Open up your doors and celebrate summer with friends and family. Whether you opt for formal dinner parties or casual gatherings in the garden – here’s how to host in style.
With the rising popularity of open-plan spaces and family rooms, the formal dining room is becoming a thing of the past. But, even if you don’t have the luxury of a grown-up, separate room, an elegant dining space is still possible by simply creating the right ambiance.
If you have an open-plan kitchen-diner, create zones by using a different – yet complimentary – colour palette for each area. Also important is to keep the space clutter-free – clear kitchen surfaces before your party begins, removing any surplus furniture and kitchen paraphernalia, and add bowls or vases of fresh flowers for an uplifting feel. For separate dining rooms, consider using a wallpaper on all four walls, such as Harlequin’s bold Palmetto or Little Greene’s whimsical Archive Trails. This works well in a room that is not used everyday, giving a dramatic, cocooning feel, ideal for entertaining.
David Mottershead, managing director of Little Greene, paint and wallpaper specialists, comments: “For me dining is a casual affair, with friends and family all helping with food preparation and laying the table. However, when it comes to the ambiance of the room, I like my guests to feel special – and I think the Sakura wallpaper in Yellow Lustre is welcoming and handsome, and does the job to perfection.”
Your choice of dining furniture is, of course, key. For a modern, funky look – source industrial-style chairs and tables from My Furniture. The interiors company also stocks colourful Eames-style chairs and metal café furniture. For a sophisticated look that will last a lifetime, Furl’s 4×4 Table is extendable and available in either a walnut or oak top. For a wide range of styles, however, look to Wharfside, where you can find beautifully crafted modern pieces from brands such as Team 7 and Danish Retro.
British retailer Harveys is a great pitstop for sourcing a range of dining furniture at affordable prices. Giving her advice on the latest trends is Lisa Broad, head of buying: “With interior trends harking back to floral prints and block tones this summer, dining rooms shouldn’t shy away from being bold. Fabric is a great way of experimenting with patterns and zesty shades, either on a seat pad or an all over upholstery dining scheme. Our ‘Sofas By You’ and ‘Chairs By You’ service means customers can pick a sofa or dining chair that’s the perfect match for their home, lifestyle and personality. The Victoria Quince fabric, for instance, used on a seat pad, gives the space a much-needed visual boost. Complement the look with on-trend white-on-wood furniture, to give that overall summer feeling.”
According to stylish home-design company Neptune, choose classic styles that will never go out of style. “If one piece of furniture sums up family life, then it’s the dining table,” advises the brand. “The place for weekday suppers, weekend feasts, family meetings, dinner parties and creative clubs, dining furniture really does deserve some love and consideration. We’ve given traditional styles a modern twist so they suit a cosy cottage or contemporary townhouse and will not go out of fashion. Round tables, like our Chichester, are great for larger rooms and perfect for entertaining. While our Harrogate Dining Table has a unique pedestal feature, and is available in a number of finishes, such as with a chalked oak top. It seats up to 12, making it perfect for family events and big groups of friends.”
To add character, and practicality, invest in a feature sideboard or dresser. For a quintessential French-style country look, go for painted pieces in aqua or distressed white-wash, such as those available at Shabby Store.
SET THE SCENE
How you style your dining table is the first step in creating the right atmosphere. Claire Vallis, design director at Harlequin, renowned for its luxury textiles and wallpapers, gives her tips: “For afternoon teas and summer brunches with style, dress your table with light, delicate fabric runners, napkins and adorn windows with co-ordinating drapes. Alternatively, if evening entertaining is more your thing, use deep colours with bronze accessories to emphasise the drama of the occasion.”
The mood of your gathering can also be dictated by the type of accessories you choose. For impromptu affairs with good friends, for instance, a mix-match of cutlery and ceramics is very fitting, especially if they are all in the same style or colour group. Vintage plates and bone-handled knives and forks work well for this laid-back look. For a similar feel, seek out the Virginia Casa Romantica hand-painted earthenware made in Tuscany and inspired by floral motifs, available at Kensington Design. For a sleeker table, bamboo-trimmed bowls, black ceramics and acacia wood chopping boards from Bloomingville give a modern restaurant-vibe.
For more formal, evening parties, go for glamourous, metallic-adorned plates, such as the gold-trimmed Caesars Palace collection from Dwell or, alternatively, keep it simple and chic by opting for an all-white table – Marks and Spencer has a range of pretty, embossed plates and bowls.
