Dorothy Draperwrote a book with this name in the early ‘40’s. She said “Fussy, formal parties are definitely out of style. Smart people won’t be bothered with that sort of thing.” She was referring to the formality that was so common prior to that---she wasn’t recommending to have a simple weiner roast! So, you have to put her comment in historicalperspective. In modern vernacular she meant “lighten up” when entertaining and everyone will have more fun.
ENTERTAINING IS FUN!
image via Design Sponge
I have always loved to entertain and used to do much more of it than I do now. We were lucky enough to buy a house when we were in our early years of marriage that was meant for entertaining. My mother was the master---as I’ve often said---she was Martha Stewartbefore there was Martha Stewart! I learned at her knee and she advised me on each and every detail of any party Jim and I hosted. We would have over 200 at one party and then lots of smaller dinner parties (my favorite) with weekend parties for 4-6 couples at our house in the country. Although I’ve posted a Notebook on Entertaining before, this time of year seems perfect for revisiting the topic.
I thought it would be fun to take five entertaining tips from Draper’s book and add my own modern dayspin on them.
There’s nothing so important as first impressions. They leave an indelible mark which nothing that happens later ever quite wipes out. “Entertaining is Fun!” Dorothy Draper. Chapter 2, Making Your House Say Welcome
It is because first impressionsare so important that I place careful emphasis on the entry in a home. It’s the first thing your guests will see, and yet it is so often forgotten. Most of the pieces in your entry will already be in place long before you’re planning to entertain. A good entry has wall coverings that give warmth and life to the room and art to add visual interest. There should also be a comfortable place to remove shoes or coats and a lovely rug to accentuate, not cover your floors.
If there’s room in your entry, add a small vignette of furniture and accessories. I like to add a pretty antique commode flanked by chairs, with a beautiful Murano glass lamp. You can display a couple of glass accessoriesand add a small arrangement of flowers. I like to use purple or white hyacinths in bunches in a simple clear glass vase because their fragrance is so enchanting.
The moment a guest walks in the door, greet them with a warm hello and a tray of cocktails, wine and water. If you don’t have the budget for waiters, they should be on a table or butler’s tray.
A tray of hors d’oeuvres needs to follow quickly---something to eat is a necessity when serving alcohol. Be sure appetizers are always bite size---that means no larger than a quarter! Nothing worse that something you can’t pop in your mouth with food falling out onto the floor. It’s a great idea to serve these on interesting trays---silver is always good, but I like to use unusual trays depending on my menu.
Most coffee tables are too high and too teetery. Very few of them are as big as they might well be. Ideally the table before the sofa should be just a little lower than the seat of the sofa. “Entertaining is Fun!” Dorothy Draper. Chapter 2, Making Your House Say Welcome
If you make one investment in your living room it should be an attractive coffee table. It’s the center of interest in almost any room and the piece of furniture most people will gather around. Large coffee tables are ideal for entertaining and everyday life. I like to style mine with colorful books about various interests and an exotic orchid. The key when accessorizing a coffee table is to make it full, yet simple---and it’s another great place to add trays of hors d’oeuvres.
Decorating the dinner table for any occasion is a direct challenge to your imagination. “Entertaining is Fun!” Dorothy Draper. Chapter 5, Dinner Parties
I often see tables that are overdone. It’s best to keep it simple. There’s nothing more chic than a table decorated with simple, but fine china and linens, beautiful glass pieces and understated floral arrangements that are always below eye level. It creates more visual impact to use flowers of the same color in an arrangement, rather than to mix a random assortment.
Above all, look carefully to the lighting of your rooms. Think of the pains a stage director is at to light his stage and every character on it. Lighting is an art. A lot can be done with it.“Entertaining is Fun!” Dorothy Draper. Chapter 2, Making Your House Say Welcome
I agree with Mrs. Draper wholeheartedly on the subject of lighting. There is almost nothing more important. It sets the mood for your party, and determines how you and your guests look and feel. Eye level lightingis crucial, as it is flattering. Overhead lighting is used in movies and television to age people----it should only be used for highlighting art and objects.
For drinks there are decanters for whisky and for sherry, a silver-plated vacuum ice pail, and a chromium plated cocktail shaker that never needs polishing. “Entertaining is Fun!” Dorothy Draper.
Cocktails today are not quite as formal as they used to be. I do however, like to keep a drinks cart with all of the accoutrements commonly requested during a dinner or cocktail party. Drinks carts evoke a feeling of another time. They create instant glamour.
In Most Houses the host and hostess sit at opposite ends of the table……It lets them look out for all the guests and keeps the conversation moving around the table. But here, too, there is no set rule……If it’s a very long table try to put a woman who is lively and vivacious halfway down it. She will keep things going around her, while you hold up your end and your husband entertains those around him. “Entertaining is Fun!” Dorothy Draper. Chapter 5, Dinner Parties
When hosting a sit down dinner, seating is very important----it can make or break your party. I prefer to sit in the middle of a long table, so I can see most of my guests, and keep the conversation flowing. I try to seat my guests next to someone I know they will find interesting. I never seat a couple together and I try to steer clear of partnering people with wildly opposite views.
The most important thing when entertaining is to have fun! Stressing over the details is not the recipe for a fabulous party. Keep it simple and elegant----the rest will fall easily into place.