For Australians, entertaining is almost a part of our DNA. From having a few friends over for a weekend barbeque an impromptu stop in for a cup of tea, or an extravagant dinner party we love to do it all. Plus, we’re spoilt with a climate where you can enjoy outdoor entertaining pretty much all year round. Here’s how to design a home that is perfect for entertaining.
1. A large kitchen island
Plan your space around the kitchen, it’s the natural congregation space. Choosing an island bench is perfect for entertaining as guests can easily interact with the host without getting in the way.
2. Butler’s pantry
A walk-in pantry or butler’s pantry is a great place to keep extra platters, booze and supplies and it is somewhere you can hide dirty pots and plates until the end of the night. Save the washing up for later on!
3. Cocktail station
Allow guests to help themselves to a drink upon arrival by stocking up a bar cart or home bar. Or, if you don’t want your guests to lift a finger, prepare a classic cocktail mix the day to ensure the evening runs smoothly. Mix equal parts gin, vermouth and campari in a glass bottle to create a classic Negroni cocktail mix that will keep in the freezer overnight. Once guests arrive, simply serve it over ice and add an orange slice to garnish.
4. Snacks on hand
Great hosts always have nibblies on hand to serve guests. This could be a freshly baked tea cake, a fruit platter or a grazing board featuring delicious cheeses, crackers and dips. The idea is to keep tummy rumbles at bay until the main meal is served.
5. Open invitation
Open-plan living lends itself to entertaining, having a space where you can step from the kitchen to living to outdoors with ease is a must. Having blurred lines between areas allows your home to flow and means your group won’t segment. Position your furniture to create zones, perfect for conversation.
6. Powder room
A powder room on the first floor – ideally located close to the outdoor entertaining zone, too – is a must-have in any entertainer’s home. It makes it easy for guests to find and also keeps them from wandering around the house in search of one. Just make sure you prepare the powder room before guests arrive by wiping down the sink, vanity and mirror, cleaning the loo, spritzing air freshener and replacing the hand towel.
7. Dining table
So guests have arrived, helped themselves to a cocktail (or two), grazed on a selection of gourmet cheeses and had a chat over the kitchen island bench. Now it’s time for the main event. And that takes place at the dining table. Every entertainer worth their salt will have a sturdy dining table surrounded by a set of chairs so comfortable no one minds a bit when the conversation carries on hours after the main has been devoured.
8. Alfresco zone
When the weather is right, it’s always best to dine outdoors. The rule about the dining table still applies, but this time you’ll need to account for other variables like glare from the sun and keeping flies and mosquitos at bay. Frequent entertainers will have a handy set of supplies on hand to keep their guests comfortable outdoors: throw blankets for cooler seasons, outdoor blinds or awnings to protect from harsh sunlight and gauze food covers to keep flies and bugs at bay until everyone is seated and ready to dig in.
9. Outdoor kitchen
The last thing you want to be doing is cooking in the kitchen whilst your guests are enjoying themselves. Having an outdoor BBQ and kitchenette is a must, meaning that you can spend less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying yourself.
10. Dining accessories
Table set with good quality plates, gorgeous glassware and a mouth-watering feast but it’s still serving ‘weeknight dinner’ vibes rather than the sophisticated soiree you were aiming for? The missing link could be chic dinner table accessories. Tablecloths, table runners, placemats, coasters, napkins or even a simple table centrepiece can really go a long way to elevate a boring old table into something truly magnificent.
Frequent home entertainers always have an assortment of serving plates, salad bowls and large platters on hand. Having platters in different shapes and sizes will create interest when all of the food is served in the centre of the table and will really set the scene for an enjoyable dinner.
11. Classic white dinner set
Yes, eclectic plates are cool, but you can never go wrong with a classic, all-white dinner set either. If you’re a budding home entertainer, look for a 12-16 piece dinner set that is versatile enough to be used any time of the year, whether it’s Christmas with the family or a catch up with friends. Look for plates that are microwave, oven and dishwasher safe for ease of preparation and clean up.
12. Gorgeous glassware
No one knows exactly when it happens, but somewhere along the journey of life from university student to fully-fledged adult is a point where it’s no longer acceptable to serve red wine in a champagne flute just because you don’t own the appropriate glassware. If having friends over for a tipple is something you regularly enjoy doing, stock up on good quality glassware appropriate to the beverages you serve. This doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune, either. Op shops often have great glassware available and these days no one really cares if your glasses are part of a matching set, because eclectic dinnerware is in. Just save the champagne flutes for champagne and the highball tumblers for cocktails.
13. Mood lighting
Picture your favourite restaurant. What’s the lighting like? Is it harsh overhead lighting, or something softer, warmer, and more flattering? Create an intimate atmosphere around your home by paying attention to the sources of light. Something as simple as taper candles at the dining table can create a warm, flickering glow as you connect with guests. Lamps in the living room invite guests to relax into the sofa and make themselves at home. Festoon or fairy lights leading from the back door to the fire pit can create a magical atmosphere and gently guide guests from one gathering zone to another.