Ryan Fortini knows a thing or two about stylish homes and gardens. Earlier in his career, he worked as a photo stylist for Smith & Hawken, where he turned empty patios into party-perfect photo sets.
Most recently, he joined forces with his wife, Marisa, formerly a buyer and product developer for Smith & Hawken, and his mom, Anne, an interior decorator, to open a store in San Luis Obispo, California, specializing in home and garden decor. Called Fortini, it occupies a refurbished 1940s warehouse built by Ryan's grandfather.
If you can't visit the store just now, take some tips from Ryan. Furnish your garden simply and it will always look right, which makes outdoor parties a breeze.
Choose a party theme to suit your garden's style. Ryan's love of the Mediterranean look influences everything in his garden ― even the menu.
"If I had a sushi party, it would be an Italian sushi party somehow," he says. "I wouldn't overlay Japanese."
Also, control your color palette. Shades of green allow the focus to remain on the food and the guests.
And use centerpieces from your own yard ― olive and citrus branches placed down the center of the table in lieu of a runner, for instance.
Then invite the guests and pour the champagne.
INFO: Fortini Home Garden Design (10-5 Tue-Sat; 3021 S. Higuera St., San Luis Obispo, CA; 805/542-0500).