A conversation amongst friends and peers as we usher in al fresco entertaining season.

“Where flowers bloom, so does hope” - Lady Bird Johnson

The welcomed breath of fresh air that accompanies a changing of seasons has brought with it a hopeful outlook.

Ask any designer what they look to for inspiration, where they go to dream, and they'll likely cite Mother Nature as a frequent source. A consummate hostess in our eyes, she does have a way of inviting guests in to gather and stay awhile within her lush and abundant landscapes.

What you may be surprised to know is that behind the scenes, a lot of work goes into achieving that natural feel and flow during an al fresco event. With spring and summer outdoor entertaining on everyone’s wish list as a way to comfortably (and safely) gather, we thought it was a fitting time to talk gardens and green spaces over a glass of chilled French Rosé with our friend Claire Kelly, Master of Landscape Architecture Candidate at the University of Texas.

We had so much ground to cover (See what we did there?) with Claire that we’ll be sharing more from our conversation in the next few weeks. Stay tuned for part two: for now, enjoy being a fly on the boxwood wall as we discuss a few industry secrets for how to best utilize an outdoor space and let us help you get inspired to take cocktail hour outdoors.

CL: What is it that you love most about working with landscapes and outdoor spaces?

CK: I love that outdoor spaces can be enjoyed by everyone. Even residential yards are public in a way, and the beauty and tranquility these spaces offer can be experienced by the casual passer-by.

CL: When planning an event in an outdoor garden space, what layout factors should be taken into consideration to ensure a successful event flow?

CK: This is a great question, and a fundamental part of hosting events where everyone feels comfortable and has a good time. When thinking about layout, it’s important to be aware of how people occupy spaces as they interact and mingle, and there are some patterns about the way people behave in group settings that can help inform layout.

People tend to cluster together around the perimeter of spaces, for example. It’s very unusual to see them occupy the absolute center of any space, unless the setting is so crowded that there is no other option. Knowing this, you’ll want to make sure that pathways and landscaping around the edges of your space are clear and attractive, and it may be helpful to offer seating options in these areas, too. If you want to get people in the center of a room or lawn though, you will have to give them a reason to be there –a bar, food station, or dance floor all work well.

Also, people naturally gravitate to areas where they have a view of what’s going on – where they’ll still feel like they’re part of the action – but also feel sheltered in some way. This is where seating vignettes and outdoor rooms come in. Making sure your space has multiple options for smaller gathering areas – a deck or patio that’s adjacent to a main central area, tents, pergolas, cabanas, or seating areas arranged in ways that invite conversation all work well. There is almost nothing more lovely than relaxing with friends, cocktail in hand, and taking in the view from your own cozy niche within a larger space.

CL: We are always dreaming up inviting ways to move guests throughout a space. What are some of your favorite techniques to help guests explore the grounds?

CK: People have to be guided through a space. Not only are they likely to gravitate toward the perimeter, they are also likely to congregate in areas that provide a feeling of enclosure. For instance, if an outdoor space is divided into a lawn and a deck, and guests naturally make their way from the interior of the space onto the deck, getting them to then extend onto the lawn can be a real challenge. Even if the deck becomes crowded with new people entering, most people will be shy about being the first one to venture to a new area. So, the lawn will remain unoccupied until the deck becomes uncomfortably full.

To counteract this tendency, offer things to entice people into other areas of the space. Food and beverages work best. Even beautifully arranged seating areas or fun lawn games or a band may not do the trick, but a secondary bar or dessert table – or, if the event is formal, having servers circulate in less-used areas – is a great way to ensure that people spread out and that all areas of a space are used.

CL: What physical characteristics of a space influence how people gather?

CK: Something that’s often overlooked in outdoor event planning is how light interacts with the space, especially during daytime events. Over the course of a four-hour event, the sun’s position relative to the space will change quite dramatically. It may even set entirely if the event spans the evening. This is important to know, because sometimes sunlight is inviting, but in other cases it may be a deterrent to people congregating in a certain area. If your event is in the fall or spring when the weather may still be chilly, people will want to congregate in sunlit areas. But if your event is in the middle of the summer, especially in a warmer climate, people will typically avoid it.

CL: Are there any seasonal changes to the landscape that hosts should be aware of that may impact their event?

CK: One thing I’ve learned spending most of my life in Texas is that spring means different things in different regions. Spring in South Texas (Corpus Christi) and the Gulf Coast (Houston) can be as early as early February, so by April and May most flowering plants like dogwoods, redbuds, Japanese magnolias, and azaleas will have bloomed out, and you’ll be left with a soft, light green aesthetic. Central Texas (San Antonio and Austin) is not far behind that schedule, but spring in North Texas (Dallas/Fort Worth) will be about a month later, so it’s possible – although never guaranteed! – that events in those areas may still benefit from spring blooms into April and May.

CL: Are there certain plants that are more likely to attract insects that would be bothersome during an outdoor gathering?

