Throw a Backyard Summer Camp-Inspired Bash

Easy, breezy entertaining for a lazy afternoon by the lake, starring old-school crafts and a sleepaway-camp spirit

Chantal Lamers
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Memory Makers

Jenni Kayne is no stranger to backyard camping. As a child, she and her sisters would ditch the family’s vacation home on the edge of Lake Tahoe for an impromptu sleepover outdoors. “Even when I was really little, camping out on the beach for the night felt fun,” says Kayne, a Los Angeles home and fashion designer with a serenely aspirational lifestyle blog, Rip & Tan (jennikayne.com). “We would bring our sleeping bags and pillows and bed down under the stars.”

Part of what made those adventures so irresistible was the way in which they complemented their more urban existence in Santa Monica. “We looked forward to spending our Lake Tahoe vacations immersed in nature,” Kayne recalls—so much so that, decades later, she and her sisters bought the vacation home their parents had owned for more than 22 years. Her reason for the purchase? To give her own kids—9-year-old Tanner, 7-year-old Ripley, and 5-month-old Trooper—the chance to “do the same things I did as a little girl,” she says. “It’s like reliving my childhood.”

Admittedly, hard-core roughing it hasn’t been a priority. “For some reason, we always find a place to stay that has bathrooms,” she says, laughing. But the concept of a summer-camp spin on outdoor entertaining has universal appeal. For this casual afternoon get-together at the lakeside backyard of her youthful campouts, Kayne asked Oakland fiber artist Meghan Shimek to lead a lighthearted session in modern crafting. The rest of the ­elements came together in a loose and playful fashion. This is one party where low-key is the order of the day.

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Base Camp

Gatherings like this start with a tent. Whether a boutique ­design—like the Dusk Meriwether Lite Tent from Shelter Co. ($695; shelter-co.com)—or a grouping of A-frames, they serve as lounge-like destinations for guests to congregate around.

Chic vintage military cot, $249; throwbed, $375; ­elsiegreen.com. The Breaker canvas rocker by Pacific Joinery, $1,195; ­Tulip tree stump by Arbor Upcycle, from $175; Wilo pillow by Whole France, $122; atomicgardenoakland.com. Teak camp stool (similar), $228; serenaandlily.com.

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Scavenger Hunt

Kids are natural gatherers, so keep baskets on hand and make a game out of their thirst for adventure. Prepare a visual handout of fallen items, from pinecones and leaves to sticks and lichen.

Pinera basket by Ara Collective, $76; atomicgardenoakland.com.

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Rustic Centerpiece

A fennel-dyed raw-silk table runner and contrasting copper-leather tray form the foundation for a tableau inspired by nature. A DIY trail mix reminiscent of s'mores is the perfect touch for a kid- and adult-friendly snack.

Table runner, from $80; jalamadyes.com. Faceted ceramic bowl by Colin Waters, $38; atomicgardenoakland.com. From page 48: Protected teak dining table and bench, $1,498 and $498; shopterrain.com. Cosette bistro chairs, rental from $11; foundrentals.com. Terra-cotta planters, from $14; flowerlandshop.com. Moroccan basket tray, $79; elsiegreen.com.

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Wild Florals

Stylist Rod Hipskind kept things simple and spontaneous by grouping bright peach ranunculus, unruly stems of feverfew, bunches of yarrow, and Echinacea in tumblers.

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Timeless Activities

For all-ages fun straight out of the camp playbook, keep wood puzzles and classic board games on hand.

Padma rug, rental from $132; foundrentals.com. Wooden forest animal puzzle, $36; petitcollage.com.
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Get Crafty

“I always have an activity planned when kids are around,” says Kayne. “It’s enjoyable for them and for us.” This ­elevated version of a god’s eye (which is tra­ditionally made at childhood summer camps from yarn, glue, and twigs or popsicle sticks) requires only simple materials: craft skewers and varying shades of roving (i.e., unspun) yarn. It’s ideal for ages 12 and up, says Oakland fiber artist Meghan Shimek (meghanshimek.com).

Roving, from $17/lb.; paradisefibers.com.

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On-Point Backdrop

Put an old clothesline to work by hanging statement quilts that evoke a camp craft vibe.

Cassandra Orion quilt, from $475; theperishtrust.com.
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Mix It Yourself

Handing guests a cocktail as they arrive is a sweet way to welcome them. From there, encourage everyone to help themselves to the bar. Kayne leaves printed copies of the drink recipe next to a table with ingredients and glasses. “That way,” she says, “you don’t spend the entire party playing bartender.”

Recipe: Sparkling Blackberry Shrub
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Kayne’s party music strategy? Follow Spotify playlists curated by her favorite Restaurants, such as L.A.’s Jon & Vinny’s.

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Jenni Kayne’s Tahoe

The mom of three shares her favorite family outings around the iconic lake.

The Free Bird. Housed in a sweetly weathered shack along Lake Tahoe Boulevard, this java joint is beloved for its homemade chai. Kayne never has to look at the menu—her order of choice is the vanilla-­infused Yerba Maté Chai. Or slurp up the signature Free Bird smoothie—its healthy-yet-delicious ingredients range from goji berry and açai juice to hemp ­protein and mesquite. ­freebirdtahoe.com.

Moody’s Bistro, Bar & Beats. Kayne and her husband love the atmospheric supper club in The Truckee Hotel. Live jazz Thursday through Saturday, housemade pastas, and classic cocktails round out the ­appeal. moodysbistro.com.

Shakespeare Rock. A Kayne summer tradition: hiking this geological feature above U.S. 50 near Glenbrook, Nevada. The main attraction? A climb-worthy bluff of mostly volcanic stone with a profile that’s reputed to resemble the Elizabethan playwright.

Verde Mexican Rotisserie. The diamond-shaped, charcoal-colored counter sets the tone at this modern Mexican restaurant, where the free-range rotisserie chicken is served with chimichurri and sides like organic sautéed greens. verdemexicanrotisserie.com.