Why go out when you can entertain at home? Here’s the perfect plan to get you and your home ready

Do you avoid entertaining because it’s too stressful? Relax! Believe it or not, it is possible to throw an enjoyable and, yes, relaxing dinner party. Your next social event can be a success with careful planning, and a few creative touches to make your guests feel special.

Why Entertain?
Having friends over is a great way to get things done around your home, share your creativity and have fun. Careful planning – and knowing that your home looks great – will allow you to enjoy your friends while dining.

Start by selecting your guest list to create a table of four to six. A larger number can divide the group into competing conversations and be a little overwhelming. A smaller group assures that you have sufficient seating in your living room and at your dining room table.

Call your guests three or four weeks in advance. You might want to follow this up with a handmade invitation in the mail. I like to include a few pressed leaves or flowers with my invitations.

Reduce stress by establishing your menu two weeks before your party. You may want to look through your cookbooks to try a new dish, but make sure you test it out on your family well in advance of the party. Select dishes that can be prepared in advance so you to can spend time with your guests, rather than slaving away in the kitchen.

Get Your House Ready
I want my house to look great for my guests, so as soon as I’ve decided to have a party, I make a list of all the things I’d like to get done around my house. I fit my chores into odd moments in the weeks before my party. Your to-do list might include edging the lawn, adding a few blooming flowers to the yard, cleaning or repainting the front door, cleaning the light fixture and doorbell surround, purchasing a new welcome mat, hanging a wreath from the door or setting a large clay pot of flowers on your porch.

Chores inside the home might include getting the carpets and windows cleaned, scrubbing scuff marks off the wall, buying new candles for the table and fresh towels for the guest room, cleaning out the hall closet and guest bath vanity, tossing or pruning tired house plants, rearranging treasures on the mantel and coffee table or replacing old pillows on the couch.

The Countdown
Being prepared and organized allows you to spend time with your guests and relieves the anxiety of wondering what you may have forgotten or what could possibly go wrong. Follow these suggestions and you’ll have a stress-free dinner party.

1 Week in Advance
Clean and iron your tablecloth, placemats and napkins. For fun, make place cards for each guest. For example, write your guest’s names on river stones, a pressed leaf or a seed packet. Decide on the outfit you’ll wear. Hint: You will look and feel in harmony with your home if you wear clothing that blends with your décor. Make a detailed shopping list.

1 or 2 Days Before
Shop for groceries. Dust and clean your house, with special attention to the rooms your guests will be frequenting. Freshen potpourri or add candles to hall table or guest bath. Stock the guest bath with toilet paper and tissues. Cook casseroles, desserts and anything else on your menu that you can prepare in advance. If the weather is cool, set up your fireplace for a cozy fire. Select music and place by the stereo. Freeze sprigs of mint or tiny sections of lemon in your ice cubes trays to use in water glasses. Run the dishwasher.

That Morning
Set the table and place flowers throughout your home. If you have a partner, divide greeting, serving, clearing and cleanup duties so that one of you is always with your guests. Place wine in fridge. Remove dishes from dishwasher and empty the garbage. Assemble a bag of favors for each guest: fruit from your yard, a small bouquet of flowers in a tin can or a handmade ornament. Select music to play in the background and get your CD player or MP3 player set up so that all you have to do is turn it on.

2 Hours Before
Prepare salad, slice bread and wrap in foil in preparation for heating. Create a serving station on your kitchen counter or table: lay out bowls, baskets and spoons to receive each of your dishes. Set up coffee maker and set out dishes that need to be cooked or re-heated.

1 Hour Before
Get dressed, light the fire, turn on the music, adjust lighting throughout the house. Sit down and relax until your guests arrive.

© CTW Features

Kit Davey, an interior designer based in Redwood City, Calif., helps clients redecorate their homes through the creative use of their existing furnishings. Send your design questions to kit@ctwfeatures.com