Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How to Party

You might be seeing a few images of my recent dinner party for twenty on the blogs.  What a party it was, in honor of Karena of The Arts by Karena blog!!!  I have not had so much fun in a long time!  This was a party with the stylish in mind: a cherished guest of honor, esteemed bloggers, some I have met and some I had not; personal friends, farmers market friends, an eclectic mix of people I thought would enjoy each other’s company and a good meal.   It was truly the party I have wanted for my family dinners for a decade: one which is unrushed, unfolds over many hours, with gorgeous decor and wonderful food and desserts.  I was lucky to welcome friends old and new, and just loved to see everyone making new connections and having great conversation.  But how does that happen?  To really make everyone comfortable and to facilitate a great party, what do you need?  You can see images of the party on several blogs, including Christina, the lovely Karena’s and the fabulous and chic Tamera’s, but here I’m going to give you a little behind the scenes.  I took a grand total of three images all night on my camera; thank you to Lorie, Leah of Nobili Antiques and Christina for these images.

A party starts with a good idea, or theme.  I wanted whimsy, I wanted chic. I wanted something sophisticated for this group of ladies, something Dior-esque, subtle grey and pink, maybe punch it up a little, and I started by focusing on this image of a vintage Dior dress:

 vintage dior

OK so now, back to reality.  I went to downtown LA with some grey Ikat or something graphic in mind for the table.  But I didn’t find any; there was none of the graphic chevron or Ikat to be seen; it was all too thin and cheap looking, even at the good stores; nothing that said YES.  But then, right in front of me, I saw some pretty pale pink silk.  That will do.  It’s not grey, but it’s good quality and much better than the cheap looking stuff.  Three yards came home with me and turned into three long runners.  Done.  I also used the runners and flowers the next day at my niece’s bridal shower.  Here you can also see the pale blush hydrangeas in footed vases.  Note.  And the burrata plates. Note. And tons and tons of votives.  Note.  Touches of gold on the glasses and plates.  I love white and gold plates because I can change the look of the party with an accent color and still use these plates.


Underneath the pink runners are cotton yardage, vintage French sheeting, pressed vintage linens which are draped to the floor on both sides, a layer of grey tulle and finally the pink runner.  All on top of some very old yet solid folding tables I have.  For seating, I used the cane chairs from the dining room and the garden chairs.  I have ten of those, and two years ago I had them “metallized” meaning the paint is baked on white.  It does not rust, does not budge.  It’s perfect and if you live in SoCal near the beach, it’s the only way to go for gates and chairs and tables and bars.  These seats were yellow vinyl in the ‘70’s and blue marine canvas in the 80’s and 90’s.  Now they are awning stripe and I take good care of them to keep them looking good.  They gave me the graphic touch I wanted.


For a party like this, I need impact.  I planted the terraces, driveway, entry and patio with all white flowers, with a few pink and white petunias for the Dior theme.  The white flowers show up great at night, and I love the simple green and white look.  I have planted dozens of pots with fresh herbs: rosemary, thyme, mint, savory, lemon verbena, chives, curly and flat-leaf parsley, and sage; these smell great, went into the oven under the chicken quarters, into our salad for the party, can go into tisane, and also went into the vasques holding ice and wine and Perrier; herbs in the ice buckets look and smell great and prevent bottles from clinking.  You can never plant too many herbs in summer.  The rosemary topiaries are from Trader Joe’s ($7) and the rest came from the farmers market.  Terrier not included.


I got the pair of white hydrangeas for $20 each in LA.  Know your resources; drive an hour to save bucks and get exactly what you want, and this was exactly what I wanted.  Nothing else would do.  Along with the palest pink hydrangeas for the tables.


They went in the large urns flanking the doors to the living room.  The lanterns here are original to the house, circa 1923.  I knew this detail would not be lost on the guests; and it was noticed and photographed as I knew it would be.


We dined under the loggia.  Hello, are you building a home in Southern California?  You need one of these.  Ours is ideally situated away from the prevailing Westerly wind.  In the afternoon we get a breeze from the south, which dies down at 6pm.  The builder of our house had previously built a dozen homes in Laguna in the early 20’s and this was his crown jewel estate.  He knew what he was doing.  This is the prime party spot.  In the corner next to the house, I set my desk, which is a French pine bakers table, which held a cheese platter and desserts, as well as a statue original to the house and my favorite 19th C landscape painting by William Keith~ 

(image above via Greige) merci Christina!

