6 things designers say you don't need when entertaining and one thing you definitely do

Designers know there is an easy way to do relaxed hosting, and it just takes a bit of decor knowledge to know what you can do without - and what you definitely need

dining table with wood chairs
(Image credit: Jacqueline Marque. Design: Logan Killen Interiors)

We have all had those panicked moments before hosting friends. Whether it is vacuuming every inch of your home, or rummaging through your drawers to find napkins which aren’t too wrinkled. But is all the stress, and the prep, really needed? 

Here, interior designers share some of the myths surrounding entertaining, be it in a kitchen, dining room or living room. There are six common things we absolutely do not need to worry about, as well as one thing we should always consider when hosting. So I hope you find this list as reassuring as I did to write it. 

6 things to do without when hosting

A brilliant reminder that being a great host is much more about company, and making people feel at home, and a lot less about matching napkin rings. Thank goodness!

1. Lots of gadgets

minimalist kitchen with a wine fridge

(Image credit: Stephanie Russo. Design: Christin Balzer, Haven Studios)

It is easy to get caught up in the myriad of gadgets that promise to make our lives, and in this case entertaining, easier. However, do we really need all of the latest gizmos to host a great party? Christin Balzer, from Haven Studios doesn’t think you do. “Many clients are asking us for a crushed ice maker,” she says. “It’s a very convenient addition to a kitchen [as in the one she designed, above] but for a living or dining room with a more intimate entertainment section, I prefer an undercounter fridge and freezer. Perfectly shaped ice cubes in the form of squares and spheres are served from molded trays.” 

And even your bottle opener doesn’t need to be fancy. “An old-school cork screw will do just fine,” Christin adds. 

2. Matching plates or glassware

dining table with wood chairs

(Image credit: Jacqueline Marque. Design: Logan Killen Interiors)

The traditional idea of setting a table with only matching plates from your best dinnerware set and corresponding glassware is now, thankfully, no longer a necessity when hosting. 

In fact mixing different styles and pieces that you have picked up over time, is much more interesting, and a great way of injecting personality into your tablescaping. Jo Gremillion from Logan Killen Interiors explains how you should “consider incorporating a collection of your favorites… the mix will feel collected and personal.” In fact, a modern approach would be to keep the plates to one particular style - glazed, irregular or striped - and mix the colors. 

3. A TV

home bar concealed behind an arched wooden door

(Image credit: Zoe Feldman Design)

A great way to keep an entertainment space social and warm is to make sure the furniture and layout is optimum for sharing moments with other people. A simple consideration is to remove (or if that isn’t possible, hide) the living room TV - a gentle reminder to your guests that conversation will be your entertainment. 

"You can absolutely live without a TV in your entertaining spaces—it's a nice nudge to be present and enjoy drinks and conversation with your guests," says designer Zoe Feldman of Zoe Feldman Design. In this space she designed, above, a wet bar lives behind the arched doors you might expect a television to be concealed by. And isn't that a more convivial surprise?

4. Too many decor accessories

home bar with green door and drinks shelf

(Image credit: Lucy Cunningham)

A well laid table is a thing of beauty, but tablescaping for your friends doesn't have to mean it is fusty or overly matchy. Perhaps keeping it simple with fresh flowers, some candles, and a lovely bottle of wine is more than enough. 

The interior designer Lucy Cunningham believes you can definitely get rid of ‘“fiddly items such as napkin rings and coasters - dinners and parties should have more of a focus on fun”. In the space Lucy designed above, the focus instead is on a well-stocked drinks shelf, which is all you really need. More fun, less worry, will certainly be my mantra going forward when hosting. 

5. A formal dining space

green kitchen with modern island and seating

(Image credit: Arent & Pyke)

Designer Emma Milne shares how she “can live without a formal dining room, preferring the informality of kitchen suppers with family and friends.” 

Juliette Arent from Arent & Pyke agrees, “modern lifestyle has done away with the formal dining space for entertaining, but this has put a greater importance on a beautifully detailed kitchen that doubles as an elegant entertaining space.” Having fun with where you eat in your home can instantly change the mood of your event. So why be restricted to just a dining table? How about a games table for a romantic meal for two in your living room, or an alfresco moment with a group of friends in your backyard?

One thing you definitely need when entertaining

So if we can do without all of these things whilst we are entertaining, is there anything we absolutely do need?

Almost all of the designers I approached had a similar answer….

1. A bar set up of some kind

home bar cabinet made of burled walnut

(Image credit: Jonathan Adler)

“You’re not living until you have a libation station at home.  A bar cart is a party on wheels and says you’re louche and know how to entertain,” says the designer and bon viveur Jonathan Adler.

Zoe Feldman also agreed thata dedicated bar setup close to your main living space is a must for avid entertainers. Hidden liquor storage and pretty glassware and bar accessories keep the area display-worthy, and you never have to venture far from visitors to make a drink.” 

And with that in mind a fabulous cocktail shaker and a brilliant recipe is also essential. Lucy Cunningham’s favorite cocktail to make and serve at the start of an evening is a French 75. And for friends who don't drink it is also chic to offer them an alternative that is just as delicious. 

Entertaining essentials to buy now

Charlotte Alldis started her interiors Instagram account Thrifted Abode nearly five years ago. Since then she has renovated two properties and has been passionately learning about interior design along the way.  She has just launched her interior design consultancy whilst also continuing to work as a Marketing Director for a hotel. Her work as a marketeer over the last decade has given her great foundations to appreciate good aesthetic design and the power of fantastic photography. She is beyond excited to finally kick start her interior design business.