Oh, the sheer indulgence of a social situation where the rules are your rules, the food is your food, the scent is your scent. Some people find this level of detail overwhelming, but interior designer Joanna Plant is the prime example of a hostess who revels in each stitch of her rich dinner-party tapestry.
Interior designer Joanna Plant
For Joanna, there’s something deeply satisfying in the calm before the storm, that moment when you look around and take in all that you have created – before the madness of everybody piling in. The house and garden full of carefully considered details and secluded nooks – from scented candles in cosy corners to encourage conversation, to a galvanised bathtub on the terrace full of bottles of Champagne, to a dining table groaning with temptation. Joanna’s style is the perfect antidote to prim party decoration. ‘The way you entertain should reflect who you are,’ she says, ‘I don’t want a home party to have the stiff formality of a wedding.’
And like all our favourite hosts, Joanna is an advocate for using candlelight to enhance the atmosphere. ‘Candlelight makes everyone look a million times more beautiful,’ she says. Red Roses Home Candles are her welcome scent – with Home Candles placed on the hall table. The fresh, citrusy combination of Lime Basil & Mandarin paired with floral Orange Blossom are her dining-room choices, while richer Incense & Embers and Velvet Rose & Oud is her nightfall go-to ‘for when you retreat indoors; it’s headier, more sumptuous and a bit sexy’.
“For me, entertaining is about creating a feeling of generosity and abundance, so you want lots of flowers and delicious food, however simple”
Her informal, generous party style is one she claims easy to mimic with a few simple styling tips.
FLOWERS: Pre-ordered bouquets are beautiful, but Joanna is all for informality and excess. ‘I just plonk a lot of something in a vase,’ she says. ‘Entertaining to me is about creating a feeling of generosity and abundance, so you want lots of flowers and delicious food however simple.’
DRINKS: ‘I always set up a bar with a help yourself approach. For summer I’m serving pink gin. What’s more inviting than a pink drink at a summer party?’
FOOD: ‘It needn’t be fancy. No one cares. Not really. ‘Complicated food makes for a stressed hostess. I’m not against buying a pre-made dish. Remember the beauty of entertaining at home is that you want people to be relaxed, so family style is always my preferred.’
TABLE PLANS: ‘Joanna’s tables are always laid thoughtfully, combining a mismatch of vintage crockery, French linens and low lying florals - whatever catches her eye on the day. But when it comes to place settings, she likes the formality of deciding who should sit where, mostly so she can practice her calligraphy for the name cards and mix up the guest list. ‘I insist on a mix of ages for my parties, you need some young ones to rev it up.’