Opulent wall galleries, fearlessly mixed furniture, pleated silk curtains with sumptuous fringe: designer David Jimenez’s interiors are all about the details, and when it comes to throwing beautiful parties, his standards are just as exacting. He draws on his visual presentation experience creating famously evocative environments — which have translated into store design and product presentation at five U.S. iconic retailers. Originally from New York and now residing in Paris, a seasoned host of dinner parties and intimate soirées, this highly regarded tastemaker gives Traditional Home the rundown on easy ways to achieve high-style entertaining.
1. First Impressions Count
Although an email or text is perfectly appropriate for any casual gathering, a smart-looking invitation says a lot about the event you are hosting. It doesn’t have to be expensive or fussy. There are many online invitation options with a wide range of styles that can even be customized with your own photos. "For special events or fundraisers at my home," David says, "I work with a graphic designer and create original art based on my party theme, then have them professionally printed and mailed in hand-addressed envelopes for an extra personalized touch."
2. Illuminate the Pathway
Nothing gives guests a warmer welcome to a party on a spring or summer evening than candles illuminating their way. It's a stylish touch indoors or out. Light the way up your front steps, a spiral staircase, or path to the garden with simple glass hurricanes or votive candleholders. "On the night of the party," David says, "I line the marble staircase that leads to my apartment with pillars in clear hurricanes, then employ large lanterns with pillar candles and place them on my living room balcony and in my small garden. The candle glow creates an alluring backdrop and adds to the festive vibe."
3. A Scent That Says Welcome
An aromatic scent is a wonderful way to greet guests at the front door. Consider floral scents that complement the season and pump up that wonderful aroma of freshly cut blossoms. But don’t stop at the entry—burn scented candles in the bedroom, bath, and even the kitchen. "My favorite candle for the entry is Grand Chalet by Astier de Villatte," David says. "It’s delicately perfumed with notes of fresh lime blossom, bergamot, and sandlewood. In the living room, I love Baies by Diptyque, with the irresistible freshness of a bouquet of roses, and in my dressing room, I burn Ernesto by Cire Trudon, which features notes of tobacco and leather."
4. Create A Smart-Looking Bar
If you don't already have one, assemble a bar the night before the party. Look for space that's large enough to set a large tray filled with an assortment of spirits, mixers, garnishes, glasses, cocktail napkins, and ice. "I prefer outfitting my bar with smart-looking petite glass bottles of tonic and soda water by Fever Tree, organized in neat little rows, over the more impersonal look of big plastic jugs of tonic and soda," David says. "Not only does it give your bar a polished look, it keeps the drinks fresh, and unused bottles can be saved for a later date. While space is usually limited, I always like to add a fresh flower or two for an extra touch."
5. Limit Your Cocktail Menu
Offering a full bar may seem like a hospitable choice but it’s simply not practical unless you are planning on hiring a bartender and stocking up on a wide variety of spirits. You’ll reduce your workload by offering white wine, one vodka-based drink, and a signature cocktail for the night. The latter can be a nod to the theme of your party and a low-maintenance way to tend bar. "I prepare batches of spiked punch or cosmopolitans in glass carafes ahead of time and keep them chilled in the refrigerator," David says. "It makes serving a breeze and is a hospitable way to mingle with guests, while ensuring everyone’s glass remains topped off throughout the night."
Here's one of his favorite recipes:
Whiskey Sour Punch
Makes 10 ¾-cup servings
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
2 1/2 cups refrigerated fresh orange juice
2 cups bourbon
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 large lemons)
3 cups chilled club soda
Fresh orange slices (optional)
- Combine sugar and 1/3 cup water in a 1-cup glass measure. Microwave on high for two minutes; stir until sugar dissolves. Cool to room temperature.
- Combine sugar mixture, orange juice, bourbon, and lemon juice in a large pitcher; stir well. Stir in club soda just before serving. Serve over ice cubes in a double old-fashoned glass, or whatever pretty glass you have on hand. Garnish with orange slices, if desired.
6. Dim Those Lights!
Lighting is an easy way to create atmosphere at a dinner party or casual get-together, and everyone looks great and is more at ease in low, ambient lighting. Dimmers are relatively easy to install, and if you don’t have dimmers, low-wattage light bulbs (15 and 25 watts) can replace higher wattage bulbs in table lamps, floor lamps, and ceiling fixtures. Candles are available in lots of shapes and sizes; use them liberally when entertaining, with the goal of achieving a warm glow throughout the entire house. "Before a party, I reduce lighting levels in each room and place small clusters of three votives casually across coffee tables, dressers, accent tables, and the hearth," David says. "It creates little pockets of dazzling light throughout rooms."
7. Music Matters
We’ve all experienced it. Walk into any boutique or restaurant where there is a driving beat and killer sound system and suddenly we feel the vibe. Similarly, great music will have an immediate impact on your party and quickly get it off the ground. If you have time, create a playlist in advance but if that’s not an option, play CDs or choose an existing party playlist on Spotify, Pandora, or Apple Music. "At my parties," David says, "I like to mix in high-spirited classics by The Stones, Michael Jackson, Aretha, and Tito Puente with current top tracks—the mix keeps things interesting."
8. Set a Stunning Table
Fresh flowers are a dazzling way to add festivity to your dining table and create an elegant setting for your evening. "I stay away from mixed bouquets and prefer the bold, unified look of all one style bloom variety, then coordinate the color with my table linens, either in a tonal way by choosing a shade that is slightly lighter or darker than the linens (like the vivid green of snowball viburnum branches with deep, rich emerald linens), or go for bold contrast to make a statement (like bright pink Casablanca lilies with a table dressed in warm, understated neutrals)," David says. "Adding a bowl of cheerful lemons, oranges, or deep-hued eggplants will add more vibrancy to your centerpiece. I usually set my table the night before the party because it allows me to enjoy the process with plenty of time to play with options."
9. Regarding Food: Presentation Is Everything
The versatility of classic white platters provides impeccable service for everything from main courses to appetizers and desserts. Their clean, simple lines and pristine white color are an easy fit with any decor style or color scheme. Serve up any dish, whether home-cooked or store-bought, on beautiful platters and the presentation will be a knock-out. "I have stacks of plain white serving pieces in various shapes and sizes that I’ve collected over the years, and have recently been stocking up on handsome platters from a local Parisian dinnerware shop I love, called Astier de Villatte," David says. "Shaped from black terra-cotta clay, and finished with a white porcelain glaze, each piece is truly one of a kind, and entirely handmade in Paris."
10. Friends I Pay
No one wants to see you working at your own party. Based on the size of your gathering and your budget, consider hiring a person or a crew to take coats, bartend, serve appetizers, freshen the bathroom, and help clean up when the party is over. "I’ve experienced great success with hiring my nice cleaning lady for the night, to help with everything from kitchen prep prior to guests arriving, to taking coats and filling drinks throughout the night," David says. "For larger parties, I recruit waiters or waitresses from restaurants I frequent. In that way, I know and like them, have a sense for their people skills and ability to mix a great drink. For large parties, I’ve worked with a local modeling agency and selected models from their website with great success. It’s not complicated, the agency coordinates all communication and usually requires a 4-hour minimum. Having models take coats at the door, refresh cocktails, and tend bar is a fun way to add instant glamour to any soiree."