There’s no place like home.
If you’ve recently moved into a new home, hosting a housewarming party—or a pendaison de crémaillère as they were known centuries ago—is a wonderful way to get to know your neighbors and thank them for their patience during your construction or move-in. But what are the soirée must-haves for ensuring that your new home debuts in gracious style? To find out, we asked Salonniere 100 honorees James Farmer, Danielle Rollins, and Carolyne Roehm, all of whom have hosted housewarming fêtes in a new or redesigned home, for the dos and don’ts of hosting a chic housewarming party. Mix yourself a House of Friends cocktail, make yourself at home, and read on.
The kitchen in James Farmer’s cottage. Photo via Southern Living.
Do: Peg the Party to a Purpose
If the idea of putting your home front-and-center seems uncomfortable, find another reason to host a party at your home, perhaps a celebration in honor of a friend. In Farmer’s case, the first party he threw at “Farmdale,” the charming, 2,000-square-foot cottage he built in Perry, Georgia, was for a friend’s engagement. “It was my reason to celebrate my good friends and open my home. It also gave me a deadline to get things done and lit a fire under the construction team.”
Danielle Rollins at home in Atlanta. Photo via One Kings Lane.
When Rollins decided to buy and renovate a 1970s Georgian home in Atlanta, she invited her neighbors into the process early by hosting a pre-construction party. Her goal was to show them the house before the renovations began and share her plans. It was her way of thanking them in advance for the inconvenience her construction would cause—and earning a little goodwill. Once the renovation was complete, she held a housewarming party so they could see the finished product.
Carolyne Roehm in her Charleston home.
Roehm waited until the renovation of her historic Charleston home was complete before inviting her neighbors over to see what the fuss had been about. “At one point, we had to shut down power to our whole street so we could bring in four large trees by crane,” she said. “We’d had construction going on for over a year and a half. When it was done, we hosted a wonderful party and invited everyone over to see the finished house.”
The table setting at one of James Farmer’s dinner parties.
Do: Consider the Size of Your Soirée
While inviting large groups can kill many birds with one stone, all three hosts agree that an intimate dinner party for eight to 12 guests is an excellent way to “warm” a new home, allowing for meaningful time to be spent with each guest. “An intimate dinner party is my absolute favorite thing,” says Farmer, “because it scratches all the itches: I can mix patterns, do the flowers, set the table, and cook. Plus I get to talk to everyone and have that fellowship.”
Roses make a grand and welcoming statement in Carolyne Roehm’s foyer.
Do: Make a Statement in the Entryway
To welcome guests, Roehm recommends making a “wow” statement with flowers in your entryway. Farmer agrees, adding that floral design should be “reverent to the season,” dipping into fall leaves or branches in winter or blue hydrangea in summer. “Flowers are also a great smoke-and-mirrors trick. They will draw the eye to an area you want to highlight instead of to a room that may not yet have furniture.”
The candlelit living room in Carolyn Roehm’s Charleston home.
Don’t: Place Candles Where Guests May Idle
Using candles throughout a space always casts a warm, welcoming, and flattering glow. Roehm loves them so much that she designed her own line of scented candles. She places candles generously throughout her home but warns that strategic candle placement is vital. “I had candles on a console once, and a fashion designer from Italy backed up into it and caught her hair on fire,” she recalls. “Before I knew it, a nice young man was running his hands down her hair to put the fire out.”
Do: Put Yourself in Your Guests’ Shoes
Before your guests arrive at your housewarming party, walk the space to view the house as if you’re seeing it for the first time. Carefully review what’s at eye level. Assess how much space is available for drinks and empty plates and where foot traffic may jam up. Farmer laughs remembering a major faux pas from the first party he threw at Farmdale. “I’d been in the house just a few weeks when I hosted the engagement party. Not until you have guests do you realize certain nuances about your house. I had these beautiful, large custom windows made that I was so proud of. I was not aware that the ladies and gentlemen in the bathroom could see right out into the garden and that the guests outside could see right into the house. That was a real-life human moment. We had china, silver, and linens, but we needed blinds in the bathroom!”
A beautiful fruit-and-cheese presentation at one of James Farmer’s parties.
Don’t: Cut Corners on Food and Drink
A housewarming party should be full of food and drink, notes Rollins. “A host should never look like he or she is skimping on something or trying to cut corners.” If a broad menu seems daunting, narrow the spectrum with a limited assortment of plentiful hors-d’oeuvres and mix up a large batch of a signature cocktail.
The colorful table setting at one of Danielle Rollins’ outdoor luncheons.
Do: Have a Clear Vision for Your Party
Rollins embraces the joy of hosting for others, even when the details unravel. “A stressed-out host brings the party down,” she notes. One trick she uses, especially when prepping for a party with the help of a team, is to dummy-proof the layout and place settings. “I try to put everything out ahead of time. If I’m not there, I don’t want any second-guessing about how it’s going to go, so I use colored Post-It notes. If everything’s sitting out, anybody can follow through on the set-up. I put out an example of a place setting, so everyone knows how I want it to look.”
James Farmer places flowers while preparing for a party at Farmdale.
In the end, confidence and grace are the most important features of someone hosting a housewarming party. Farmer adds, “My grandma told me the best dish you can serve at a party is confidence. Be completely unapologetic. Apologizing is a ‘fun sponge.’ Don’t apologize that you don’t have furniture in a particular room yet or enough settings of a certain china pattern. Be confident and say, ‘Y’all come in and enjoy.’ Serving confidence goes a long, long way.”
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The Vanderbilt Ball: The Ultimate Housewarming Party
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The Salonniere’s Party-Planning Checklist: Your Guide to Stress-Free Party Planning
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Welcome Photo and Quote Mashup
Welcome Photo: Robert Evans at home with Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis
Welcome Quote: The Wizard of Oz, 1939