Hanna Wendelbo-Hansson, creative director at Sandberg, reveals how to set the scene: “Make dining and entertaining a luxurious affair with antique glass and cutlery, a family heirloom dinner service, and of course luxurious wallpaper on all four walls of the dining room. Guests should feel spoilt and the sumptuous surroundings should match the effort you have put into inviting special people to your home.”
Maximising a room’s ambient lighting is also essential for creating an inviting space. “Dining room lighting is key when it comes to entertaining, and is also the best location to really splash out on a feature light,” says Simon Wallis-Smith, director of Fritz Fryer, lighting specialists. “To create an intimate dining experience that will impress your guests time after time, hang a chandelier over your dining table so that the bottom is around 70cm from the surface. This looks stunning and means you can get away with a larger fitting than normal as you don’t need to walk underneath.”
From Dar Lighting’s shimmering, diamante Fiesta ball to Vita Copenhagen’s brushed copper pendant, lighting has come a long way from the once requisite crystal chandelier. These days, the choice of fixtures is wide and varied. Opt for an unexpected or unique lighting piece to make a statement and to serve as a conversation starter.
Søren Ravn Christensen, chief creative developer at Vita Copenhagen, reveals how to let the light set the mood of the room: “Not only the design of the lamp, but also the light it offers can create a different mood, from a cosy and relaxed ambience to a lively and bright one. Choose the lampshades and their placement in relation to the amount of light they offer. Try to create a welcoming atmosphere, without the light shining directly into your eyes. Try to use warm and glare-free lights for spaces closer to the eyes, just like the Vita Silvia lamp. Because the light bulb isn’t visible from any angle, this lampshade is perfect for any height and any place in a home, either as a pendant, a floor lamp or a table lamp.”
With retro cocktail bars, gin gardens and rum shacks popping up across all of the UK’s cities, the stylized drink is having a moment. Needless to say, the fashion is being echoed in homes all over the country – with sales of chic drinking accessories rocketing and drinks parties all the rage.
For the ultimate in cool, a drinks trolley is a must. Echoing the must-have home accessory of the 60s, the modern day versions vary from the uber chic brass, marble and mirrored cart at Oliver Bonas to the round 1920s-style at Mia Fleur. Atkin and Thyme’s Riley Drinks Trolley, meanwhile, made of nickel plated iron with glass shelves, is stylish enough to double up as a feature side table in any dining room.
“Entertaining and making cocktails at home is a huge trend at the moment,” agrees Mia Fleur’s Hollie Brooks: “For styles think the decadent 1920s, with key materials for the look being marble and brass. A retro drinks trolley is the only way to serve drinks these days!”
For on-trend accessories, it’s all about referencing the tiki bar vibe. Factor in pineapple motifs – such as the brass ice buckets at Oliver Bonas and the Tom Dixon copper Plum Cocktail Shaker at John Lewis. Or go the whole hog and install John Lewis’s bamboo Tiki Bar, or Out There Interior’s wicker San Marino Serving Bar, in your garden, and just the thing for drinks parties al fresco.
For stylish glasses, Cambridge-based Susie Watson Designs has pretty hand-blown tumblers, wine vessels and carafes, while Villeroy & Boch’s new Boston textured glass range is available in a range of colours, including a summery rose.
“For a truly stylish summer drinks party take a generous size hand-blown wine glass and offer your guests a choice of white or pink,” says Catherine Mansel-Lewis at Susie Watson Designs. “Add fruit to sparkling water or Prosecco and flavor with chopped strawberries, sliced peaches, slithers of melon, or whole raspberries. Why not add a cocktail umbrella to match? And decorate the gazebo with bunting and flowers.”
TURN THE HEAT UP
The perfect summer parties come into their own in the garden. Create a second living-come-dining space with fashionable outdoor furniture. Maze Living’s Nadi Ottoman Corner Sofa and Paris dining sets look more suited to summers on the Med, while Sweetpea & Willow’s Crocodile garden furniture is just the thing to reinvigorate an urban garden.
“The latest fashion is for rattan sofas that combine with dining tables, like our Kingston Corner Dining Set,” says Edward Babbington, managing director, at Maze Living. “They are extremely practical and combine comfort and practicality. They have become the latest must-have furniture for outdoor living.”
