What makes a home party friendly?
Decorations are an important part of setting the mood, but how your home is arranged and where you place the food and drinks also play a crucial role.
These party planning ingredients can mean the difference between a get-together that's a fabulous whirl of sparkling conversation and activity and a less-than-lively, staid affair.
If you make it easy for people to talk to each other by creating space for the festivities ahead, everything else will fall into place. And that is the definition of a party friendly home.
Whether your home is spacious or small, you'll want to clear space for your guests in the party areas.
With more space in which to wander and mingle, your guests will feel more relaxed. One key strategy for keeping everyone active: Have fewer chairs than people.
With the exception of dinner parties, a party stops being festive as soon as everyone is seated. Remove the dining room chairs for the night, and let the table serve as an hors d'oeuvres station.
Keep your guests circulating through your home: Place the refreshments in one room, the buffet in another, and the desserts and coffee in a third area or room.
For smaller parties, limit the party area to just one or two rooms of your house. Avoid opening your den or upstairs rooms to guests.
If allowed to wander into your home's outer reaches, cliques will form that may make some of your guests feel left out.
Your party should be a reflection of you, so choose a theme that makes you feel bright and alive.
Exaggerate a single element - if the sea is your theme, scatter sea shells and sand strategically about the house - and greet arrivals with a sea-blue drink.
For a Mexican fiesta, place a different piñata on the food table in every room; serve drinks in margarita glasses.
Remember to look at the big picture - lighting, texture, scale, and progression (such as beach pails of sand lining the front walk) - to ensure a party friendly home.
Fill your home with background music that's appropriate for the party's theme: classical for sit-down dinner parties, salsa for spirited celebrations. Dim the lights for a more intimate mood. The senses should be tickled by imaginative surprises: a centerpiece that soars above the buffet table, glitter scattered along a walkway, gardenias floating in glass bowls.
And remember - you'll enjoy yourself and your guests more if you finish decorating well in advance of party time.