.
Want more hosting insights? Stay tuned. Rebecca Garner is planning a Houston visit in April to speak at the River Oaks Garden Club.