“You have to have great food and wine, but for me, it’s more about people, atmosphere and all the senses – and when the senses take over you’re done!” Tim Oulton
With the season of hosting upon us, we invited Country & Town House magazine’s Rosalyn Wikeley, Retail Editor, and Carole Annett, Interiors Editor, to celebrate the 5 senses of hosting with a special reader event at our Bluebird flagship gallery. Around 120 guests arrived at our new home on London’s King’s Road for an evening of good company, fine wine and storied design – the perfect backdrop for a memorable hosted experience.
Celebrating the best of British living and luxury, Country & Town House focuses on ‘double lifers’ who enjoy the very best of country and city living, so whether you’re entertaining from your sleek urban apartment or rustic rural cottage, here are Rosalyn and Carole’s top tips on how to wow your guests through the power of sight, smell, sound, touch and taste.
Create a sophisticated, cosy atmosphere through mood lighting. Avoid bright lights and use candles, lamps and dimmers instead, particularly in the darker months. Timothy Oulton’s Rock Crystal Rain pendant is the perfect product for this: when you turn off the lights in the room, the crystals over each light glow and create the effect of rain falling.
Use mirrors to reflect and magnify the soft flicker of candles or the amber hues of lamps, creating the illusion of more space. Your guests will feel more comfortable when the lights are dimmed.
Use colourful linen and make guests feel welcome with personalised place cards. Use your china rather than saving it for special occasions, and mix and match china with glassware.
You can do a lot with small spaces – try hanging up fairy lights in a tiny corner.
A warm, spicy smell at a winter drinks event is always well-received. But be careful not to overdo it – an overpowering smell can hinder the taste of food and wine. Try Timothy Oulton’s Winter and Tinsel candles for a festive aroma.
It’s a good idea to spray any diffusers the morning or the night before your party, instead of just before.
Add basil and rosemary to your table decorations.
If you’re using formal flowers, ensure they don’t obscure people’s conversations. Crystals can be a nice alternative to flowers.
If you have Sonos around the house, ensure you don’t drown people out, and if you’re doing something impromptu put your phone in a hurricane vase or jar to amplify the sound.
Do some trial runs with your playlist ahead of the party – you could save time by opting for one of Spotify’s curated mood playlists.
These don’t have to be expensive – leave a fresh, fluffy towel on a warm radiator in the bathroom or choose canapes that pair neatly with the wine being served. It’s important to show attention to detail.
Have a drinks station or an area which you can use to make cocktails. For the ultimate home bar, Timothy Oulton’s Hudson sideboard and Monaco bar cabinet make a beautiful addition to your entertaining space.
Don’t forget about al fresco eating. If it’s cold, buy guests hot water bottles – it makes you look like a generous host.
Guests who aren’t drinking are often given much less elaborate glasses than those who are drinking, which can create a divide and make non-drinkers feel unwelcome. Jazz up mocktails with similar glasses to those on the real deal, avoiding that all-too-familiar ‘not drinking?’ trope and ensuring everyone has a good time.
Leave bowls around the house for those who have missed the canape trail, or those who are just too polite to ask for more food! Snacks can be anything from mixed nuts to dusted truffles, and it can be fun to put them in objects of curiosity such as marble boxes and leather trays.
Make little goodie bags for guests to take home – people always love a little treat for the journey back.
For more ideas on hosting a great night, visit our pages dedicated to the lost art of hosting.