How to Throw a Last-Minute Swanky House Party

Big plans but short on time? Upgrade your next house party with these tips from our desert shindig

Nena Farrell
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A Wild Idea

You want to host a party, but the time window to plan it is small and you’re not sure if you can pull it all together. We’re here to tell you that yes, you can make it happen. We did it ourselves at Palm Springs’ Modernism Week this year—the event was already underway when Sunset and interior designer Sarah Sherman Samuel decided it was too perfect a chance to throw a house party (or, as we called it, the Sunset Secret House Party.) And, with the help of Semihandmade and Fireclay Tile, our bash became a reality. Follow our tips for how we threw a modern house party for the books.
  • Party Tip #1: Don’t worry about making it a huge gathering; keep the guest list to your favorite people. Bringing an amazing, varied group together tends to generate surprising and fun results.
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The Perfect Backdrop

When Sarah offered up her Palm Springs home for our party, it was too good to be true. The home graced the cover of Sunset last September, making it an amazing opportunity to bring the magazine to life. The A-frame is currently for sale, so it was a perfect way to send off the home and celebrate Modernism Week.
  • Party Tip #2: Consider a co-host to get the space you love
We don’t all have the perfect place to throw a party, but we’ve all got that friend with an amazing living room or picture-perfect backyard. Ask them to co-host, and be sure to bring everything needed so your kind friend just has to provide the space.
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Grab a Drink

Anything’s a party when you have a colorful cocktail, and ours was an Aperol Spritz, thanks to our friends at Campari. The bright orange hue paid homage to the vibrant colors of Palm Springs. Fun tiles like these from Fireclay provided the nicest-looking resting spots for guests’ drinks.
  • Party Tip #3: Mix a signature cocktail and add fun coasters.
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Free-Range Florals

Nothing upgrades a home, or house party, better than a touch of green. We gave Best Day Ever florals an idea of what the event space would look like, and let them take it from there. The results were full yet delicate floral arrangements that complemented the desert home and landscape.
  • Party Tip #4: Add (literal) life to the party with florals or foliage.
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Craft Happy

It seems like everywhere you go there’s a craft activity, but it’s usually the same ones over and over. West Perro put together a special DIY craft station where guests could build their own desert-inspired mini wall hangings out of clay pieces and wood beads.
  • Party Tip #5: Have a fun activity planned that’s unexpected yet easy.
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Irresistible Memento

The crafting didn’t stop until the party was over, but guests didn’t only take home their wall hanging creations. West Perro also brought air plants and palo santo that guests could tuck into their crafts or take home as souvenirs.
  • Party Tip #6: Bring a little something extra to the table in the form of a simple, affordable, yet still excellent memento.
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Take a Bite

The sign of a bustling house party: people are mingling everywhere, and often too involved in conversation to sit with their food. Get some light bites that are easy to eat while standing, like these Mini Key Lime Tarts (recipe here) from Melvyn’s in Palm Springs.
  • Party Tip #7: Provide small-portion bites one can enjoy while walking, standing, or even crafting.
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Perfect Tabletop

Nobody wants to look at drab paper plates, but using formal dishes can make it difficult to move around and clean up afterwards. We eliminated these challenges with Harlow & Grey’s modern paper tableware, watercolor and terracotta paper plates, and napkins with sleek design details.
  • Party Tip #8: Upgrade your plateware (and keep it disposable.)
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The Perfect Takeaway

When you throw a party at an A-frame house, a party favor doesn’t get more on-theme than a book on A-frames. We were already fans of The Modern A-Frame, and it looked great peeking out of the Fireclay tote that echoed the home’s signature shape with a triangular motif.
  • Party Tip #9: Have a party favor that really celebrates the affair.
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Fun in the Sun

We set the vibe with a great playlist—two in fact, so we could toggle from upbeat to chill.