Saturday, October 1, 2011

design obsession: pinterest

if you were to write the history of "sophisticating" and were required to classify the last two months of my blogging life, you'd undoubtedly refer to them as "the quiet years." rather than bore you with a million excuses as to why i've been so silent, suffice it to say: the day job launched into full swing (and took its rightful place as afternoon and evening job as well)...and... i have discovered PINTEREST.

perhaps you're living under a rock and have not embraced the wonder that is pinterest. it's essentially a giant virtual pinboard for everything you stumble across that you want to remember. "but i bookmark," you say. oh no. no, no no my friend. you must pin. it's all about pinning now.

i thought i'd spend my "excuse" blog post instead giving you reason to thank me. albeit distracting, pinterest has given me the opportunity to feel that my late night internet foraging is not in vain, even though it hasn't resulted in a blog post. until now.

here is a sneak peek from each of my "boards." you see, dear friends, with pinterest i am not limited to discussions of parties and interiors. oh no. i am extending my sophisticated search to all corners of the world. clothing, accessories, travel, hair-dos--you name it. it's all there.

...happy sophisticating...

board: home sweet home

board: home sweet home

board: home sweet home

board: home sweet home
i wish i was typing this from a space like this. heaven.

board: loft design inspiration

board: loft design inspiration

board: threads

board: threads

board: slippers

board: slippers

board: wanderlust
sorrento, italy

board: party time!

board: party time!

board: health inspiration

board: health inspiration

board: gifts

board: gifts

board: lovely locks

board: lovely locks

board: bags & bling

board: bags & bling

board: outdoorsy

board: outdoorsy

if you're looking to a link to the original source, visit my pinterest page:
that's the genius - it saves all of the links FOR you.
if you would like to be invited to pinterest, leave a comment.
i'm happy to oblige.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

setting the mood: scent

next up in our series on "setting the mood" is SCENT. i've gone on and on about some of my favorite home fragrances, such as:

elysian garden by voluspa

tomato blossom candle from target

i needn't attempt to describe a bunch of abstract scents or scent combinations for an entire blog post--that would be about as interesting as...well...something boring.

SO here are my scent ground rules for dinner parties, events and the like!

1- your home (or venue) smells. it just does. whether you know it or not. it has A smell. wouldn't you rather decide what that smell is? rule number one is: choose a scent.

2- feel free to fill the house with scent, but when you are trying to fill a large space, pick something subtle and be consistent from room to room, with only subtle variation. vanilla is safe--people have positive scent memories with vanilla, and rarely is it too overwhelming. for that reason it can also be a little boring. fresh, natural, organic scents are always pretty safe. stick with nature. oil reed diffusers can be great for this sort of thing, because they give you a strong first "whiff" but mellow out throughout the rest of the space. avoid anything too flowery, gardenia-y or musky and you run the risk of having a few offended noses.

the only exception, in my mind, is the volcano candle from anthropologie.
anyone who doesn't like it is basically not welcome in my house. so that's that. ;)

3- be sure to place scent strategically in the...powder room. can you sense my attempt at subtlety? ;) and i'll leave that one alone.

4- NEVER--i mean NEVER--have scented candles in your dining room or around your food. it will totally throw off your guests' taste buds and they will miss out on the subtle flavors of the delectable fare you are providing. the only scent your dining room needs is that of wafting food. no one wants a nose full of gardenia when they are trying to enjoy their filet mignon.

5- get seasonal with your scent. vanilla, cinnamon and chocolate-dipped-sugar-cookie-star-munchie are all great choices for the holiday season. keep it light and fresh in the spring, a bit more fruity or tropical in the summer, and bust out the pumpkin spice in the fall. instant "feel-good" points.

6- try mixing up scent throughout your event. what if you had a nice fresh scent as people arrived, mellowed things out during the main activity, and then brought in a warm, spicy scent at the end of the event. something so subtle, but it could really subconsciously set the mood. wait, what was that? set the mood?! bingo.

okay, now spill your secrets. what are your favorite scents?