Jaquie Dunton, co-founder of Sweetpea & Willow, gives her top tips on sprucing up the garden. “Think about the size of space available and how you want to use it. If you prefer casual entertaining, consider a sofa set with a large coffee table. Alternatively, if you’re looking for somewhere to relax at the weekend with your favourite summer tipple, a comfortable lounger will be your best choice.”
She continues: “If you have a larger garden, create zones with different styles of furniture. Have a lounging area with comfortable sofas and lots of cushions and invest in a table and chairs for entertaining friends or family over dinner.”
From Marks and Spencer’s popping magenta and turquoise Capri Chairs to Out There Interior’s 1960s-style blue hanging chairs, this year garden style is all about retro colour.
“To make the most of the sunshine I love to bring as much colour and life into the garden as possible,” says Jenny Hurren of Out There Interiors. “When it comes to outdoor dining, you can’t go wrong with bold, vibrant colours and a clash of textures. The garden is a temporary room so use this as an opportunity to be playful and show your creative side.”
Nicola Gidlow, John Lewis’s Outdoor Living buyer, agrees: “Fresh pops of colour instantly brighten a space and vibrant greens and deep blues are in for 2016. Add further interest with natural greenery and contrast with white accessories or ramp up the colour factor with pots and cushions in citrus shades and neon brights. It’s a contemporary look, which is also playful, and we’re seeing occasional seating playing an important role in outdoor design. The way people socialise and use their outdoor space means that bar furniture – both tables and stools – are in demand.”
UNDER THE STARS
Finishing touches are key to any garden party. Source lanterns and pretty lighting to create a magical atmosphere come sun-down. For the wow-factor, install an LED cherry or maple tree from Twilight Trees – a novel take on garden lighting.
Permanent illumination is also a good idea for spaces that will be used often and there are now styles available, like the Konstsmide Lucca Outdoor Floor Lamp at John Lewis, that reflect traditional living room designs.
“Clean lines, high sheen surfaces and style-conscious designs epitomise Dar Lighting‘s contemporary outdoor lighting collection,” says Nicola McGuirk, managing director of Dar Lighting. “Our hardwearing stainless steel outdoor range will also resist corrosion and withstand the unpredictable conditions of a typical British summer.”
Sarah Lister, director at David Hunt Lighting, gives her advice: “Even in cold weather, people enjoy standing outside at parties. For outdoor entertaining add character to your garden by supplementing your outside fixed lighting with fairy lights or tea lights. Consider investing in a chiminea or wood burner to keep guests warm and to add a focal point to bring people together. Even if people don’t venture outside, the lighting can still be used to add to the ambience of an indoor party.”
Morso’s contemporary fire-burning stoves are perfect for adding a stylish touch to gatherings, while Chesney’s new range of outdoor fires, conceived by furniture designed Matthew Hilton, bring modern-day glamour to outdoor spaces.
Paul Chesney, managing director of Chesney’s, comments: “People are keen to maximise their space and to spend as much time outdoors – whether socialising, working or eating – and with this in mind, we came up with some designs which would work really well outside. The designs are very organic and sculptural in their shape and would fit well into any garden or terrace. They are ethanol fires and these ones burn better outside with a glass shield to protect the flame and keep it going, even in the breeze.”
Earthenware crockery, giving a tactile, homespun feel, is particularly suitable for the great outdoors. Check out the terracotta tableware from Oggetto and the mango-wood and organic-style ceramics at Pastel Lane. The final flourish comes with textiles – from Dash & Albert’s indoor-outdoor rugs to Extex’s latest Moroccan-inspired cushions – there’s a host of weather-proof styles to choose from.
Tandine Rawkins, design director at Extex, says: “The alluring ambience of the Far East is perfect inspiration for gardens – incorporate its rich heritage with eye-catching fabrics and soft furnishings. From cool blue hues of the purest turquoise to majestic purple and pinks, glamorous ‘sparkle-infused’ textiles are guaranteed to add a twinkle of exotic charm to any indoor or outdoor space including courtyards, gardens and terraces.”
Kristina Lindhe at the Lexington Company has the last word: “A nicely set table can make any summer dinner party pop. Use things you can find in nature and combine with colourful dinnerware and textiles. I think it’s key not to over complicate the decoration it’s about the people – friends and family coming together and having a good time.”
A version of this article is out in the July issue of The Cambridge Edition Magazine