11 easy entertaining ideas to steal
He's a chef, she's a designer. Together this L.A. couple keeps the fun going to 3 a.m. with easygoing and stylish ideas you can use
A home for entertaining
Dinner parties spill outside at Brandon Boudet and Isabelle Dahlin’s English cottage, a one-bedroom blessed with outdoor entertaining spaces in L.A.’s Echo Park neighborhood. Brandon, a chef, shakes cocktails and leads guests to appetizers on the kitchen balcony. Dinner happens in the fenced front yard under an intimate arbor set aglow by Isabelle, a Swedish interior designer. And dessert is served around the backyard fireplace, where a hammock and lap blankets await. “Guests really feel at home here,” Isabelle says. “At 3 a.m., it’s hard to get our friends to leave.”
A designer's personal style
Isabelle owns deKor, a Swedish American and midcentury home shop. She blends heirloom and global finds for an eclectic look. Reclaimed-wood swing $249; dekorla.com
A chef's party philosophy
“As much as the food should be great, the setting is crucial,” says Brandon, who’s partnered on four restaurant revivals, including 1937 Irish tavern Tom Bergin’s and old Hollywood hangout Dominick’s. “Like restaurants, so much of the experience is about creating atmosphere.”
Pops of color and character
Brandon bakes cakes in mason jars at 101 Coffee, while Isabelle uses old jars as vases for market-fresh blooms like peonies. Mason jars from $22; dekorla.com
Isabelle found this cabinet at a flea market, put a mirror behind it, and added a vintage ice bucket. The couple keep the bar well stocked and set out fresh fruit and garden herbs. “I make guests their first cocktail,” Brandon says, “and then they’re on their own.”
Prep and head out
“If you’re spending more than 30 minutes cooking during the party, you’re doing it wrong,” says Brandon. Pick recipes that can be prepped or made ahead of time, and grill during cocktail hour. “I always plan simple dishes so I never get stuck in the kitchen.”
Add meaning to the meal
“While my restaurants have an expectation around a theme—Italian, Irish—I make my home menus personal, considering who’s coming, what they love, and what’s in season,” says Brandon.
Go for glow
Under the arbor, Isabelle hung round string lights and this vintage pendant on a dimmer. And she swears by Olive Branch Organics’ clean-burning coconut-wax candles (from $26; dekorla.com).
Skip the glassware
“When we drink around the fireplace, we use plastic wineglasses—pretty ones that won’t break,” Isabelle says. $13/4-pack; govinowine.com
Isabelle layers patterns on a neutral palette. “I love a Danish modern aesthetic mixed with a traditional, ethnic style.” Similar chairs at dekorla.com
No cold shoulders
Encourage guests to linger by leaving out blankets. Isabelle loves the Mexican blankets at L.A.’s Olvera Street—the hammock is from there too.
Set the mood
“As much as the food should be great, the setting is crucial. So much of the experience is about creating atmosphere,” says Brandon. An outdoor fireplace, flanked by a hammock, chaise lounges, and a comfy loveseat provide the ideal spot for intimate conversation over drinks.