Keep these in mind when planning your next outdoor bash.

By Stephanie Sisco
Updated April 11, 2017
A. Hall

Recently, Williams-Sonoma launched line of home decor in collaboration with AERIN, the luxury lifestyle brand founded by Aerin Lauder. We asked Aerin to share some of her tips and tricks for hosting a successful summertime soiree.

Real Simple: How would you describe your overall style in terms of design and entertaining?
Aerin Lauder: I love to entertain in a very casual, approachable way for people of all ages. In the summertime, I entertain at a long table and just keep adding chairs and friends. I usually focus on one colorway—right now, for example, I love blue and white.

How do you accent that blue and white combination on the tabletop to give it more dimension?
White flowers are beautiful with blue and white because they don’t fight with the different plates or glasses you might be working with.

When you are planning a dinner party, what’s the first thing you start with? Menu? Decor? Overall feeling?
I usually start with the color theme—whether it’s blue and white or red at the holidays—and then from there I move to the flowers. And white napkins always offer that perfect finishing touch.

For people who are just starting to build their tabletop collection, what advice do you have?
I think entertaining should be fun, so you should go with a color that you like, something that you feel comfortable with. Entertaining should be easy, fun, and happy. A favorite of mine is colored glass—it helps make the table fun and casual and offers a little element of surprise.

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And for people who have been collecting over the years, what are some small things they can incorporate to update the look instead of starting from scratch?
I do feel that white linens really creates a cohesive look. Lately, I’ve been using a lot of my grandmother’s older pieces mixed with some of the items I’ve created with Williams-Sonoma and some that I’ve purchased over the years, and a crisp white napkin pulls the whole look together.

Your tables are always so beautifully designed. For people who don’t really know what they’re doing, what advice do you have for how to create one that looks pulled-together, but not overdone?
I do think centerpieces should be low so that guests can talk over them. Entertaining should be fun—so play around with texture and pattern, like this scallop-edge plate that was inspired by a piece in my mother’s collection. It is both traditional and at the same time very modern. And placemats offer a great balance and grounding point to each place setting.

Do you have any favorite tricks for entertaining outdoors?
Again, I love long, casual table—picnic tables, for example, are very inviting and warm. I stick with simple food (sometimes placed on a buffet or served in big bowls on the table) and a great big pitcher of sangria. I think it’s nice to make guests feel welcome.

What’s your go-to summertime centerpiece?

Flowers make the best centerpiece, but you can accent them with citrus or shells in the summertime to give it that extra touch.

What’s a typical menu for one of your parties?
Fried chicken, crab cakes, coleslaw—I love classic American summer meals.

Some of your items are double-duty pieces. How do you put them to use in multiple ways?
Yes, you can use this serving dish, for example, for paella or salad or fill it with citrus for a simple and impactful addition to your centerpiece. You could even fill it with shells and set it on a coffee table. Multi-purpose products are very modern.

What’s one way that you try to make guests feel comfortable?
I think seating is very important. I’ll go around the yard and pick up stones and write everyone’s name as place cards. Then I use those to set the table and seat people who know each other together or those who I think might get along.

Check out the entire AERIN for Williams-Sonoma collection at