...happy sophisticating...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

setting the mood: sparkle

next up for setting the mood at your event is the SPARKLE - or lighting! i have to admit this is something i obsess over, both at simple backyard dinner parties, and at special events i plan at work. truthfully, i think might be the most important element of any event.

there are two layers to lighting--the lighting on your table, and the lighting of your venue. both are equally important and powerful. here is a great example of both:

a simple placesetting becomes unbelievably sophisticated with a mass of taper candles and some seriously cool metal lanterns. they set such a special mood!
photo via cubesedenwedding

some quick tips to create sparkle at your event:

1- rarely does an occasion call for "full, bright-as-day lights." NEVER does an occasion call for florescent lighting. ew. everything feels more special in dimmed light. everyone looks better in dimmed light. you kind of can't go wrong. if the lights in your home are not dim-able, SHUT THEM OFF. put tons of candles everywhere and i swear, you could serve mcdonald's happy meals and your guests would still think it was fabulous.
2- simple things become sensation in mass quantities, as mentioned above. buy a bulk bag of tea lights, but them in interesting (or not-so-interesting) containers, line them up in a straight line, or a strategically un-straight line and BAM. you've got sparkle. don't overthink it. don't feel like everything has to match perfectly. anything, i mean ANYthing, can become a fun theme if you just go all out with it.
3- in a room, look for architectural elements to highlight. does your dining room have built-ins? find a way to light them up. does your wedding venue have an amazing ceiling? throw some uplights on it and suddenly you have a show-stopping venue - and a much more affordable decor solution rather than, say, draping the ceiling.
4- a little goes a long way. if you want to hang a ton of paper lanterns above your dining area, or wedding venue, don't feel obligated to light them all. haphazardly choose which ones should contain light and it will add a sense of mystery to the space. bare edison bulbs are becoming really popular now. if you intend to clump a ton together for a makeshift, industrial chandelier, don't light them all. it'll be way too overwhelming. light a few and the reflection off of the other bulbs will do the work for you! if you are going to ere on the side of too bright or too dim, always lean toward too dim. it's sexier.

below are some of my favorite examples of fabulous and sophisticated sparkle. which are your favorites?

...happy sophisticating...

this all white color palate truly sparkles!
photo via pinterest

LOVE the simplicity of this design. you don't even need to worry about centerpieces in the midst of this fabulous candlelight. the linear placement plays up on the long tables and the scope of the room. brilliant!

candles on every flat surface make the room glow.
photo via serendipitydesignsblog

LOVE the use of lanterns mixed with simple tea lights. notice how dark the rest of the venue is? but it doesn't even matter.
photo via stylemepretty

some of the tables have candles, some don't. paper lanterns but NONE are lit, because there are twinkly lights surrounding. brilliant, beautiful and cost-saving!

this is a great example of good indoor lighting. rather than leave all of the work to one chandelier, there is supplemental candlelight surrounding the room, making the entire room glow.
photo courtesy of house beautiful

mason jar lanterns. the ultimate diy touch, and SO chic.

simple lanterns hung at a variety of heights become extra special.

could this be any more stunning? look at the sparkle on that stemware because of simple tealights. and notice the paper lanters--randomly lit. this is the epitome of event sparkle.
photo via 4bostondj

shifting into venue lighting--this is an event i did at work. we did a simple ceiling drape inside a tent, but the lighting really made it sing. when in doubt--go with amber washes on lighting--it warms up a space like no other.

another one of my events. sometimes if you can't afford a lot of complex lighting, it's best to go with one stand-out statement. once this chandelier lit up the room, no one remembered they were in a tent.

having a simple outdoor event? hang some cafe bulbs--it will become special instantly! my backyard is pitch black at night--we strung tons of these lights in a canopy from our house, through our trees--so charming!

love the atmosphere created with these cafe bulbs.

this is a great example of creative venue lighting. these lights are called pinspots. they take a great deal of expertise to hang, but a little can go a long way. notice how the center portion of each table is perfectly lit? so simple, but so stunning.
photo via ocaudiovisualsolutions

this technique is called uplighting. an all white venue is completely transformed with blue gels on uplights--the lighting takes the simple tent draping to the next level.
photo via ocaudiovisualsolutions

the last lighting technique: gobos. those incredible shapes on the ceiling are the result of a gobo--a metal stencil that is placed over a light to cast an incredible design on any surface. have them custom made for your event--you can feature designs, pictures, words--the sky is the limit. what a way to customize an event!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

setting the mood: soundtrack

part two in setting the mood is all about music. so, for starters, i am of the mind that you NEED background music. it's like a social safety net--hides silence if there is a lull in the conversation, offers you a conversation topic if you are at a loss--but above all, music can help you set the tone for your party. so, here are some great principles for you to apply as you pick music for any kind of event!

