In a world with constant stress, memes-a-plenty, and news that never stops, sometimes you might just wish you could send yourself to savasana mode. Here’s a one-way ticket to that state of mind courtesy of Athena Calderone, founder of the Eye Swoon blog and author of Cook Beautiful, who has created a swoon-worthy ethos in her well-edited Instagram. The feed will send your stress levels plummeting, and at a time when the new year asks us to start fresh, banish bad habits, and quite simply reset, that could come in rather handy. Here, she turns an eye to how to throw a healthy dinner party.
There is so much strength in community, and nothing deepens these connections quite like gathering around the table in your own home with loved ones. Inside of my home, I find that my heart is more open, I’m fully able to let my guard down, and throughout the course of the night, there’s a sincere opportunity for connectivity.
However, it can be easy to label a dinner party as “too stressful” or “too much”. By stripping away the context of perfection and letting your space set the tone, however, you can create a truly remarkable and memorable get-together that feels special to every guest in the room. Here, my go-to entertaining tips, which center around letting your space by your guide.
Keep scrolling for tips on how to pull it off.
Let your surroundings inspire you
Whether you live in a house with a backyard or a walk-up with a view, your dinner party can be enhanced by your surroundings. Take this as an opportunity to create with whatever you find around you. I love to clip dead branches from my backyard in fall and winter, scattering them with pillar candles directly on a table runner. If you’re in a city, look to flowers from the bodega or in-season fruits such as pomegranates to guide your tabletop, over expensive blooms. You can turn loose pieces of greenery into a stunning table setting. And in the process of creating, you’ll likely find catharsis.
Allow light set the tone
Candlelight makes any event feel more magical. If your tapers are brand new, pre-burn them so they’re perfectly drippy and romantic as guests arrive. I burn a few for fifteen minutes and others for a few less, so that they looked staggered. I like when things don’t feel so shiny and brand new. This gives the space an authentic, lived-in look.
Take the pressure off of the meal
Embrace make-ahead meals so you’re free to enjoy the event and not in the kitchen all night long. Rather than a sit-down dinner, serve up your meal family-style, by presenting your dishes on platters and trays on different heights. Prop one or two on different height wood wedges. This will give your simple spread a celebratory feel and a beautiful composition rather than all being on one plane.
Or, order in
You’re inviting over your friends; take away the stress and focus on the gathering. You don’t have to cook this laborious meal to justify bringing loved ones to your home. Order in from your favorite restaurant, and serve each dish on elegant trays and serving bowls to give the meal a personal touch. You can have an intimate gathering in your home, without serving yourself up a ton of stress ahead of time. And that’s something we can all raise a glass to.
Athena Calderone is a celebrated interior designer, chef, entertaining expert, and creator of the award-winning lifestyle site EyeSwoon. Whether layering flavors in the kitchen, setting a bountiful table, or designing a room, she’s known for her use of graceful yet juxtaposed pairings—finding yin-and-yang in all that she does. Fueled by her belief that beautiful food and design bring us together and turn little moments into lasting memories, Athena remains committed to push the boundaries of her craft. With her cookbook, Cook Beautiful (released this October) Athena shares how to achieve her impeccable yet approachable cooking style in every season.
At the end of the night, however, nothing is more restorative than getting into a well-made bed, so that you can wake up and soak in the new year and all it’s possibilities.
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