Home & Garden

Clever Hacks for Southern Summer Entertaining

Tips and tricks that will kick up your soirees

In the same way I love scouring glossy photos of how interior designers live in their own personal spaces, I find it equally compelling to know how event and floral designers create magic when hosting own small fetes for friends and family (versus, say, a giant wedding). Why? Because a creative person’s home, in my view, is where the true originality and spontaneity happens. And where the best takeaway ideas (for the rest of us) live. Here, some of the South’s shining talents divulge their favorite products and secret signatures for entertaining.

Blake Sams

Event Designer, Gregory Blake Sams Events

Charleston, South Carolina, and New York, New York

An Antique or Vintage Ice Bucket 

“I keep one tucked in every room of the house and a few on our terrace,” Sams says. “Before guests arrive, I make sure each bucket has ample ice in which to tuck a bottle of wine, or a carafe of batched cocktails. They make it so much more enjoyable to serve and host.” $375–$850; krbnyc.com

Chic Glassware (that Isn’t Precious Cargo)

“The Bach collection from Luigi Bormioli works with traditional or modern anything, and all the pieces are easy and affordable to replace.” From $30 for a set of four; luigibormioliusa.com

Real Linen Cocktail Napkins

For an elegant but casual touch: “I serve every drink in my house with these oblong white cocktail napkins.” $67 for a set of six; sferra.com

Starch. Lots of It.

And to keep everything looking crisp, “Kershaw’s traditional heavy starch will change your linen game,” Sams says. $14; amazon.com

Shean Strong

Floral Designer, Shean Strong

Atlanta, Georgia

Food Tents

“Nothing ruins an outdoor summer party like black flies,” Strong says, “and I love these minimalist, handmade covers.” $30 each; food52.com

Japanese Garden Scissors

“These are my favorite snips for clipping things from my garden for parties,” Strong says. $26–$28; food52.com

Lots of Bud Vases

“Whatever I clip, I add to bud vases like these to display on the table, the bar, guest bathrooms, and the kitchen island,” he says. “It makes the party feel meaningful and brings life to it.” $4; cb2.com

Rebecca Gardner 

Event Designer, Houses & Parties

Savannah, Georgia

A Standing Champagne Bucket

“I put one in the living room for cocktails and one at the dining table,” Gardner says. “That way I can enjoy my guests and keep glasses full.” $398; housesandparties.com

A Salad Bowl on a Stand

“This is a great trick in the summer,” Gardner says. “I can serve the first course right at the table and whisk it away.” $198; housesandparties.com

Laidback Nibbles

“I hate fussy canapés, and anything involving a dip makes me faint,” she says with a laugh. “I much prefer to serve Lay’s potato chips, salted nuts, and cheese straws.” $21; ggfieldshop.com

Paper Lanterns Hung on String Lights, for Ambience

“If outside, create a little environment and hang dozens—low so your guests duck into the magical world.” $38; housesandparties.com

Frozen Foods Made Fancy

“I always pick up a few things from my farm…Pepperidge Farm,” Gardner says with a laugh. “Their frozen corn soufflé is delicious with roasted tomatoes, and sometimes I stack two of their coconut cakes and cover with toasted coconut. No one knows, and I just accept the compliments.” $4; pepperridgefarm.com

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