When it comes to hosting dinner parties, it goes without saying we want our guests to enjoy the food. But we also want to impress our friends with the way we set the table. And while there is definitely a time and place to go all out and have the most extravagant display on the table, dinners at home—especially around holidays—call for a style that’s tasteful, comfortable, showcase the host(s)’ personality, but not too stuffy or overdone. “Purposefully unstyled” hosting was the theme of a recent workshop held by Jaime Kostechko, owner and creative director of Wild Heart Events, who shared her tips and tricks for hosting a stylish dinner party that achieves three goals: impresses your guests with the presentation, showcases your personality as a host, and does not cost more than the food you put on the table. A part of the workshop was also dedicated to crafting a thoughtful hostess gift that beats your standard go-to bottle of wine by a long shot.
The workshop was held at The Mill, Santa Barbara’s hub for the latest and the greatest in food, wine, beer, and lifestyle experience. Millworks, the design and retail showroom for the award-winning design and build firm, Becker Studios, located at The Mill, graciously hosted the event. Workshop participants enjoyed wine from Potek Winery and small bites from Wildwood Kitchen, also located at The Mill. For my part, I was thrilled to sponsor the event by providing napkins, table runners, and napkin rings for Jaime to demonstrate her points, and for guests to practice place setting styling.
Here is the low-down as I remember it.
Most people, including myself, start in the middle of the table and work from there. Jaime always starts with individual place settings. Three things to take away in this regard:
1. Use real stuff.
Even if it is a school night pizza party, don’t settle for disposable plates. Also, don’t use your nicer china sets on special occasions only. The same goes for heirloom pieces.
2. Don’t skimp out on glassware and napkins.
Glassware and cloth napkins make the most impact in a place setting and really elevate the tone of your party. Use a separate glass for each beverage, including water. Using mis-matched glasses makes it visually striking and keeps it easy to keep track of what goes into each glass.
3. Style each place setting differently.
It makes for a dynamic presentation and earns you more points in the style department by showcasing a wider range of your skills and personality. If using name cards, Jaime tries to strategically “couple” people who might strike an interesting conversation and “uncouple” the married guests (they sit next to each other every day, right?).
As for the rest of the table, here are Jaime’s main tips:
1. Use mixed-use textiles vs a proper table cloth or runner. Off-centering and layering ok, too!
2. Don’t serve anything in original containers. Instead, put the ketchup in an interesting ramekin and pour your liquor in a decanter with a cool hand-made lable.
3. Go for different shapes, sizes, and materials if using candles or additional decor objects such as terrariums or vases. Try not to use candles that are too low (and will start a fire if spilled) or too tall (and block your guests from making eye contact).
But if there was one thing to take away from the entire workshop, is was the motto “invest in important stuff, but be creative and use what you have”. And, P.S., give Michael’s a second chance. We often discount that store for being for scrapbookers and kid crafts only, but it has some real gems if you look hard enough. Case in point: a bag of leather remnants for under $10 that Jaime snagged and used to tie napkins (and tie around crystals on the ends).
Towards the end of the workshop, guests got crafty and enjoyed making a personalized hostess gift (for when they get to go to a dinner party). They played around with hot glue, cords, tassles, moss, air plants, and some cheeky note cards that read “you are so cool and I am not even mad about it.” In the near future, Jaime plans to host another workshop with a focus on hostess gifts alone. Stay tuned!
Facilitator: Wild Heart Events
Location: The Mill, Millworks
Appetizers/Wine: Wildwood Kitchen/Potek Winery
Vintage glassware and flatware: Otis + Pearl
Brush lettering (place cards): Sophia Loves Letters
Photos: Viktoriya Filippova for FOLD