1. Restyle and refresh
Give your dining zone some glamour. Extend your table fully and check the space to ensure good circulation around it. Cover up any questionable surfaces (or trestles) with a tablecloth, on which you can work your styling magic; the ‘Baltimore’ range of table linen, from Bed Bath N’ Table, is timeless. A similar makeover can be worked on dining chairs. “Try re-covering them with slip covers that can be thrown in the wash if food spills happen,” says interior stylist Emma Blomfield. Ikea’s ‘Henriksdal’ range is budget friendly.
2. Sort out space
Have a clear out and give everything a good scrub. “Clean, declutter and recycle things you don’t use on a regular basis,” advises Jeneile Kirk of Kaboodle. “This includes any non-essential items – old cookbooks, homewares, or anything cluttering your kitchen and surrounding area. You’ll definitely need all the working space you can get!” At the minimum, do a proper clean-out of the fridge and freezer, tossing away expired products and organising the rest to maximise space. Don’t forget to assess shelf heights; consider what you might be storing in the fridge ahead of a planned party and make sure you have enough room – rearranging shelves on the day to cram in a Christmas ham is an annoying job you don’t need.
“Installing plenty of kitchen cabinets gives you the storage to hide appliances away and creates more space when you have guests around for dinner”Jeneile Kirk
3. Clean and clear
It’s everyone’s least favourite job, but cleaning the oven is another must-do. Those who have cookers with self-cleaning pyrolitic functions will be breathing a sigh of relief at this point, although you’ll still need to tackle the oven shelves. The rest of us might prefer to delegate to an oven-cleaning service, such as Ovenu (ovenu.com.au). Don’t forget to tackle your servingware, which may have been gathering dust since last Christmas. “Pull all of your serving items out of the cupboards a few days before you plan to entertain, so you can do a run through the dishwasher and wipe any dust from your salad bowls, ready to go,” suggests Emma. This is also a good time to ensure you have enough plates, glasses and flatware to see you through, and to restock if necessary.
4. Serve up
An easy way to max your space for entertaining a crowd is to create a stylish self-servery, which will make guests feel welcome as well as take the pressure off the hosts. A bar cart is handy – it can be parked in virtually any space and wheeled outdoors if the party goes alfresco – and will give any gathering a glamorous hit (Zanui and Freedom are good places to find a chic trolley). A sturdy trestle, covered with a length of linen, is a good temporary fix, while Emma Blomfield suggests bringing your kitchen island into service. “Lay a tablecloth over the bench for extra colour and fun,” she says. “Arrange your glassware, bar items and liquor bottles on the bench and then let your guests serve themselves on arrival. Don’t forget a giant champagne bucket full of ice!” A buffet in the dining area also works well.
“A few new key pieces for your kitchen bench, such as a fruit bowl and a nice vase, will do wonders”Emma Blomfield
5. Don't forget outdoors
As summer sets in, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be entertaining alfresco. So check that your outdoor area is up to scratch. Clean the barbecue (most oven-cleaning services can also tackle this for you) and make sure the gas bottle is full. Scrub moss and mildew from pavers and clean outdoor furniture. Consider how your barbecue area is working for you – whether the old barbecue is still adequate, or if the zone could be expanded into more of an outdoor kitchen. Ilve’s Daniel Bertuccio also suggests looking into a rangehood, which will save you smoking out the neighbours (and your guests).