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Your Weekend Project: Master the Art of Hosting a Summer Soiree

Welcome to Your Weekend Project, featuring how-tos and ideas from our archives for an organized and inspired home.

You might not know the name, but you will no doubt have seen her work. Brooklyn-based British stylist, Hilary Robertson, aka Mrs. Robertson, has left her imprint on the covers of countless American and British shelter magazines, and in visual campaigns and displays for Ochre, Canvas, Williams Sonoma, and Garnet Hill, to name but a few of her clients. And on top of that, Hilary is the author of The Stuff of Life, a book that we consider Required Reading. In need of some inspired summer entertaining ideas, who else to turn to but Hilary?

Photography courtesy of Hilary Robertson, unless noted.

RM: For the summer table, what look do you like best?
HR: Natural colors, textures, and materials seem to work best with food, so I usually opt for a neutral palette.

Summer fruits displayed on a pedestal.
Above: Summer fruits displayed on a pedestal.

RM: Summer tableware of choice?
HR: I use ceramic plates and proper glasses in the garden. Ball jars make great lanterns teamed with a nightlight or candle, and they also work beautifully as glasses. Pierce the metal of the jar, add a straw, and you have a spill-proof container. I also like the classic shape of the Duralex glass (see below).

French bistro glassware of choice, the Picardie Glasses by Duralex; starting from $3.50 at Williams Sonoma.
Above: French bistro glassware of choice, the Picardie Glasses by Duralex; starting from $3.50 at Williams Sonoma.
RM: Napkins of choice?
HR: I prefer using cloth napkins and I collect vintage ones that are monogrammed or simply embroidered. I can’t resist the wonderful quality of linen that’s been laundered for years. Sometimes I use old denim torn roughly into squares as napkins. My friend Kathleen Hackett thought of this and it looks great.

Torn denim used as napkins.
Above: Torn denim used as napkins.

RM: Preferred flatware?
HR: I have a weakness for bamboo-handled cutlery and mismatched vintage flatware bought at flea markets. It’s good to use something recycled whenever possible.

A Turkish Bath Towel that Hilary uses as a tablecloth and picnic blanket; $22.64 on Etsy.
Above: A Turkish Bath Towel that Hilary uses as a tablecloth and picnic blanket; $22.64 on Etsy.
RM: What do you like to use for table linens?
HR: I use multitasking, lightweight cotton Turkish towels as tablecloths and as picnic blankets. For eating al fresco, I pile several rolled-up towels in a market basket and use them to wrap cutlery, plates, and glasses. Then I layer the towels in a patchwork pattern on the ground or sling them over a table.

RM: Anything else?
HR: Another natural material that feels summery and makes a fun table runner is raffia; I buy it at Jamali, in New York City’s flower district.

Natural Raffia Table Runner and Placemat from Jamali Garden
Above: The Natural Raffia Table Runner and Placemats are just $5 and $7.99 for four, respectively, at Jamali Garden.
RM: Entertaining staple?
HR: I have lots of painter’s hardware store drop cloths that I use as blankets, tablecloths, and sometimes as a sun shade suspended from a tree or some bamboo poles. They come in natural canvas, and I have experimented with dyeing them indigo. I’m also fond of drop cloths that are covered in paint spatters and have often begged my set builders to give me their used ones.

Mrs. Robertson’s display genius lies in the tension between objects and the energy created by her groupings.
Above: Mrs. Robertson’s display genius lies in the tension between objects and the energy created by her groupings.

RM: Lighting suggestions?
HR: For evening parties, I like to create a glow by filling paper bags with sand and a night light, or I hang white paper lanterns with outdoor string lights.

For after-dinner lounging, the Solig Mosquito Net with sheepskin rugs and a few pillows; $24.99 at Ikea.
Above: For after-dinner lounging, the Solig Mosquito Net with sheepskin rugs and a few pillows; $24.99 at Ikea.
RM: Any other outdoor ideas?
HR: When I want to create a romantic scene, I make an outdoor room: I hang a mosquito net from a branch over a pile of sheepskin rugs or a table–a pair of sawhorses and an old door make a great garden table.

N.B.: This post is an update; it was originally published on Remodelista on August 1, 2014.

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