This is the aftermath photo; the tulle blowing in the breeze on Sunday afternoon.


Not wanting to make any holes in the loggia, I used $20 of quarter-round painted to match the loggia.  Hung with cotton twine from above by me and my nephew. 240 yards of grey tulle were hung on that; at the last minute, because there is a Momma Bird in the near lantern here.  She was confused by the tulle, but she’s back there now on her nest.  This is also why I did not light the three lanterns above during the dinner.  We used votives, which you also see here along the stone wall behind the loggia.


The tulle blows around a lot during the day.


It’s super elegant to me, and this is something I have wanted to do in this space….for…forever.


It was totally worth it.  I got the tulle in downtown LA; 40 yards is $10.  But it blows all over. 


Catching on the smallest piece of ivy.


All over, I say.


Like a velvet octopus, it wraps itself around sets of glasses, plants and pots.  You wouldn’t think so, but it can pull over glasses.  So beware.


Before we dined, I wanted space for guests to visit; to facilitate conversation.  I hauled furniture out of the living room, and some other rooms.  My favorite white Bergeres came from a consignment long ago and are super comfortable.


Vuitton trunks and leopard ottomans my chic guests were sure to love….


Yes, everyone was very very comfy.  No wonder they didn’t mind waiting for dinner!  The leaded glass windows along the wall came from a nearby home dated 1923.  The new owners redid the house in Santa Fe style (!) but I bought all the windows for a song, one day to make a folly in my garden.


My latest and a few favorite cookbooks from Chino Farm sat on top of the trunks, for browsing.  I don’t know if anyone looked at these.


all I can say is that everyone was happy.  Everyone.


As for the food, we had spicy ahi and avocado etc for starters, then the burrata was plated and put on each place setting as guests were seated.  I used Gioia brand burrata; not a fan of the Trader Joe’s one since so many have asked me….sorry.  Track down the Gioia.  I took a bit of a gamble and made my own pasta.  This took a little time as it was six cups of flour and then eggs and water, salt and olive oil that needed to be worked together and kneaded.   If I had screwed it up it would be disaster.  But it was perfect.  I had so many guests come in the kitchen to see it being made, and a handful of helpers who just really wanted to know how this was done and help turn the crank and roll the pasta with me.  I see pasta lessons in the future for some of my friends, not to mention a lot of lunches after the Saturday market.

photo 1 (1)

I sent Linda out onto the patio carrying this elastic sheet of pre-cut pasta on her arms to assure guests the dinner was indeed under preparation. She’s just adjusting to the length of it here, but she paraded it well and everyone loved it!

photo 2 (1)

So many great friends, so many great memories….love that everyone had a great time and didn’t mind waiting for the food to eventually make its way out of the kitchen~IMG_7019

My Mom stayed up until midnight with the last guests, and she said it was the best party she’s been to in a long time….even if it was at her own house! Love you, Mom!!! I love to see her so happy, with a smile on her face and having such a great time all night; meanwhile, Dad went to bed.  He thinks I’m crazy.


After all this I went for a swim at 2am and cleaned the plates up.  We’ll be doing this again soon, and it’s going to be slightly different, and even better…

Entertain well and entertain often this summer, you won’t ever regret it!


  1. Dear Andrea,
    It was heaven on earth and yes, all of the guests had the grandest, yet most relaxing time. A magical evening Isabella and I will never forget!

    The Arts by Karena

  2. I cannot tell YOU what treat that was for me to read just now......I have goosebumps!YOU ARE A STAR!I love your ZEST for doing this!You will not believe me but I too have hung TULLE in the garden for parties!But $10.00 for 40 yards???????Think I will be driving down to SHOP!I would imagine you will leave the tulle up for is ROMANTIC and BEAUTIFUL!How kind of you to think of the MAMMA bird!Is that your MAMMA in the last photo?Gorgeous.............
    I do not know how you did that party then did another the day after!You are a very talented DAME!
    I have so enjoyed this whole build up and festivity then seeing the photos.........cannot wait for the next SOIREE and I will BE THERE with Contessa~esque jewels and Tiara!!!!
    Ps.I would like to be seated next to YOUR MAMMA!!

  3. Oh my gosh I've been waiting for this post! So glad to finally see the party! Giving me a lot to think about...I think I can really jazz up our backyard bonfires, haha, but really they could benefit from a more sophisticated touch, especially as the girls are now getting older. I hope to copy on scale and convert to PNW climate....mille thanks!! Can't wait to see what you've got next!

