Design 101: Easy, stylish, summer soirees

Easy, stylish, summer soirees

“Are there easy ways to impress my friends?  How can I improve my get-togethers?” Interior designers deal with these and many other questions every day.  This month’s column focuses on small changes that can have a big impact on your next soiree.

We would love to have parties, but we have little kids. Is there a way we can have both? Absolutely you can. Whether entertaining at home or going to someone else’s, get a roll of chalkboard cloth.  It’s durable, portable, and fun. Roll it out for the kids and let them play on the easily cleanable surface while the adults relax and reconnect.

Pro Tip: Cut smaller, placemat-sized pieces and bring them with you to restaurants to keep the kids entertained while they wait for their food.

We are hosting a party for several adults. Is there something simple but special we can add?  Sure is. We suggest adding finger bowls to the table.  There was a time when a well-set table included a small bowl or individual bowls that people could dip their fingers into to help keep them clean.  If you look online you can still find primers on their proper use.

Pro Tip: You can add another decorative element by floating a flower in the bowl or, for extra practicality and sanitation, add a slice of lemon.

Is there an option that won’t spill and takes up less room? Of course. You can place a decorative “salt cellar” on the table.  There are some truly beautiful options for these small vessels and if you’d like to be doubly fancy, splurge on the horn spoon as well

Pro Tip: Want to impress your guests with a little trivia?  In Medieval times the salt cellar sat in the middle of the table and honored guests sat “above the salt,” meaning closer to the head of the table.

I don’t have the time to track down fancy pieces from yesteryear.  Is there something I can pick up almost anywhere? Our easiest suggestion is to upgrade your napkins.  Linen napkins are a great investment that only get better with time and use.  Best of all we guarantee you can find them no more than a few miles from your home.

Pro Tip: Monogrammed napkins make a great and inexpensive gift.  Don’t know what color? White on natural linen is a safe bet.

My outdoor cushions are an embarrassing soggy, faded mess.  Help!  Chances are that they are not outdoor cushions. They are probably indoor/outdoor cushions. This designation means they’re rated for between 500-1500 hours of light-fastness. Try switching them for a set with drain through foam and fabric that’s better suited to the rigors of outdoor living.

Pro Tip:  Clean synthetic routinely to stop mold and mildew from forming.

Yaron Linett
About Yaron Linett 34 Articles
Yaron Linett is the principal designer of Formal Traditional, a full-service design firm located in Warrenton. To submit your interior design questions, drop him a note at or visit

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