LUX Hostess: Garden Party Diaries

Jane Avedikian-Tamberi is certainly no beginner when it comes to throwing an unforgettable garden party. Her hillside garden, which is terraced over gently sloping terrain and 40 tons of natural rock, gives guests a sense that they are far away from the golden hills surrounding Central California and have perhaps been transported to the refined hills of Tuscany instead. The relaxed, yet immaculately maintained area makes the perfect setting for her family to not only enjoy each other, but to extend the experience to their friends as well. However, a beautiful landscape is only half of the equation when it comes to the art of entertaining.

There are endless advantages to moving your party outdoors this spring, especially with the unsurpassable weather some- times taken for granted in California. Open space and fresh air paired with natural light sets an ambiance for the event that is impossible to replicate indoors. The great outdoors inherently gives us a sense of freedom and relaxation, two feelings that are imperative to having an excellent time.

“Shy away from styles that would be served on a white tablecloth...”


Throwing the Party

Throwing a party is a whole different affair than attending one, and can potentially become stressful during such a season as busy as spring. Luckily, throwing a party outdoors is a whole different ballgame, requiring much less planning and effort than an indoor function of the same size. By nature, the event becomes more casual in a beautiful outdoor setting, where guests can wander and enjoy your garden without the narrowed confines of walls or ceilings.

Decorating for the occasion becomes laissez-faire with only simple enhancements needed to set the scene. A few large potted flowers and herbs set around the main areas add a subtle touch of color and aroma. We like lavender, roses, and jasmine, but it’s important to consider the current characteristics of your garden and select complementary additions accordingly.

If you’d like to go beyond the expected, a water fountain is a beautiful investment that will tremendously enhance the look and feel of your garden. The trickling noise of water in the background will make everything feel extra relaxed and enjoyable. Jane’s garden features a water feature built directly into the stonework that makes up the perimeter of her yard, and is smartly placed beside the outdoor dining table.

If your party is in the evening, lighting is an essential element to consider. An outdoor fireplace is a wonderful feature to light up the night, although a well-designed fire pit can give a similar effect. Votive candles on the table keep your guests energized with the natural movements of the flames as the evening progresses. Insect-repelling candles set at the corners of the party area are also a smart idea.

String lights overhead are a classic element that instills a sense of European style into your party, as long as you choose a sophisticated round bulb. Grouping these lights into large glass vases and placing them strategically is another chic way to add light and style to your scene.

Setting the table is undoubtedly the most important—and most fun—aspect of planning your party. The table sets the tone for the whole event and gives your guests an impression of what kind of meal they will be having. For an outside affair, the dinnerware should be high quality without appearing too formal. Shy away from styles that would be served on a white tablecloth, and instead choose warm and inviting plates to be centered upon woven tablemats.

Pottery Barn and Anthropologie are excellent places to look first. Cloth napkins and stemmed wine and water glasses are necessities that allow you to infuse your own aesthetic in a casual way.

Centerpieces should be of a smaller size and scattered in a relaxed manner about the table. Arrange desired flowers and herbs (optimally fresh-picked from your garden) into clear or muted vases that won’t take away from their natural beauty. Atop Jane’s table you can usually find six or seven fresh-picked roses grouped into clean white vases. Medium-sized decanters filled with sangria or citrus-infused water are also an aesthetically pleasing touch that ensures no one ever has an empty glass.

When it comes to certain party elements, what is generally unthinkable indoors becomes obvious and brilliant outdoors—particularly, the concept of a self-serve cocktail or dessert area. Allowing your guests to choose freely what they would like only enforces the intimate and easygoing atmosphere. Appetizers consisting of locally grown in-season fruits and vegetables are the perfect way to start the evening, along with free-flowing wine from a favored winery. Keep it relaxed by forgoing a full bar and sticking to three or four really great drink options. A red and white wine are necessary, but homemade sangria and mojitos with varied fruits to add in are a fun way to keep guests happy as well.

Music is another element to be considered, although it becomes less important in an outdoor environment. For a larger affair, you may try hiring a musician to play a classical instrument, such as a violin or acoustic guitar. The open environment will make the live music less claustrophobic and more luxurious. For smaller gatherings, simply play a Spanish guitar or French cafe playlist on Pandora and connect to a portable speaker, which can easily be hidden amid some foliage.

Lawn games have recently become vogue again, and even women in heels can play a round or two of the simple French game Pètanque. Croquet and Bocce are also great games that look beautiful on your well-manicured lawn and offer a classic form of socializing.

What to Wear

Certainly, the most enjoyable part of attending or throwing a party is planning out your ensemble. Outdoor gatherings offer a new genre of attire to explore aside from the average barbecue. The look should be lightweight and fashionable, erring on the conservative side with a few modern twists.

Floral patterns are an obvious choice for women, but there are many options on wearing them imaginatively in 2015. Florals were found all over the runway this season from Marni, Miu Miu, Louis Vuitton, Max Mara and Céline, but not in your typical tea party fashion. The ‘70s seemed to be a dominant source of inspiration for many designers and provides the perfect relaxed way to wear the trend. Stay away from neon or flashy colors and lean towards more mature tones from this golden era, such as burnt sienna and beige. If you prefer a solid color look, opt for a cream or olive dress or jumpsuit with a high neckline and statement necklace.

Tie-up wedges or pointed flats are a practical choice for footwear that won’t leave you aerating the lawn better than the gardener does. A punchy statement clutch (we love Edie Parker’s styles right now) looks beautiful set down on a table as opposed to the heavy leather bag you might take everywhere. When it comes to jewelry, now is the time to give your favorite costume jewelry a moment to shine or keep it dainty with one simple gold piece.

Men should wear muted tones on bottom such as khaki, navy, slate, beige or dark brown. A pastel or lightly patterned shirt should be a button-up or polo style, and a light blazer or coat is recommended if the party goes past dark. Casual footwear, such as boat shoes, smoking slippers or thin-soled tennis shoes balance out the look. Adding an unexpected accessory, such as a modern pair of sunglasses, is the perfect way to make a subtle impression.

Children have the most flexibility when it comes to looking adorable for spring parties. Little girls look darling in pastel or brightly colored cotton dresses and it’s the perfect time to show off their favorite pair of decorative (and perhaps glittered) shoes. A flower or bow pinned behind their ear completes the look and will be the perfect touch in any photos you may take during the occasion. Little boys will be dashing in khaki or denim shorts paired with a polo shirt and cardigan or a classic argyle vest.

A well-designed and maintained garden is absolutely something to cherish and feel proud of, and we can’t think of a better way to do so than by throwing the party of the season in your very own backyard. March through June are prime months to take advantage of the blossoming weather before the temperature reaches triple digits. Spring also hosts a large variety of events, which inspire (and sometimes demand) a party, such as bridal and baby showers. Alas, it is just as wonderful to throw a party simply for the sake of entertaining. So relax, pour your guests some more wine, and make sure to relish the environment of your garden in the company of good friends this spring.