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?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

setting the mood: seating

this week i am going to be featuring a series on "setting the mood." aside from major occasions and milestones, a lot of people just don't entertain anymore. maybe they are too busy, or intimidated at the prospect of hosting people in their home.

most of these tips will pertain to the "at home dinner party"--it's accessible, intimate and has SO much potential to become truly special. however, any of these tips can be applied to everything from birthday parties and weddings to home decor.

the first element of setting the mood is SEATING.
often overlooked but, in my mind, pretty obvious. you're having a dinner party, you want people to experience comfort, so for heaven's sake, give them someplace comfortable to sit!

photo courtesy of sarah richardson

first off: sit in your dining chairs. if after five minutes you are uncomfortable, chances are your guest certainly won't want to sit for an hour or so over a long, leisurely dinner.

secondly: pay attention to the height of your chairs. if the chair is too high, they won't be able to cross a leg, or they'll be leaning down over their plate the whole evening. too low and they will feel like a little kid, shoveling food into their mouths the whole evening.

third: if you have arm chairs at your table, make sure there is enough room for someone to scoot in and out. armless chairs, you can really cram in. true, in an ideal world you want to have a comfortable amount of distance between each guest -- but i am of the mindset that it's kind of sexy to have people sitting in close quarters--let them bump elbows a might start something ;)

four: get creative! "that chair belongs in the living room," you say? nonsense. feel free to use living room chairs in the dining room. in my opinion, SO chic. grab that old bench from the backyard and put it at the table too! little unexpected touches make things novel and fun. having a gourmet menu? consider rustic, casual seating to keep things accessible. backyard bbq? drag those chairs from the living room and class it up a bit!

enjoy some of my favorite seats below.
...happy sophisticating...

love the grown up chairs with the relaxed slipcovers. so comfy!
photo via lifeinthefunlane

i can't say enough about this. the color palette, the bench, the wingbacks. it's all fabulous. wouldn't you feel special being invited to this dinner party?
photo via decorpad

love the dining room IN the kitchen. LOVE the seating.
photo via decorpad

you know this dinner party will last for hours and hours.
photo via simplyseleta

love the mix of seating here. you just know your guests will be fighting over who gets to sit on the fun pillows. suddenly a traditional setup become fresh and innovative.
photo via decorpad

wondering who sits next whom? check out this adorable seating strategy guide from real simple!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

coming next week: SETTING THE MOOD!

aside from recipes, i know i don't tend to offer much in the way of "how to's" on this blog. it has tended to be a bit more "do as i do" or "let's admire pretty things together."

SO next week i will be featuring a series on "setting the mood" at an event, wedding, birthday party, dinner, get get the idea.

each day i'll be revealing some of my favorite tips & tricks to turn any gathering into something truly special.

stay tuned! you are in for a treat.
until then, here is a quick sneak peek of one of the upcoming features to inspire you!

photo courtesy of 4bostondj

...happy sophisticating...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

tidbit: dreamy garden room

i leave for vacation in four delicious days, but this photo has me dreaming of a slower pace already. LOVE the slouchy white slipcovers, chandelier and those fabulous french doors.

...happy sophisticating...

photo courtesy of canadian house & home

Monday, July 18, 2011

tidbit: hither & thither

my husband and i have a bad case of wanderlust. while we love our [relatively] simple life in our little cottage, we love to travel -- which, for us, usually means lots of wandering, peacefully taking in the sights and quintessential "local" experiences, scoping out fabulous restaurants, dipping into shops and trying to gather the feeling of a place.

well, when it comes to travel guides, we have hit the jackpot.
hither & thither.

the couple in venice, italy.

a darling couple, living in manhattan, who love to travel just like us. i knew we'd struck gold when i read through their post on napa and it looked like they photocopied the photo album of our trip. the will, heretofore, be our "go to" travel resource.

check out their blog. beautiful photos. incredible tips & recommendations that seem to really capture the spirit of a place. even the way they document their everyday life will leave you inspired. whether you're planning a trip, or you want to escape for a few minutes, you will certainly enjoy hither & thither!

...happy sophisticating...

enjoy a smattering of photos from their travels,
and from a local farmers market in manhattan!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

sophisticateurs: the novogratz

a little over a year ago i discovered the novogratz family. i became immediately obsessed with the unbelievably fashionable, new york-based couple -- house-flipping, avant garde, interior designers -- and their 7 [yes 7] children. imagine my delight at the news that they've landed their new design show, home by novogratz, on hgtv.

i love their outside the box approach to design. the normal rules don't apply to them, because they design in a way that works for THEM. large, open floor plans, communal living spaces, bright colors, white, fabulous flea market finds.

the homes featured below belong to them. they are famous for purchasing dilapidated, sometimes condemned properties and utterly transforming them into these unbelievable spaces. i'm smitten. you will be too.

tune in tonight, 7/16 at 10pm on hgtv.
...happy sophisticating...

their children's names? wolfie (wolfgang), tallulah, bellamy, breaker, five, holleder & major.
did i mention the entire family is signed with ford models? no, seriously.

before and after

they had this fabulous rooftop space where they loved to play basketball, but they kept losing the ball. so, naturally, they constructed this unbelievable chain-link dome to solve the problem. brilliant.

want more? check out more of their incredible designs at the
website for their company, sixx design.