Casual Dinner Party In Your Formal Dining Room

There are times when you need to use your formal dining room for more casual entertaining.  There are some tricks to make it feel more casual without having to redecorate the space.  Here are a few ideas when used together you can really create a casual but memorable party. 

Consider the Menu
The type of food you are serving really sets the tone for the formality of the party.  If you are serving Osso Bucco the atmosphere is quite different from a Hearty Brunswick Stew.  The trick is to dress up a more homestyle menu or dress down a more formal menu.  Here is a menu example that would work for a casual dinner party in your formal dining room.

Arrival of Spring Casual Supper

Opening Cocktail And Small Bite
French 75
(these are my new favorite drink)
Bruschetta with Mozzarella and Fresh Favas

Main Course
Herb Roasted Chicken with Melted Tomatoes
Fried Smashed Potatoes with Lemon
Balsamic Braised Brussels with Pancetta

Traditional Bakewell Tart
 (I think dessert feels more casual with you cut slices 
rather than serving individually made desserts)
French Pressed Coffee

Select Your Centerpiece Carefully
While it may look easy and casual, when trying to get your formal dining room to "read" more casual you have to work at it a bit.  Contrast is the trick - use a more formal container with loose more homey flowers to get the look.  Alternatively, select more formal flowers and think about using a rustic container for the right balance.

Balance the Elements in Your Table Setting 
As I mentioned before, I love to mix my simple white everyday china with my sterling silver.  I think it adds some glamour without making your guests feel like they need to be wearing a coat and tie.  Also, I love texture and contrast which can also bring in a more casual feeling to your dining room.  Sometimes I eliminate the table cloth all together and just use round placemats in a contrasting color.  This gives the room a more casual atmosphere.  

Also worth mentioning - the proper table setting for an informal dinner party.  This alone will completely change how the party feels.

Which brings me to my last point.  This happens in the Smith T house a lot!  We decide to host a casual dinner party for ten.  By the time the party rolls around, my hubby has invited more couples than I have seating at our dinner room table.  The easiest solution - make your hubby eat in the garage turn the dining room table into a buffet and serve a more pick up friendly menu.  Done.  And to be honest, parties seem to be more fun with more couples.  

Another note, when I'm using my dining table as a buffet and serving dinner (rather than a cocktail party with lots of pick up items), I like to remove a leaf from my dinner room table.  That way the food looks more bountiful (even if you only have one main items and a couple of sides) - on a smaller table.  Rather than a few items on a sea of table!  Just a small trick, but it works.   Now that Spring is almost here, it's time for you to host a casual supper with friends!  M.

Things On My Mind

I've started to notice the days are getting longer.  Have you noticed?  It makes me so happy to know that Spring is on it's way.  I really enjoy the change of season, but I feel like Winter is always the longest of them all.  So ready for longer days, flowers and trees budding, change in fashion, and lighter dinner fare! Here's what I've been dreaming of lately.

I've been yearning to sit outside with friends on a Friday afternoon.  This would be the perfect place to do just that.

Been reading lots of blog posts on Spring fashion.  Seeing lots of bold florals paired with striped tops.  

Found this fantastic lamp for a client's home.  We're doing a pair of these on a narrow console table.  Great price, the perfect depth, and just a touch of glam.  I love it when a plan comes together!  

Just read this article on a Bastille party in Charleston.  Our family is planning a trip to Paris this summer, so this post caught my eye.  So many great ideas here for outdoor entertaining - particularly the signature cocktail.
I had dinner with a very dear friend I've known for 20 years.  She was in town for business, and we seized the opportunity.  The company was special as always, but we had a dessert that I can't get out of my mind. A delicate lemon pudding with a homemade lavender honey sorbet.  The sorbet was mind blowing - It was so light with a hint of lavender - the perfect prelude to Spring.  So, of course I've been researching how to make this divine concoction.  Would love any recipes you have for lavender honey sorbet.

Stay warm all!  We are almost there. M.

Our Judging Eye and Change

Our life experiences are constantly adjusting/refocusing the lens we use to see the world.  It's what allows us to change, if we are simply open to it.  Interior design is no exception, my taste and style have changed so much since creating this blog.  As I continue to explore different styles, what I perceive as beautiful also continues to change.  It seems to grow.

Love the clever use of the desk on the back of this section in this image.


The lines also seem to blur between styles and what works together as time ticks on.  What was once decidedly modern seems to become more eclectic and works with more traditional pieces.  I like to think about it like food.  The more foods you taste and try, the more open you are to combinations of foods/spices that once seemed totally strange together.

Love this interesting layout of the seating areas.  Also, notice the deer head and the floral chinz together.  Again, an interesting mix.

Talk about a mix of styles from the French style mirror and sconces, the rustic stone fireplace, traditional winged back chairs, your grandmothers afghans, mission style arm chairs, and island inspired painted ceiling.  I think what makes this major combination of styles work it the room is done in a subtle way.

