"I like things that are minimalist with earthy, natural elements thrown in," says 40-year-old interior designer Alexandra Loew, who adds that the first step to a perfect evening is a thoughtful menu with a theme in mind. "Every winter, I throw a Scandinavian party. Both the food—Swedish meatballs, black bread, Aquavit, cured salmon—and the decor—Danish candelabra, bentwood trays, and patterned linen napkins—suit my aesthetic." Loew sets the table in an equally spare but inviting way, mixing modern cutlery with rough-hewn pottery and inexpensive plates with heirloom china. Wardrobe-wise, she adheres to the same philosophy: "I want to look pulled together but comfortable—it makes your guests comfortable, too."
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Sparkles turn a basic tee into something glamorous and evening-appropriate.
Born and raised in New York, Tait Chatmon Alvarez moved to Santa Monica three years ago and has had no trouble adapting to the local culture. "Most weekends I meet friends on the beach, and we all end up back at the house covered in sand," says the 33-year-old event planner. "The entertaining I do tends to be totally unplanned." To stay prepared, Alvarez keeps a steady supply of snacks (farmers' market vegetables, seasoned olives, flatbread, and artisanal cheeses) on hand for unexpected guests and relies on her collection of exotic dinnerware and etched glasses to build a vibrant, romantic table. "I like bold prints and huge, lush flowers," says Alvarez. "I never want things to feel too stiff or too precious."
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Different shades help avoid awkward is-this-my-drink-or-yours? moments.
"Perfect for cooking paella or stew—and handsome enough to serve it in."
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"I'm big on color. Bright accessories really make the place come to life."
"My main goal in planning a party is to prepare ahead of time," says Nicole Cari, marketing director for Band of Outsiders' clothing line. "There's nothing worse than a stressed-out host." The 26-year-old starts organizing the details weeks in advance—writing out handmade place cards and testing contenders for the event's signature cocktail. From the loose knits she wears to the old mason jars she repurposes as tealight holders, Cari favors a homey, lived-in look. Lush white flowers and fluffy sheepskin rugs (used as seat cushions) add a luxurious touch. In her words, "laid-back doesn't have to be sloppy."
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"Muted serape-ish stripes have an exotic throwback quality I love."