Looking for insider knowledge on making your next bash as effortlessly glamorous as the ones you see in magazines? Ten of our favourite stylists have got you (and your table) covered.
1 Add some warmth
"For a relaxed barbie, hang paper and glass lanterns from trees (the more the merrier) to create drama. Use a roll of brown paper as a table runner and stick it down with masking tape, making the masking tape a feature rather than trying to disguise it. For a fun alternative to an esky, try using an old enamel bath or tin bucket. When it comes to labelling sauces, oversized paper luggage tags tied onto old milk bottles work a treat.
"For an indoor affair, handwrite the menu using a fountain pen on thick textured watercolour paper. To create a centrepiece that's sure to impress, use an old vintage mirror and top it with loads of candles of all different sizes. I also like to collect old wooden stamps and use them to stamp initials onto pieces of thick paper and sit them on napkins for each guest."
2 Mix high and low
"I love the simple formula of mixing old and new pieces with a sprinkle of sparkle and colour. Stop waiting for a special occasion worthy of the "good dinner set". Take it out of the cupboard and give it the love it deserves by mixing it with old cutlery and serving spoons that your mum gave you and Nana's fancy platter. Artfully placed crystal pieces and candles will give you the aforementioned sparkle; they'll look particularly great in the centre of the table. The final touch? Coloured napkins and a small posy of fresh seasonal flowers."
3 Put flowers everywhere but the table
"I never have flowers on the table, no matter how amazing they are. In my mind, flowers are best viewed from a distance so you can witness their magnificence. Place them over mantles, on side consoles, up stair rails, or over lights and strung from ceilings."
4 Brighten up
"For table- and party-ware that fits with this summer's bright colour palette, take a trip to Asian supermarkets - they have an abundance of inexpensive bowls, tea sets and serving baskets. Mix them with simple white plates and bowls. While you're there, look out for plain round paper lanterns - choose one colour and cluster a few in various sizes for a great summer indoor or outdoor paper "chandelier"."
5 Just add paper
"One of my favourite ways to decorate the dinner table is by using watercolour paper as placemats. I buy A3 pads at the art store in the roughest texture and tear them out for quick disposable placemats. You can customise them for any occasion by inserting small slits to weave a ribbon through, or let your friends customise their own by placing a few twine-bundled pencils at each setting (this can get silly and fun). You can also layer them with some different paper for a pop of colour. Because of its absorbency levels, watercolour paper can act quite well as a one-time coaster too."
6 A natural touch
"Make people feel special by creating personalised place settings. Start with some giant green leaves and use pink or white paint pens to write guests' names on the leaves. Put them on top of the napkins or plates. Another idea is to mix herbs such as basil, mint and rosemary with your flowers to give a lovely fresh scent."
7 Vintage pieces
"I love French-style vintage hand-blown glass insect catchers for summer entertaining. They're perfect for an outdoor party. Add a little honey to the base of the glass to attract the insects inside. Sydney store Pure and General sells some with beautiful copper wire for hanging and they look fantastic en masse hanging from trees."
8 DIY cocktails
"Set up a help-yourself bar with Champagne in buckets, coupes, pitchers of cocktails and vintage drink dispensers. Ask your guests what their favourite cocktail is so you can make sure you have all the right ingredients on hand and maybe even face-off in a friendly bartending competition."
9 Make it kid-friendly
"When I entertain there are almost always kids around. I like to set up an area for them with low tables, bright cushions and maybe even a tent where they can run around and play. I also put together a table of food where they can make a mess of things that are easy for them to eat like little cupcakes or sausage rolls."
10 More is more
"An easy way to create an impact is to use multiples of one item. I have a set of large white Italian ceramic vases that are all different shapes and they look wonderful grouped along a console or down the centre of a table. Try to stick with one concept; if you have too many elements it can start to look messy. I tend to use a one- or two-colour policy. Think of your guests too, what they like or dislike. This way your look will be unique and fresh each time and it also makes it personal."
Sign up to receive the latest food, travel and dining news direct from Gourmet Traveller headquarters.
Globetrotting coffee-obsessives, meet the Rok espresso maker...
Raise your gateaux to new heights with a glam cake stand.
Accent marble with timber and metallics for wintry cool.
Between her backyard and laundry in Melbourne, Victoria Pemb...
Extract the most from your spices with mortars and pestles; ...
Be it ever so humble, there’s few things as homely as a good...
Subtle in style, strong on character.