The Art of Living Well
By Dann Foley


This month at The Standard we are celebrating a summer of Arts & Entertainment. Frankly, I could not have chosen a better editorial theme for the month myself!   It is like a gift to me because I love entertaining! Summer entertaining is really one of my favorite things because I love showing my clients and friends how to be casual and still sophisticated.  


At Dann Inc. we are always finishing up or installing projects we have been working on all year in time for summer. And what is the first thing someone wants to do after redecorating? They want to have a party to share it all with friends and loved ones. I have planned more housewarming parties than I care to remember. Making sure each is memorable, fun, relaxing and delicious is key. To get it right I like to entice all of the senses and a great mix of personalities. Even the most humble of BBQ’s can be orchestrated.


So, how do you throw the perfect house party? You must know by now that I am here to share my best tips and tricks to ensure you are the perfect host/hostess. I promise you this; it is easier than it looks. Here are some of my surefire elements and go-to details that have worked wonders for me at reveal parties and will make you a star of your own!


  • Coordinate the invitation with the feeling of the home/theme of the party. I like to choose a color theme to begin. The invitation is a sneak peak into the style of the event.

Shop for fun, fully customizable invitations. They even have magnetic invites for your guests to post on the refrigerator so they don’t forget the date!


If you are thinking Green try, for earth friendly online invitations that are also customizable and you can manage your guest list and responses all from one site.


  • I like to design a shirt or t-shirt for the waiters and bartenders to wear. The easiest example is the homeowner’s monogram done in a fun, simple and sophisticated graphic. has many styles of shirts and lots of design templates as well as online help, with NO order minimums!


  • Create a signature cocktail for the home/evening. Any bartender worth his weight can work with you to create a specialty drink to serve your guests upon arrival. You can match the monogram on the invitation to note cards printed with the cocktail recipe for guests to take with them at the end of the night. This little detail is a sure hit, every time!


Search for help on creating signature cocktails.


  • Plan a menu that fits the style of the home and the event. Cocktails, buffet or BBQ, the style doesn’t matter, it’s the execution that makes the difference. Summer calls for less fussy food but that doesn’t mean it has to be less sophisticated. Take the basics and learn to “up market”. Step out of the ordinary, think gourmet burgers with herbs and chesses on the inside, artisan breads over hamburger buns or filets on the grill with homemade BBQ sauce on garlic bread, orzo salad with fresh dill and shrimp and a vinaigrette coleslaw with parsley and onion…I have lots of recipes for you!


My favorite recipe site is, They have every recipe from every publication ever printed. Just search and have fun. I recommend searching gourmet deviled egg recipes!


My other favorite place to search for recipes is, I love using the search bar to find unique, delicious and healthy alternative recipes.


  • I always make it a point to dress my clients for their parties. The new look of the home or the theme of the evening should be extended to the hosts as well. No matter how casual your backyard pool party might be there is always room for style! Here’s a little hint… my hosts never wear flip-flops!


  • Summer entertaining can be as detailed as any other time of the year, the trick is not to overdo or underwhelm your guests. I keep the floral simple and at a minimum. Choose a single summer bloom and repeat it throughout the party décor. Daises, potted geraniums, Gerbera daisies are all great choices.


  • Music and lighting are paramount in design and party planning. If you are planning live music, make space for it where the sound will not overwhelm conversation. I like to place my musicians outside on the patio and then open doors and windows to let the sound waft indoors. If the party is outdoors I place them further out on the lawn or the opposite side of the pool to keep the volume manageable. Lighting should be soft and not glaring, in other words, all lighting should be on a dimmer for your party and for your life.


  • Finally, you should always invite me, your designer to your party because I love to walk your friends and family through the design process that brought you to this amazing moment! The why’s and where fore’s of all the decisions and details are part of the fun of the reveal and makes the experience even more personal for those lucky enough to be invited to share in your happiness.


When all is said and done the best tip I can share with you, as host/hostess is to relax and enjoy yourself, have a good time. If you are nervous your guests will be nervous and no amount of beautiful decorating or abundant food can compensate.


Live Well & Have Fun!


Dann Foley

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