1- consider soundtracks! often times movie or television soundtracks have done the work for you. if you liked the feeling you walked away with after a movie, chances are the soundtrack is one you'll really enjoy! so if you want your guests to walk away from a party with a similar feeling, consider featuring the soundtrack throughout your larger party playlist. having said that, be sure to eliminate the inevitable "susie finds out the bad news" or "mr. darcy fights with lizzie" that can sneak into any soundtrack. ;)

my hands-down, go-to soundtrack is from the movie "something's gotta give." lots of great french music, some classic jazz--every song on the album really captures that sophisticated, romantic, relaxed feeling--just like the movie. more of my favorite soundtracks are featured below...

2- consider your audience. if you've got lots of young kids, pick music that will be fun for them, but also be enjoyable for their parents. an older group? go with the classics -- like jazz standards performed by new artists. an indie crowd? steer clear of top 40 pop. do you want the party to feel upbeat? mellow? celebratory? pick accordingly. as a rule, dinner parties need to strike a balance between perky and mellow while hors d'oeuvres or cocktail parties need a bit more energy.
3- consider your theme. often times this rule can pick the playlist for you. if you are having a theme party of any kind, use music as an opportunity to tie everything together. i always think it's best to aim for "middle of the road" thematic music. for instance, if you are having a fancy bbq, or a western theme, shoot more toward carrie underwood or rascall flats, less toward billy ray cyrus. you never want to divide your group over the music--keeping things more middle of the road will ensure that your theme is highlighted, but you aren't isolating any of your guests with an extreme style of music.
4- consider the flow of your event. music has the unique ability to help you create a variety of moods throughout an event, so be mindful as you order your playlist.
as an example, this is how i would select the music for a classic dinner party:
as people arrive, select music that is calming, but perky. instrumental can be good (soundtracks in particular) but choose songs that are positive and help them relax, and ease in to the party mood. keep the volume just high enough so that any awkward silences existing between guests feel minimized.
during dinner, keep the volume low, but the music should be increasingly upbeat. you never want to reach the point of dance music, but ideally the music should be carrying you to a peak right toward the end of your entree. throw in a few "classics" or "throwbacks" that everyone knows, but haven't heard in ages. they are sure the keep the energy up, and who knows? maybe everyone will burst into song! ;)
as dessert and after-dinner coffee is served, start bringing the energy level down again. you can take things a bit lower than when guests arrived--but not so low they want to ask for a pillow and stay the night. keep things mellow and a bit interesting--a lot of times newer artists covering older songs are great as the evening winds down. songs feel familiar, but not entirely recognizable. but always, end somewhat mellow.

as far as specific recommendations---where do i begin???
so, i thought i'd feature the albums i look to as kind of "across the board" great music for a variety of age groups, but they certainly only scratch the surface.

...happy sophisticating...

this one is a more recent discovery for me--i love the tv show, parenthood, and finally thought to check out the soundtrack. utterly delightful! everything from bob dylan to amos lee, this is just an all around great soundtrack, with some fabulous party music.

strangely, this has become an oldie but a goodie, but the garden state soundtrack is just great music. crafted by zach braff himself, it was the best of the best, the newest and freshest when it first came out. now, it's still pretty stinkin' awesome. good "wind down the party" music.

once again, a fantastic zach braff creation. this one's a bit more upbeat, but equally fabulous.

mostly instrumental, with a few well chosen non-instrumentals. this has a very family-friendly, perky, good vibe. the talented composer, sondre lerche, is just so so good. this will just make you feel happy.

given the fact that this film featured a ten minute montage of paris in the 60s, you can bet the soundtrack is amazing. a few great instrumental pieces, but mostly fun, jazzy party music. it's just heavenly.

you can probably tell i have a thing for french music at this point, but the french are just SO great at capturing a feeling. carla bruni is no exception. and she's married to the president of france so, you know, she has that whole royalty thing going on.

earth, wind and fire are great for ramping up the energy. i'm telling you--everyone from small children to the grandparents will be singing along. one of those "i haven't heard this in AGES, i LOVE this song" artists.

i'm telling you--listen to an album like this and you will be amazed again at all of the incredible music michael jackson made. throw in a few "old school" classics and your guests will love it.


you'd be surprised how happy everyone becomes humming along to "every little thing...gonna be alright." just one or two, but you can't go wrong.

diana krall is the epitome. jazz classics, redone in the RIGHT way. i don't know what more to say--perfect at the start and end of the party. your guests will feel like they are in a movie.

had to end with james vincent mcmorrow, because he's my new fave. some of his music is better for the hosts to fall asleep to, but there are a handful of perfect "wind down the evening" songs that will have all of your guests asking "oh my gosh, who is this? this is amazing."

what are some of your go-to party songs?