Summer is in full swing, and if you're anything like me, I'm trying to maximize my time in the sun before fall sets in. And one of my favorite pastimes is hosting outdoor meals. Whether it's just for two or for a crowd, I'm always on the lookout for ideas and tips to make our festivities even better. Enter Michael Devine and Jung Lee, two experts who shared their tips of the trade.
Michael Devine, decorator, textile designer, and author of 'An Invitation to the Garden: Seasonal Entertaining Outdoors', often hosts guests at his Hudson Valley home. Luckily for him, Devine doesn't have to look far to make his tables beautiful – he has his own eponymous fabric line and a tabletop collection with Marie Daâge
at his fingertips. From an impromptu al fresco lunch to an evening cocktail party, Devine has the art of throwing parties down to a science:
"For a stress-free party, I always make a detailed plan for the event first -- the time, date, guest list, theme, ideas, etc.," says Devine. "It makes it so much easier to have the details worked out before the invites go out." Devine also likes using loads of candles, inside or out. "I really love them scattered through the garden and at different heights -- so much more poetic than electric lights." And for an extra something, Devine eschews conventional details, opting instead to delight guests with unexpected touches. "Ice cubes with flowers in drinks are nice,” he says, "but ice cubes with flowers used in the ice bucket are better. They're a pretty detail to an otherwise mundane item."
Jung Lee is a master of the party – the event designer produces some of New York's most fabulous parties through her event design studio, Fête
, and also has incredible taste as evidenced in her Manhattan shop, Jung Lee
. And though Lee typically works on a grand scale, she also puts her skills to use in her own backyard, too. At home she likes to use utilitarian basics that she elevates to her sophisticated standards:
"I like to serve deconstructed salads on big platters," says Lee. "I get large slates or any stone from Home Depot (or any local home improvement store, usually for only a few dollars) or a large plank of wood." As for dressing the table, Lee likes simple kraft paper. "An all-white palette with kraft paper is organic, simple, and sophisticated," she says. "I roll out a super-wide runner and once my platters are placed, I use a white chalk, a chalk marker, or a China pen to trace the platters and write the name of the dish on both sides of the table so guests know what it is. My daughter loves it since we play hangman and tic-tac-toe, but the table still looks chic." And to keep guests engaged and entertained, Lee also suggests breaking out games like ping pong, badminton, bocce, croquet, or a card game. "Giant lawn Jenga is also fun and can get a lot of people involved, and one of our family favorites is giant Connect 4. I like games that look old-fashioned."