A period mansion and full staff aren’t prerequisites to hosting a right proper-grown-up dinner party. We've been chitchatting with Natasha Johnston — the interior designer at the new OKA store in Edgbaston — to get advice on how to expertly style three very different types of dinner party. Invites to follow.
"It’s not essential, but it’s a nice touch to have cutlery and crockery reserved for occasions — simple yet sophisticated white china is a classic dining failsafe. A proper napkin (linen or cotton) is still a formal dinner must. Set a well-stocked bar on a sideboard. Supply all the trimmings so guests can create their cocktail of choice. Lighting shouldn’t be underestimated — use lamps with low wattage bulbs and plenty of candles to create an intimate atmosphere. An individually-wrapped present at every place is a thoughtful finishing touch. Also, having a seating plan allows you to be creative with your place names — sometimes I write guests’ names on leaves or shells."
"For simple suppers, table linens are optional and quality paper napkins fine. Everyday kitchen cutlery is perfectly acceptable and setting wine and water in jugs and decanters is an informal touch. Choose big dishes or serve buffet-style platters for people to help themselves. For an intimate dinner party setting, the table doesn’t need to be perfect or too fussy — but adding character can be fun. My favourite trick is my gold leaf vodka bottle cooler. Half-fill a waterproof jug with water and place the vodka bottle inside. Add the gold leaf and stand it up in the freezer. Stir every half an hour so the leaf doesn’t linger at the top. Once the water is frozen, run the jug under a tap, easing the cooler out of it, leaving you with with an iced, gold leaf vodka bottle holder (like this) — a great talking point and decorative addition to the table."
"For an outdoor dinner, keep a tray close by — it’s perfect if you’re short on space and can accommodate cocktail essentials and condiments. Virtually unbreakable, melamine bowls and glasses are ideal for al fresco dining. Ensure you have an ice bucket on hand and place cutlery in a central basket. With nature as your backdrop, anything goes when it comes to colour schemes and patterns. It’s a great excuse to go overboard with bright tablecloths and napkins. Masses of hurricane lamps and candle holders and a vase with fresh cut flowers from the garden are the perfect finishing touches. Finally, a throw is an invaluable addition for outdoor dining. Place one over the back of each chair so they are easily to hand if the temperature drops."
More inspiration for your next dinner party, or advice on all sorts of bigger interiors projects can be found care of Natasha and OKA Edgbaston.