Notice how the artwork has been hung in the alcoves of the built in area creating an incredibly chic art installation that is decidedly modern.  This is paired with a very traditional chandy and dining table.

I love this vignette . . . it feels fresh, fun and a bit retro to me.

But I also love this . . . which is classic, understated, and elegant.

This morphing of our sense of style is a gift.  It allows us to continue to be creative by the blends of styles which results in something totally new and fresh.  I'm grateful for this today! Hope everyone stays warm.  M.

Friday Five (on Monday)

Wow.  The last week of January really packed a punch!  But, look - we are already into February.  With the days getting longer (I've noticed it's not completely dark at 5:30) Spring is just around the corner.  Let's kick off our week with a Friday Five.  Here's what's been going on lately in my world.

I did a photo shoot of one of my all time favorite renovation projects you can read about here.  I love photoshoot days.  A great big thank you for such a fun day.  My client and I had such fun watching these pros work their magic! More news on this in the following months - in the meantime, here's a hint.  You really need to get to know this magazine.  It's too good.

Found this amazing home renovation on House Tweaking.  You will not believe the before and afters on this one.  What I love most is she used the space she had in the home and made it function perfectly for her family.  By completely throwing out traditional ideas/rules on room (i.e., kitchen, living room, dining room, etc.) she has been able to create something incredibly refreshing and oh so practical.  

I've been working on a couple of children/teen bathroom projects and just LOVE this shower curtain. Wondering if it will encourage my own kiddos to shower without being asked to do so! Ha!

While we're talking about bathrooms, I also found this fabulous piece.  It's modern but has some traditional elements.  I love that it can be styled with accents to complete the look in a bathroom and it's profile is shallow which makes it perfect for smaller spaces.  It's also on sale right now. 

So, I love mixing high and low items together for a look that appears to have been collected over time.  It's also true that you can mix high and low end items together with amazing results.  The trick is where you place them in the room.  For example, in a family room, the coffee table tends to be a major focal point for accessories, so you need at least one high end piece to elevate the rest of the vignette.  A favorite go to for the perfect accessory?  The Well Appointed House.  It's a wonderful source for curated items.  

If you've not discovered this website, let me introduce you. I adore this trophy which would give your coffee table some height or you could group several of them on your dining table for a fun dinner party. 

They have such a fun mix of decorative objects that you can create so many different looks in a room.  This reminds me of the beach and it would be perfect atop a stack of interesting coffee table books.  

Can you tell I've been shopping for client projects a lot this past week?  Have a great week. M. 

Design Inspiration - Teen Bedroom

A week or so ago, I was asked by Chairish (one of my favorite websites) if I wanted to create a design board for them with color as the inspiration.  I just happened to be in the middle of designing  a very fun teen bedroom with color (namely purple); so I jumped at the chance.  As you can see from the board, my client requested purple.  So, I took one look at the Chairish rugs on their website, and knew exactly what I wanted to do in this space.  

For a bit more background on this design, we were working with a couple of existing furniture pieces - a high poster bed and long Regency style dresser.  So, I simply filled in the rest.  Since my client sews, the fabrics I've selected could be used in several different combinations of pillows, bed scarfs, or even bed skirts.  By using a basic coverlet and then adding pops of color, the entire room comes to life.  The rug from Chairish was the perfect jumping off point for my purple accents.  I love how it has a traditional feel, but the overdyed look speaks to the more modern elements on the board. 

This was a fun project and hope my client and Chairish love the results! M. 

Friday Five

OK, so we're rocking along over here - just one week left in January.  That much closer to Spring, people!  Here are my finds for this week. 

So, for the girl who never wins anything, I was thrilled to learn my design company was voted "Best of Houzz 2015" by the Houzz community for my dining room  and plate hanging tutorial I did several years ago.  So honored to be recognized by such a leader in the industry.  Thank you, Houzz!

Check out this wonderfully styled bookcase!  I adore it. 

I was so taken with the images of this Farrow and Ball wallpaper from the Decorista, I started searching Pinterest for more fabulous wallpapers.  
House and Home

Wallpapers are making a huge comeback at the moment.  Now, my Pinterest board for wallpaper has some AMAZING papers, if you need to grab some inspiration. 

Have you heard about this - Coffee On Demand?! I got a press release in my inbox this week about it, and I thought it was super cool.  So, GE has teamed up with Keurig and just revealed the Cafe' Series Refrigerator.  Most of you know, "water in the door" style refrigerators don't do much for me, but coffee now that's an entirely different matter.  I love the idea of taking back counter top space!  The only negative I see are tiny hands and hot coffee - hopefully they've thought this one through (or at least their lawyers have!)

Read an article in the most recent issue of House Beautiful on three fantastic textile designers and have enjoyed looking at their offerings.  What a fantastic way to get a truly custom look in a room.

Cotton and Quill (Mary Catherine Folmar who's from Birmingham, AL, I might add!)

Josi Severson (Minneapolis based designer with very affordable offerings)

That's what's been on my mind this week.  Hope you have a very relaxing weekend.  M.