No wire hangers!
From chic, self-serve bar carts to pop-up tables that can turn any room of the house into a magical dining space, 10 of the nation’s best interior designers share their tips for designing your home for entertaining.
Photo: Victoria Hagan via Architectural Digest
Victoria Hagan of Victoria Hagan Interiors, New York: Make sure to have a truly comfortable dining chair. It makes all the difference—you never want your party to end! Then put together a fun guest list, a great playlist, and add an abundance of candlelight.
Photo: Cullman & Kravis
Ellie Cullman of Cullman & Kravis Associates, New York: Be prepared for a variety of entertaining scenarios, from a sit-down dinner to a buffet, and for different numbers of guests. There is nothing worse than having an extra guest show up and not having enough china, glassware, silverware, or linens. And because dining is more casual now and bigger parties are the norm, it’s important to have a nice long surface where you can set down platters for a buffet. Even a kitchen island will work.
Photo: Celerie Kemble
Celerie Kemble of Kemble Interiors, Palm Beach, New York, and London: I like to keep a beautiful and well-stocked bar cart with great glasses, a great cutting board, a beautiful, sculptural bottle opener and other fun drink-mixing accessories so guests can serve themselves. The process becomes part of the party, and it really livens up an evening!
Photo: Charlotte Moss
Charlotte Moss of Charlotte Moss, New York: Think about the traffic flow. Figure out where people get “stuck,” and find a way to draw them into the entire room. For example, you can set up a bar on the far side of a room in order to pull people in and encourage circulation. And make sure to have a great dining-room table that brings everyone together for a meal and conversation.
Photo: Ashley Whittaker
Ashley Whittaker of Ashley Whittaker Design, New York: I love to include a pair of stools somewhere in the living room—anything from George II parcel gilt to contemporary garden stools. They provide an easy way for hosts to perch themselves and talk to guests or jump up to greet a late arrival or grab a cocktail for someone in need of a refresher. Also, you can never have enough glass hurricanes when entertaining. I learned this when I moved into our new house and had some elevations that didn’t feel finished before a big party. I went down to my entertaining closet and brought up every large hurricane I could find, including ones I picked up at Bunny Mellon’s auction, at Pier One, and at places in between. I placed a big fern between a pair, added a mirror behind it, lit the candles, and “voila,” we had instant ambiance.
Photo: Alessandra Branca via One Kings Lane
Alessandra Branca of Branca Interiors, Chicago: Make sure to create many different places to entertain beyond the dining room and living room. For example, place a game table in a library or another living area to draw people into those spaces. And I love folding tables for entertaining! When covered in a lovely cloth and set, they can provide a magical dining moment anywhere. Another important thing to do is collect lots of fun cloths and napkins that you can mix and have fun with! Vintage dinner and cocktail napkins are wonderful to own and give as gifts.
Photo: Leta Austin Foster
Leta Austin Foster of Leta Austin Foster & Associates, Palm Beach and New York: Make sure to have a table by every chair—it’s absolutely imperative, and do not—repeat—do not put so many decorative books and stuff on a coffee table that you can’t use it for drinks. And get the best and most comfortable chairs and sofas that you can find.
Photo: Alexa Hampton via Architectural Digest
Alexa Hampton of Mark Hampton, New York: I love tiny drinks tables. They used to be called telephone tables, but we’ve upgraded our expectations, and now we need a place to set our drinks! And every house must, must, MUST have chairs scattered around—flanking consoles and to the side of the sideboard—to provide extra seating when needed.
Photo: Phoebe Howard
Phoebe Howard of Phoebe Howard Design, Atlanta: Everyday living should be the primary focus, with a separate plan for when the house is at maximum capacity. I love a dining room table that has self-storing leaves, so that the table can be extended with ease, rather than having to get the leaves out of a closet and lugging them to the table, which is always a chore. I also love to have custom tablecloths with liners made for all sizes that the table offers, ready and waiting in a nearby closet. And if you build a house with six bedrooms, make sure that your living room, breakfast room, and dining room can seat 12 comfortably.
Photo: Shelley Johnstone
Shelley Johnstone of Shelley Johnstone Design, Lake Forest, IL: I love entertaining at home and having sit-down dinners. A great dining table and comfy chairs are essential so your guests won’t want to leave the table. And I always try to design spaces that are cohesive and will work together—spaces that work for a small, intimate dinner or with adjacent spaces if you need to accommodate a large group. And I adore having banquettes in these spaces for additional seating.
And here are a few more stories that we think you’ll enjoy:
How to set up a home bar
Party lighting: how to make it festive and flattering
How to prep your powder room for a party
Designing Your Home for Entertaining
Welcome Photo and Quote Mashup
Welcome Photo: Joan Crawford at home in 1935
Welcome Quote: Mommie Dearest, 1981