How to Entertain with Style
Just because the temperatures are plummeting, doesn’t mean it’s time to stop entertaining. The colder months are often the perfect time to host gatherings because people tend to be less busy, and because slow-cooked meats and roasts are ideal for sharing with a crowd.
When hosting an event, how do you make people feel immediately welcome?
Firstly, I always consider the guest list. Make sure that you have a good mix of people and always be ready to welcome them. I love to use lanterns throughout the garden or along a path to create some ambience as the guests arrive… once I even covered the entire length of the driveway in gold glitter and it looked amazing lit by candlelight. I like to serve a welcome drink (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions) in beautiful glasses that echo the theme of the evening. Have the music on and the lighting dimmed before anyone arrives and you are all good to go!
What are your top tips for creating ambience in a room?
Candles, candles and more candles. The soft light from candles is so inviting, and flattering as well. And loads of flowers too! Remember your guests should be able to hear, see, taste, touch and smell beauty. I always want my guests to be surprised and visually delighted by their experience. I have collected a huge amount of vintage and new tableware over the years, and often pull out different pieces to mix up a look.
Tablecloths — yes or no? And what about napkins?
Yes and no to tablecloths. They add a formality to an event which is, at times, appropriate. They are also having a fashion moment; think patterned French provincial cloths with patterned dinnerware.
Table napkins should always be linen. I love that they are currently very fashionable and work well tied and draped in so many different ways.
The table napkin should traditionally sit to the left of the plate, though it is currently fashionable to drape them on the plate if the plate is already at the table (i.e. if you’re serving shared platters). When you sit down, you should place the napkin on your lap with the folded edge towards your body. If you need to leave the table, leaving your napkin on your chair is a sign that you will be returning and is also a display of good manners, as it means the other guests are not made to look at your soiled/ crumpled napkin.
Your napkin may be used to dab the corners of your mouth but should never be used to remove lipstick or as a facecloth! Its function is primarily to catch any accidentally stray items of food. At the end of the meal, you should refold your napkin and leave it to the left of your plate.
How do you create an impactful centrepiece?
I love to stack crystal vases and plates to make dramatic centrepieces. Athome, we often use emerald green plates, but I have a collection of vases and candlesticks to use for centrepieces in gold, silver, blue and white, pink and crystal. Don’t skimp on your centrepieces: be original and have fun. If there isn’t a lot of room on the table, you can always hang something fabulous from the ceiling or a light fitting. Also remember that museum-grade clear adhesive can be your best friend when getting creative.
Do you like to mix and match crockery, or should everything be the same?
I like both. Matching often looks more formal and can have more impact in a room if you are repeating a dramatic colour. Mixing pieces creates a more relaxed feel, and often gives you the opportunity to play with colour and texture and have some fun. Just remember that if you’re opting to mix and match, there must be one coherent theme that ties the whole look together. For example, I collect plates in a variety of shades of green; some are modern, some are from the ’1950s, some are Victorian and some are 200-year-old French plates. They all work well together, while also adding colour, texture, form and interest to the table.
What do you like about entertaining in winter?
We’re back to candles again! Winter entertaining is my favourite. I love a roaring fire, rich colours, candles and the feeling that your guests are all snuggly and looked after while the weather can do what it may outside. I am currently having a bit of a fling with rich plum and mustard tones, along with magnolia leaves in the flower department. I then mix in chunky black candles, black plates (food always looks fab on black), gold cutlery and mustard linen napkins. I also love collections of softly fragrant candles grouped on interesting trays. With the change of season, I bring in richer tones for my cushions and add in some throws to hang around looking warm and inviting… finish it all off with some delicious home-cooked loveliness and what’s not to like about winter entertaining?