  4. I have seen the photos on Karenas blog and the party looked FABULOUS! But then again every event I have ever seen on your blog looks magical! I love everything!

  5. I saw the pics on Christina's blog this morning and was just blown away. The billowing curtaining has captured my heart! Just brilliant. And, btw, you and your home are beautiful. xx's

  6. WOW! What a great friend you are... it looks truly enchanting... you take it all to another level... casual elegance all the way!

  7. My dear … did you ever capture your inspiration photo … perfectly I might add! I enjoy hearing all of the behind the scenes info as much as the party! The photos and this post allow me to relive that magical night all over!

    Thank you for sharing the tip about the metal chairs. Adding the stripe upholstery … pure genius! As was your perfect mix of iron and the cane chairs!

    I could go on and on about each aspect of your beautifully choreographed evening … but most of all … I am beyond honored to have been included in your enchanting evening. You are a true master entertainer … with the most loving and generous soul.

    Much Love to You My Dear.

  8. How pretty Andrea! A perfect way to start of the summer..Getting ready for a party is the best way to get everything ready at once.. I love how special you made it for your guests.
    Happy Summer

  9. Quel billet fabuleux !... Toutes ces merveilleuses photos de cette fête. Vous avez crée un moment magique et spécial... Inoubliable, nul doute ! BRAVO !

    ♡ Gros bisous ♡

  10. Oh my I die!
    Oh how I wish I could have been there!!!
    Somehow you make us feel like we were there with you!
    You are simply the best, you can't help it!!!

  11. So beyond amazing Andrea!! You have elevated party giving to exquisite mastery! No detail was left unattended!! I'm so in awe of your creative skills...simply outstanding.
    Your Mom looks to be having the time of her life. How blessed you are to have her there with you.

    I've hung tulle indoors and out, but never quite like is!! How did you suspend the rods? I'm going back to re read and savour each detail. Honey Bear is looking extremely happy as well. Such a sweetie.

    I'm not the least bit surprised you only took three photos. When would you have had time?
    I'm heading back up to savour each detail again. And to have done a party the following day as well? Beyond!!

    Saying I'm sorry to have missed it, doesn't do my feelings justice.
    I'm anxiously awaiting your next extravaganza and hope to be seated next to you!!
    Have a wonderful time in France...I know you will.

  12. I am a friend of Tamera Beardsley's, and a benefactress of many memories wherein she is interwoven throughout my life in magical moments she has created while entertaining. Upon seeing her blog and her subsequent post leading here, I'm most assuredly blessed to read your adventure in entertaining. Thank you for the practical how-to's and the fabulous showing of one of my favorite architectural periods. Like you, I have a passion for wafting tulle in the garden. A delightful surprise, is a bit of a stronger weave available periodically at our local OC Ikea. This fabric does not shred as easily as tulle, and has the same effect while lasting throughout many months, including in inclement weather or evening beach dew.
    Thank you for sharing beyond your guests, your splendid evening. And how lovely to see Jeff and Tamera enjoying being entertained well, as they have done so for many years.

    It is a pleasure to create magic within an environment, and do not be surprised should your guests refer to the memories you created, for many years.

    Some evenings are simply magic. (with some effort and wonderful guests.)

    Denise Pagett

  13. Bravo, what a fabulous party. Thanks for sharing the event and photos. You are such an amazing hostess.

    Sheila in SF

  14. What a magnificent party. You really know how to entertain. I am now officially hooked on your gorgeous blog.

  15. What an amazing gathering and fabulous group of bloggers and friends! I have saved some of your gorgeous photos as inspiration on pinterest. You are a brilliant hostess and I so enjoyed the tour of the night and all your sumptuous attention to detail ...

  16. Oh, Andrea!
    How could I have had such a misfortune happen to me to not allow me to make it to your divine party.
    I feel I was there with all the ones who have shared your beautiful dinner party.
    Everything looks so relaxed in the best grandeur. You need to do a book on entertaining relaxed elegance, it would be a best seller. :)

    Beautiful July approaches us, and I am looking forward to all it inspires from you.
    See you soon.



  17. Dear Andrea,
    I am still on a cloud after receiving the royal treatment at your Laguna Beach estate! Today when I was telling a friend about the menu, the details, the ambience and showing her photos, she exclaimed, "this is the kind of event that should be featured in a magazine". Well, I do agree!! It was even better than many soirees I read about, especially since I was fortunate enough to be there!

    The Arts by Karena