Shelley Ferguson hosted The Block NZ and is an award winning magazine editor. Using her love of interiors she now has her own interior design business. Together with Newshub Shelley is running a six part online series called Your Home – where you’ll discover the latest styling trends and tips.
Whether you’re organising a heaving house party or an elegant soiree, include these five elements to create the ultimate atmosphere for entertaining at home.
1. Create a bar area
Running a household is constant work and you deserve to have areas encouraging hobbies or activities that YOU love. If this is entertaining, then why not incorporate a bar into your kitchen or living space? While it may seem like you’re sacrificing space to do so, a well-designed bar is actually a great storage solution that also encourages a good time – whether that’s a cocktail session with friends or a coffee and cupcake station for a morning tea.
If you’re renovating, design a bar into a feature by tiling the splashback in a statement design to stand out from an otherwise neutral kitchen. Getting a mirror installed behind styled glassware and decanters adds a luxe vibe and interesting light play too. If you’re seeking a more temporary solution, try a bar cart themed to match your interior, or turn a bookshelf, console table or office nook into a bar area. Theme the drinks to your occasion and interior and get guests involved in creating a few new combinations.
Pro tip: Tile the splashback of your bar in a metallic or coloured tile or large porcelain slab tile for a luxe hotel vibe. Check out Tile Space for ideas.
2. Set the mood with lighting
Have you ever been to a party where the lighting is way too bright? Chances are the party felt cold and awkward, as different lighting triggers different responses from your brain. When entertaining, you want enough light to carry out the tasks you need to, but subtle enough to create a vibe that encourages people to relax, have fun, and appreciate the flattering effect on their face!
The key is to layer light at different levels rather than having a lot of bright light from above. While downlights are practical for overall lighting, they do little to improve the design of your home. Pendant lights add serious wow factor to spaces, create another layer of light in often void vertical spaces, and are a great way to express your personal style at home. They add a focal point in entranceways for a great first impression, create a social and stylish zone over a dining table or kitchen bench plus are increasingly being used in rooms like bathrooms to create a luxurious lived in look.
The new Panorama pendant from Lighting Direct has a long track, moveable spot heads allow you to direct light to living spaces and task areas such as kitchen benches, and you can click extra spot heads into the track. It also has a very high light output while using less power. Wired-in wall lights and floor lamps provide a nice glow at mid-level for conversations plus add a design feature in often bare wall space, and candles on low tables add that intimate flicker (and beautiful scent).
Having flexible lighting is also key for entertaining, and can be achieved with dimmers or moveable lighting like floor and table lamps. If you entertain a lot, don’t forget the outdoors! Use garden edging lights so people can find their way in the dark, install LED stair lights for a safe entry and string festoon lights or hang lanterns up for a party atmosphere. Lighting Direct has a huge range for great prices.
Pro tip: LEDs for warm white LEDs to create a more welcoming atmosphere for entertaining.
3. Use colour to create a cohesive theme
Use colour to create a cohesive and considered theme for a special occasion. Consider the mood you want to create and how you want others to feel in the space, then create a palette inspired by your décor that you can also translate to entertaining. For example, if your interior palette is white, blue and gold, repeat that in the table setting, floral arrangements and drinks trolley styling.
Try to evenly distribute paint and colour in each room by placing it in different heights and positions. Playing with different tones in the same colour family is a great way of adding visual impact when entertaining, and also has a calming effect. My favourite tonal colour palette for summer soirees is blue, and you can use different tints and shades of the same blue to create that graduating effect inside and out. A combination of blue wallpaper, mid- and light-tone blues might sound OTT, but if you’ve ever been to Halcyon House in Byron Bay you’ll get my drift. Adding statement plants like Bird of Paradise in white pots and brass lighting accents adds a lush Hamptons vide to your summery blue and white palette.
Pro tip: Use Resene testpots to match entertaining accents to your interior style, like painting the inside of glass jars, a table runner or painting patterns on plain wrapping paper.
4. Position furniture to influence behaviour
Positioning furniture in a certain way encourages and influences human behaviour. Before hosting your next gathering, think about who is coming, the purpose of the occasion and how furniture placement can support this, rather than having everyone sitting on a sofa facing the television or thirty people crammed into the kitchen.
Depending on the size of the group you may need to move furniture to allow for good traffic flow. If you’ve got a large modular sofa, shift the end away to create another separate seat or a makeshift platter table. Position occasional chairs in a different zone facing each other or beside each other with a side table and a lamp for quieter conversation.
Ottomans are the ideal flexible furniture option as you can move them to cater for different groupings of people. Two bar stools or ottomans pulled up against a console can create an instant bar leaner or card playing bench. A dining table can be set up to eat dinner or play poker depending the crowd, and a kitchen island can become a place to play cards by positioning stools around it. Remember to add stuff-catching furniture like side tables to keep drinks and food off the floor!
Pro tip: Keeping your glassware in one area with drinks markers alongside encourages guests to take and use the same glass for longer. Washi tape and a Sharpie for guests to write their names on and stick it to their vessel is another cheap and easy option to save on dishes!
5. Take inspiration from hotels
Great hotels have that extra attention to detail. Add a welcoming vibe for your next occasion by adding a console table at your entranceway with hooks for keys and bags, a basket for shoes and a mirror for a quick lippy check.
Place bespoke soap and plush hand towels in your bathrooms and scented candles in the bathrooms and living spaces. Have a basket of blankets on hand for guests if the doors are open or you’re entertaining outside, and interesting coffee table books to browse. Style the table beautifully with placements, stacked bowls, special glassware and a centrepiece to create a focal point.
My favourite centrepiece is a moth orchid as they add instant elegance. These beauties are native to tropical forests in Asia where they attach themselves to tree trunks and branch forks. They come in a wide range of beautiful colours including almost every shade of pink, mauve, salmon, yellow, white and burgundy as well as multi-coloured flowers. Don’t sit them in water as they don’t like to be constantly wet, and after flowering prune back the flower stem to just above the second bum from the base to get more flowers next season (for more indoor plant inspiration visit www.yates.co.nz/plants/indoor/).
Adding features that inspire different activities will make you and your guests feel pampered, relaxed and like they’re discovering new experiences without having to leave the house. Position a fire pit outside where you can wrap up in blankets, toast marshmallows and watch the stars. Take on DJ duty and queue up your favourite playlists (or pass the responsibility to someone you trust!). Just don’t make the experience too good or they’ll be calling for room service and outstaying their welcome!
Pro tip: Getting all your senses working in harmony can create a powerfully positive experience. Challenge yourself to provide a sensory experience for guests that stimulates their five senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch.