Friday, March 1, 2013

Tips From the Sages- Planning Your Floor and Tabletop Space

"Hosting a memorable gathering should be as enjoyable as attending the event. Take pleasure in planning a menu, then add the little details that make the mood festive."

When I first opened my copy of Pottery Barn's "Dining Spaces" those were the first words I read, and I knew the book was in the right hands. The only things that keeps my planning process from being as entertaining as the actual parties is the fact that our friends are just that fun. I decide I want to host, choose a date, make a guest list, and then I open a Google doc and my Pinterest boards, and then I start cataloging all the possibilities. The food, ambiance, music, lighting, table setting, the execution plan...okay maybe that last part isn't the greatest.

There's always a certain amount of stress and fumbling and tedium that comes along with the planning and execution, at least for me, (and definitely for Shawn.) One of your white plates has mysteriously disappeared at the last minute, so you end up having to use a bright red one to fill in the 12th spot on the table. You can't get the stupid eggs to peel properly for your deviled eggs and you go through 3-4 dozen, the morning of, trying to get them to work because you haven't yet learned that fresh eggs don't peel well. The tailgate of your friend's truck that you borrowed the day before your party to move your dining furniture into your new place, broke off mid-highway. (Yup. All of those things really happened, two of them for the same party.) But even though I know those things can (and often do) happen, I don't let it deter me or thwart my love for hosting. I allow myself to fully engage in the 90% of the process that is truly enjoyable, the creative, artistic, and sensuous endeavors, because if you chose your guests wisely, nobody's going to care about the red plate.

I digress. Here's your tip, or tips, rather:

"Once you know the number of guests, take stock of your surfaces and floor space. If you have a long table surrounded by lots of chairs, but you imagine a casual, eat-as-you-please party, pull the chairs away from the table and use the surface as a single, long sideboard. Table too small to accommodate twelve for a sit-down meal? Add to the existing layout by gathering occasional tables from elsewhere in the house and covering them with matching tablecloths. Encourage mingling by arranging informal areas for conversation with convenient places to set drinks and small plates. When setting up the space, be aware of potential bottlenecks, especially near food and drinks, and be sure to leave enough room for guests to move freely.

"If you're entertaining a large group, think about setting up a temporary dining area in the living room or even in a generously sized entryway. It can be fun to decorate a new space just for the occasion. For an intimate gathering, you might try setting a small table by a fireplace or near a wall of windows with a spectacular view."

Pretty inspiring, eh? I have a dinner party coming up next weekend, and I'm already wanting to start planning another!

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