On her rooftop patio in the heart of Toronto’s artsy Kensington Market neighbourhood, Melissa DiRenzo hosts summer gatherings almost weekly. With a 500-square-foot space boasting a dining area for dinner parties, a lounge ideal for movie nights, a sweeping view of the city and the perfect positioning to watch the sunset, wouldn’t you? On Whether it’s a casual barbecue, a festive cocktail hour or a special screening of a favourite film (all it requires is a projector and a white sheet), Melissa always makes the evening memorable. It comes as second nature to this decor and lifestyle blogger of The Sweet Escape (thesweetescape.ca). So, taking inspiration from the expert, here are eight tips for styling your own evening event before you party off into the sunset.
- Forgo the Paper and Plastic
Gusting wind can be wicked, so avoid the awkward dance of chasing around stray paper plates, napkins and plastic cups by bringing out the real deal. If you’re nervous about breaking your best dishware, go vintage and don’t worry about a cracked plate or two – shout opa! instead.
- Personalize It
Unique handmade touches go a long way toward impressing guests. Thoughtful efforts – vintage tins used as planters and teacup take-homes – make a party feel one of a kind. Guests will love unexpected elements like pretty handwritten place cards, which add a formal note to a casual atmosphere.
- Include Indoor Elements
It’s outdoor style 101: Even if the weather’s warm, toss cushions, table linens, candles and throws keep things comfy and cozy long after the sun goes down.
- Make a Playlist
Sometimes simply putting iTunes on shuffle results in a guilty pleasure blaring from your speakers at the party’s quietest moment – a show tune or Disney ballad, perhaps? It’s embarrassing, trust us. Avoid the red face with playlists of your favourites: pretty, atmospheric songs to accompany dinner and party jams to amp up the evening afterward.
- Time It Right
Sitting on the wrong side of the table during the actual sunset can be downright blind ing and wholly unenjoyable. So serve cocktails while the sun goes down so guests can mingle and avoid the glare, then eat afterward.
- Add Spice
Vintage salt and pepper shakers can hold more adventurous spice options, too, like smoked or seasoned salt, steak spice, chili powder, garlic powder or even cinnamon and nutmeg, so guests can custom flavour their grilled meat, veggies and fruit.
- Serve a Signature Cocktail
Instead of hauling out bottles of booze and mixes, and setting up an elaborate bar area (or – worse! – running inside every time someone needs a top-up), have a signature drink premade in pitchers on the table. It’s easy and economical, but guests will see it as savvy and stylish. Win-win!
- Mix It Up
The eclectic look of mix-and match dishware is country chic yet cost-effective. Start collecting pieces from second hand stores and inexpensive antiques markets. We call it flea market fabulous.