LA-based designer and author Emily Henderson relishes using no-hassle decorating techniques and easy entertaining strategies to pull of brilliant events of every strip. Take her style cues to create a fuss-free tabletop and casually elegant look.
Emily Henderson is an LA-based stylist and author with a knack for creating modern home design with a vintage spirit. For our annual Easter brunch, she deployed a color palette filled with rich pinks, blues, and golds to create a fresh and modern vibe for our spring fling. For more style tips, find her book, Styled: Secrets for Arranging Rooms, from Tabletops to Bookshelves, at stylebyemilyhenderson.com.
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Picking the Right Palette
Creating a color palette is always the first step to success in any decorating or styling process. Without that, you are flailing around, and any project can turn out to be a mess. Pick one or two colors that reflect the desired vibe for your event. Once you have a couple selected, make sure that you have at least one warm and one cool (for instance the pink is the warm and the mint is the cool in this color palette). Then, add in a neutral—cream, gray, or white.
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Setting The Table
Every table needs lighting (candles), something sculptural (flowers or plants), and room to breathe. Make sure one of those elements has height, but be careful not to cut off conversation with a massive flower arrangement in the center of the table. If you want to get crazy, scatter pretty leaves, branches, or confetti.
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In With The Old and The New
When it comes to mixing new and old [on the table], there are some key things to think about that can keep the motif feeling more 2016 and less “thrift store.” First, make sure that you use a few pieces that are simple, solid colored, and feel modern—even if they are actually antique. Second, always work within a color palette that feels pulled back, because crazy on crazy next to crazy can look, well, INSANE. So, if you’re using patterned china, be sure to balance it with some solid colored serving pieces and linens—the combination will feel updated and sophisticated.
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Use Your Rooms to Control the Party Flow
Everyone loves a lounge to mingle in, right? Our living room has incredible light and such a good vibe so we tend to gather in there, then move to the dining room to eat. The kitchen is often the place to gather, and while I’m not opposed to that, it also tends to be messy from prepping, so having another area (like your living room) dictated as the “cocktail lounge” helps keep the party interesting and tells the party goers what to do when.
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Are “Party Favors” Necessary?
I don’t think you need to have takeaways for each guest, but if there is something appropriate that you use for the party and would be wasted afterwards (like flowers or decor), then YES it’s a great idea to send those items home with people. The little flower arrangements we used for the Easter gathering were so easy to make because they were so small, and scattering them around the table helped make the entire table feel addressed. Sending them home with our guests made sense. Don’t kill yourself trying to be hospitable; being stressed out is never inviting.
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What About The “Kids’ Table?”
Whether or not we have a 'kids' table' depends on the occasion...and depends on the age of the kid. My kids (2 months and 2 years) are conversation killers. In theory, I would LOVE them to be with me, but in actuality, we generally feed them first before we sit down to a grown-up dinner party. I think that for more meaningful family dinners they should definitely be involved, but for your Saturday night catch up with friends, put a TV show on and get on with your social life.
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Don’t Sweat the Hostess Gift
Not to be a total naysayer, but I hate the pressure of giving gifts at a dinner party, and I hate the pressure of receiving something that I may not necessarily use. I think a bottle of wine is ALWAYS appreciated—as is truffle oil, aged olive oil, or some fancy salt. Everyone needs booze and oil, right?