CK: While it’s difficult to completely avoid the presence of insects or other critters in an outdoor setting, there are some elements that play a role in whether or not you can expect these uninvited guests. I’ve found that food and drinks at outdoor events actually attract more bugs than flowers or plantings do. It’s best, then, to keep food covered whenever possible and position serving stations away from areas that have a lot of tree/plant cover, where insects naturally dwell. And while certain plants do attract pollinators like bees and wasps (which is a good thing for the environment!), usually those insects won’t be as active at night as they are during the day, so encountering pests at a nighttime event is fairly unlikely. And be sure to keep any water in water features on site flowing so that it doesn’t stagnate and attract mosquitos!

CL: What are some of the latest trends that are popping up in outdoor spaces?

CK: I love that people are becoming less hesitant about using traditionally “indoor” décor in outdoor design. For so long, hosts and planners were limited to décor, furniture, and dinnerware that was designated for outdoor use only, but now the sky’s the limit! Wool rug on a covered patio? Sure – looks great! Grandma’s silver or fine China at a picnic? Absolutely. Getting creative and incorporating items that would have one time been considered too “delicate” for outdoor use lends a personal, bespoke feel to events that makes them that much more distinctive and memorable.

In terms of landscaping trends, people are moving away from traditional green lawn spaces for environmental and maintenance reasons, especially here in Austin. We’re seeing a celebration of the “no-lawn” lawn, where materials like natural stone and even turf are replacing traditional grass, and plants are native, drought-tolerant, and of the desert variety. The landscaping term for this is “xeriscaping.” When done well, these spaces can be quite elegant and sophisticated – think Palm Springs or Taos. However, this aesthetic is not a fit for every space, and it is not completely maintenance-free. Consider how xeriscaping works with the overall design of your home and your lifestyle before converting an entire area.

CL: What’s your favorite well-known garden or park?

CK: As classic as it is, Central park is fascinating to me. I love that New Yorker’s simply call it “the park,” because it functions as everyone’s backyard. Also, it was designed by America’s most famous and influential landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, so it’s one of the most foundational works that anyone in my field can study.

But there are so many intriguing and beautiful places to explore, from pocket parts to spaces spanning hundreds of acres. Most major Texas cities have at least one, well-loved public space that people will point to – Buffalo Bayou in Houston, the Riverwalk in San Antonio, Zilker Park in Austin, and Klyde Warren Park in Dallas. Also, the Dallas Arboretum is lovely and made the list of the world’s best gardens a few years ago (the list also included Versailles!).

CL: What are some permanent or non-permanent ways to incorporate shade into outdoor spaces?

CK: I’m a huge fan of how crisp, oversized white umbrellas add easy polish and elegance to outdoor spaces. They work just as well in intimate backyard gardens as they do on the sweeping, expansive patios of Napa wineries and Mediterranean villas.

CL: Speaking of wine, what’s your favorite beverage to enjoy al fresco?

CK: A mojito!

CL: Which leads me perfectly to my next question…what plants or flowers can people incorporate into their outdoor living space that can do double duty as ingredients for cooking or herbal remedies?

CK: Herbs have practical uses in cooking and mixology, and they add such lovely fragrance to outdoor areas. They do require a lot of sun, though. Lavender is another classic choice for a truly multipurpose plant. I’ve seen lavender used in everything from cooking and baking to cleaning and aromatherapy. A friend of mine hangs bundles of lavender in her shower and lets the steam bring out its natural fragrance to create an even more relaxing experience. I’ve also used packets of dried lavender in place of dryer sheets – they make linens smell amazing, and lavender has naturally calming properties so having lavender-scented bedding can help promote restful sleep.

CL: After all the fresh air from an outdoor event and lavender-scented bedding, we should all be sleeping soundly!

Images Courtesy Of: 1 | Korie Lynn Photography 2 | Jerry Hayes Photography 3 | Korie Lynn Photography 4 | Cassie LaMere Events

Prepare the gardens and gather the string quartet, the spring social season has arrived! The popularity of Netflix’s binge-worthy period drama Bridgerton is sure to encourage more than a few grand soirées in the coming months and we suspect this trend will be on full display.

We speak from experience when we say a gathering of this caliber should be a feast for the eyes, and one must pull out all the stops to surprise and delight. After having the privilege of attending a party at one of the palaces featured in the series, we now consider ourselves somewhat of an expert on the subject and lucky for you, we’re sharing our insider’s guide to creating a Bridgerton Bash.

Inspired by the flights of fancy featured in this wildly entertaining show, we’ve gathered the tableware, attire, décor, and entertainment you’ll need to deliver a royal affair that will render even the most discerning of guests speechless. (We’re looking at you, Lady Whistledown)

Tea parties provide the ideal excuse to eat dessert first and when accompanied by a glass of champagne, they’re an invitation to indulge another vice of Lady Whistledown’s forte- spilling the tea, of course. Individual charcuterie boards are au courant, why not up the ante this socially distanced social season with perfectly portioned petite four displays? As the arbiters of high tea, Fortnum & Mason and Wedgwood both offer a whimsical selection of tiered cake stands + tea sets for polished place settings and satisfying guests’ sweet tooth.

