Four simple tips for creating an atmosphere for entertaining at home

It was my turn to host our most recent book club meeting and I had a dilemma. We use our living room for everything. We really live in it. My kids watch television there, the dogs take naps on the couch, There eat snacks and do homework and play on their laptops in there.


This is what my living room looks like right this minute. That’s my daughter relaxing after a long day at school. Depending on the light, the room can look yellow, amber or pumpkin. It’s not really this yellow though.

The dilemma was how to make a space that works hard every day feel special and warm (and maybe a little elegant) for one evening.

Luckily when we furnished the room we used pieces that look more tailored but live a very durable, casual life. Most people can’t believe that this is where the kids hang out. So it mostly a dilemma for me. Because I didn’t feel like the space felt special anymore.

I used four simple tools to accomplish my goal:

1. Flowers

2. Lighting

3. Serving areas

4. Music

Flowers: I love white tulips! I love most tulips but white ones are most readily available and easy to work with in any color scheme. I found these at my local grocery store. I bought 3 bunches of ten and used them to fill two containers.

appetizers with tulips and old silver

This first container is a double-handled silver container. I don’t know what it was originally intended for but I found it at a local shop and loved the shape and patina. I placed a glass vase inside it to hold the flowers in water.

Setting up a self-serve bar at home

This second arrangement is in a simple glass vase with a nipped in top. It holds the stems well and allows them to cascade gently.

Lighting: We installed recessed lights in this room when we moved in. They can really brighten the room on a gloomy day and since we are surrounded by trees, even sunny days can be a bit dim. We placed them on a dimmer switch for lots of control. For the book club however, I turned them to the dimmest setting and turned on the three table lamps. This creates a warm glow at eye level. My wall color gets very rich and golden in this light. I always suggest that you have lighting at varying levels throughout the room. It allows you to create different moods or to compensate for different lighting challenges.

Serving areas: I have noticed that at most of our book club meetings, the food is set out in the dining room and the meeting takes place in the family or living room. This means that you might miss part of the conversation if you decide you are thirsty or hungry during the meeting. That’s why I chose to clear off my usual display of blue and white china and use my server as …a server. I arranged the small savory bites and easy to serve individual deserts. I kept it very simple. I used my everyday white dishes plus a three-tier serving piece to display everything.

Collection of blue and white ceramics

This is what my server in the living room usually looks like. There are a pair of the lamps flanking my collection of blue and white ceramics. They are in front of an antique oil painting that used to hang in my grandmother’s house.

An elegant and simple buffet with old silver and tulips

This is how it looked during the meeting. I forgot to take the pictures when the serving dishes were full. Here you can see the glow of the table lamps and how warm they make the mahogany server and the walls look.

For drinks, I set up the table in my foyer as a self-serve bar. I used trays to corral the beverages and the glassware and put the sliced limes in a pretty bowl from my blue and white collection.


This is what my entry table usually looks like. A nice tray with a bowl for keys a faux orchid and my favorite turtle from our collection.



This is what it looked like all set up for book club. I used two trays. One for glassware and one for beverages. I used an antique silver ice bucket I found at Good Will along with my tulips and I out the lime wedges in a pretty blue and white bowl from my collection.

None of this took much time and made a great first impression. It set the tone for the evening and made the space feel completely different from its usual functional self.

I didn’t want to pack up my blue and white collection. Too much work and then I need to bring everything back the next day. Instead, I used it on the coffee table displayed on top of a giant chess board made by a family friend. The board essentially becomes a tray and a plinth at the same time. It looked so nice that no one would have guessed that this was a lazy solution to my storage problem.

Music: The final element was music. We are a diverse group and I wanted to choose something that could play in the background without being disruptive. I had created a Pandora station based on Adele and played that at a low volume. It was perfect because it set a relaxed mood without making us shout to hear each other.

All in all, I was really happy with how it all came together. I looked like a very organized hostess who had spent oodles of time and energy when in fact it took less than an hour (including warming the food). I think I may volunteer to host again soon. One caveat….next time I will make sure my daughters sleep at their friends’ houses. The meeting went pretty late and the girls could hear everything from their rooms.


I hope you enjoyed my four tips for entertaining at home.

‘Til next time, make yours a welcome home