Tips on planning a beautifully laid back summer party

When style disrupter Emily Henderson released her book, Styled: Secrets for Arranging Rooms, from Tabletops to Bookshelves, last fall, fans flocked to adopt her simple but life-changing staging techniques into their own homes.

Emily Henderson

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These tips — formulas really — work by helping dwellers understand the blueprint for fresh, but livable arrangements of the things we surround ourselves with everyday, like mountains of books (guilty!), tchotchkes, art work and, of course, furniture. So when Henderson's team reached out to share her summer party tips, we were all ears.

We wondered: How would this popular designer take a typical summer soiree (another BBQ?? snore.) and turn it upside down but still make it pretty, affordable, and totally DIY? Her answers might surprise you...

Seriously, people... give up the peonies already

  • Go for flowers that are in season and budget friendly, stresses Henderson. "I know we all want peonies year round, but their $10 a stem price in August does not a stress-less party make." With a ton of summery blooms to choose from, it's a no-brainer to work with what's available, like dahlias. "Dahlias are everywhere for six short weeks — mid July to late August — so don't pass them up," says Henderson.

Start with what you have

  • Decorations got you down? Don't reinvent the wheel, but start with what you have. "Use your current color palette as inspiration for a dinner party, then add 30% more color or texture." If you naturally gravitate towards neutrals, Henderson says to punch it up with glitz, texture, and color. "I like to keep my spaces with a consistent color palette of blues, grays, whites and hints of gold and black. But for a party, I am emotionally compelled to add pink. I can’t not. It adds a bit of crazy on top of cool."
  • When it comes to serveware, Henderson recommends pairing simple white everyday plates with something with more pop and uniqueness. "Dress up the simple with the sassy and as long as you keep it consistent you can mix any color or pattern with simple white plates," she says.

Bring the indoors out

  • Henderson is a big fan of setting the al fresco scene with temporary seating, floor cushions and outdoor rugs. "Bring indoor poufs out, layer carpets to make the conversation area bigger and throw on some more pillows (even if they are indoor pillows, just for the night) to bring in more texture and coziness.," says Henderson.

Play mix-master

  • "Simple can look boring if you don’t have a variety of textures," says Henderson. "If you want something clean and fresh go for finished woods, marble (which is abundant these days), porcelain, ceramic and metal. Henderson stressed: "Just because you want it to be simple doesn’t mean that you can’t have a variety of simple finishes."
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Eat, drink, and be merry

  • Creating a yum-worthy spread for guests really doesn't need to feel like a chore. "I’m super into ‘not cooking.’ I’m also into really effortless (yet totally pulled together) dinner parties," says Henderson.
  • For a summer casual summer gathering, Henderson opts for buying grocery store items and arranging them into beautiful looking spreads. "Off the shelf food and drink can be arranged and styled to look like an artisan chef from Brooklyn flew in just for the occasion. Arrange and style curated (but pre-made) ingredients to look effortless and yet intentional."

Easy. But what about drinks? "While I love when other people spend hours prepping my muddled drink, I prefer ease and a stress-less process for my own parties," she says. Her solution?

  • On-the-go tetras (500 ml) of wine on ice, and boxes of wine strategically placed throughout the party. "For sips, think high quality boxed wine (like Black Box). Each box is the equivalent of 4 regular bottles of wine and it stays fresh for up to 6 weeks after opening, so even if your guests don’t drink all the wine (doubtful!) you can still enjoy it later," Henderson says.
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Summer family fun: Outdoor gadgets for kids of all ages

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Summer family fun: Outdoor gadgets for kids of all ages

Play Video - 4:23

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