On an afternoon promenading through the gardens, a delightful dress with darling details will stand out amongst the crowd. Born on Fifth’s new collaboration with Antonio Melani offers a capsule collection of feminine dresses featuring romantic silhouettes and fresh prints for the upcoming season (parasol not included). There’s even a mini-me version for the littlest of offspring set to join the ranks of society prominence.

When the attire calls for guests to dress to impress, a gown with enchanting embellishments fits the bill. For those looking to fill their dance card, we say flirt with flounce. Billowing fabrics that float across the dance floor with unabashed style are perfect for idyllic evenings spent waltzing under the stars. If peacocking is more your taste, a feathered frock with playful plumes is a striking way to garnish the attention of your future betrothed. Moda Operandi’s latest occasion edit, House Bloom, showcases “finely-crafted confections” that seem to have jumped right off your screen, just in time for suitors to start calling.

From fireworks to aerial artists, Bridgerton fans wish to be entertained. Spring’s lush outdoor venues offer a picturesque backdrop for layers of light. If we were to play matchmaker for your mixer, we would recommend starting with pyrotechnics, strands of bistro bulbs, and chandeliers hanging from the weeping willows to set the mood. To ensure that sparks are flying, next we would recommend adding in a dapper entertainer with a flair for magic. Daniel Rosenfeldt’s Star Catcher performance is like a spectacular assemblage of fireflies dancing in the night sky. Far from the stale acts of jesters before, his awe-inspiring talent will reign supreme as the highlight of your soirée.

Images Courtesy Of: 1| Bridgerton on Netflix 2 | Wedgwood 3 | Born on Fifth 4 | Zimmerman 5 | Daniel Rosenfeldt

After a busy March filled with spring cleaning, a pseudo spring break, and the realization that we’ve all been quarantini-ing for a year, Easter may have a way of sneaking up on us. If you’ve lost track of the days, you’re not alone- we’re here to help you break out of your Groundhog Day routine by sharing some easy ways to hop to it and pull together a few essentials for entertaining on Easter.

Decorated eggs, fresh greens, and garden grown accoutrements lend themselves to a beautiful Easter brunch. We love entertaining during brunch because it gives the host more freedom to create an accessible menu filled with classic breakfast favorites and small bites, perfect for nibbling while searching for hidden eggs.

To complement the dishes, we’ve selected a few household items you likely have on hand and given them our creative twist, to show you how you can repurpose these everyday items into your Easter table setting, no hunting required.

Search your fridge for everyday essentials that can shine on your table and you just might find that items like porcelain egg crates can be just as fanciful as they are functional. We suggest popping them on the table filled with a decorated dozen and letting the ingredients do double duty as Easter brunch décor. And if we get lucky, Riley Sheehey may create more of her charming hand painted eggs that can adorn our tables, or at least inspire our attempt at artistic egg pursuits.

Did your lockdown stockpile leave you with an excess of chilled beers on hand? With a few bar cart staples, you can easily transform those brews into a Hoppy Easter bar featuring a fresh take on Sunday sips. Try mixing up the Michelada and IPA Aperol Spritz cocktail recipes featured in Town and Country Magazine for a fun addition to the breakfast beverage lineup. These vibrant, creative drinks will bring a pop of color to your table and pair well alongside build-your-own Bloody Mary and Mimosa stations.

Move over Beatrix Potter, there’s a new potter poised to make a splash this Easter. While at market, we found the most adorable potted herb plants and were inspired to make our own for a spring table setting. Turn your countertop herb garden into décor by wrapping potted plants with brown butcher paper, then finish by tying them with twine or gingham ribbon. These easy tabletop arrangements bring a spectrum of garden greens and fragrance to your Easter table, while serving as a great reminder to celebrate the season’s new beginnings.

If your china cabinet is looking a bit mismatched after a few oopsy-daisies over the years, or your vintage treasures are as unique as the antique store you found them in, we say embrace the one-of-a-kind personality of your collection by showcasing the colorful stemware together on your brunch table. An array of whimsical teacups and cut crystal glasses feel effortless, inviting guests to pick the piece that speaks to them and their distinctive qualities help to avoid a taboo drink mix-up. Even better, the personal stories behind each item will make for entertaining anecdotes shared over eggs benedict.

Images Courtesy Of: 1 | Bert McLendon Photography 2 | Riley Sheehey 3 | Cassie LaMere Events 4 | Creative Co-Op 5 | Bert McLendon Photography

Cassie LaMere Events | curatorial event & content design

PO Box 81494

Austin, TX 78708


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