A recent guest told me as we shored up our plans that I need not go to too much fuss. Without forethought, I said simply, "Oh, I only do it 'nice'". It sounded a bit cocky to me, but as I thought on it, I took a philosophical approach. I do believe entertaining is an art and I do take pride in getting it right. Here are some tips for intimate gatherings:
Space and Light. Home in on a concise area to keep the gathering cohesive. Minimized lighting in the spaces you don't want to use will subliminally tell guests where you've focused your efforts. One dimmed lamp in a room you haven't planned to 'open' to guests will give the unused space a little glamour in passing.
Flowers and Canapes. An arrangement that smells wonderful near the entry and in the powder room always creates the right impression, but the flowers can be less fragrant in a space where the savory scent of the food might better take center stage. Embrace Bohemian simplicity, eschewing complicated or messy foods for the always elegant cheeses, fruits and charcuterie. A dense moutarde or chutney is right if there are crackers or breads, but with these offer a choice of both subtle and vibrant flavors to make the mix more complex- something sweet and something spicy always get raves.
Lastly and sadly, it must be said: Please, please, please turn off the television, unless this is a movie night or sports event party. Guests should feel that their companionship is worth enough to pull the host away from his glowing electronic god. More importantly, time spent with friends can produce more thoughtful conversation when you stop watching the manufactured stories and begin sharing your own.