Space... the final frontier. The truth is for most of us party planners and event professionals we look at space as the first frontier. Depending on what kind of space you have to work with, it can be challenging to actually create all the essential elements of movement and mood.
In fact, sometimes it feels more like we need Stephen Hawkins than Jason Allan Scott to help you with this physics problem.
As winter is rolling in, in the US and here in the UK, the calls and emails begin for the Ultimate Winter Blues Party. In fact just recently I was asked by two high profile clients to create just such an event. I often advise my clients to rent out private rooms from restaurants because they offer an economical alternative to jazzing up your house or apartment, with certain party essentials (furniture and a great kitchen) already in place. However these two clients have an amazing home in Chelsea, London and wanted to invite 20 of their closest friends and colleagues there. As they are high profile it would be less conspicuous than a restaurant.
SIGHT and TOUCH: Smoke and Mirrors
I walked through their home, and stunning it was, but not the winter wonderland I wanted to create for the ultimate winter blues party, I knew I would need to bust out my inner David Blaine and create some smoke and mirrors.
And that is when it hit me, the surfaces of mirrors and Lucite would make the perfect marriage of form and function for this early winter celebration. You see mirrors create the illusion of even more energy and action – you can literally see more people throughout the room but at the same time, the combination of clear and reflective materials instantly make the room feel more open. Even more importantly, they capture the striking beauty of the first chill of winter in clean, contemporary lines. Along with the ice-like surfaces and funky blue fabrics that would bring out the swing in this modernist vision of winter, spicy, flavourful tapas, and a hot sexy latin soundtrack would raise the pulse and temperature of the space.
Capturing the smooth, glassy surfaces of icicles, and the shimmering icy blue hues of freshly fallen snow can be a difficult illusion to pull off; you don’t want to go overboard and end up with a truly cold hard and severe look. Instead you want to create a magical “FROZEN” castle of shimmering shapes and reflective surfaces that will make your guests feel as though they are surrounded by gorgeous crystal sculptures. I began with chairs – Lucid acrylic dining chairs and a clear dining table (you can get this from a furniture rental company or off Ebay) then clear perspex boxes filled with white and dyed blue carnation petals.
Flower Power: Become an amateur florist in 3 easy steps
1. Choose a colour scheme and purchase carnations in those colours
2. Cut off the petals, keeping as much of the petal intact as possible
3. Be sure to separate the colours and then fill the box in layers to create the best effect
The process of dying fresh flowers involves adding a color to water, and waiting for the flowers to absorb it.
The dye will be absorbed by your flowers so it’s best to choose light colored flowers, like carnations.
Other popular choices include roses, daisies and Queen Anne’s lace but you can try any pale colored flower.
Decide what colors you want. If using a liquid food color you can blend the colors to get what you want.
Typically, food color sets come with yellow, red, green, and blue, but you can mix these to create other colors.
Alternatively, you can use powdered floral absorption dyes:
Fill a vase with enough warm water to submerge the stems. Add flower food and dye to the water.
There is no right or wrong way to add the dye; the more dye you add, the more vibrant the color of the flowers will be, the less dye, the more subdued the color.
Before putting your flowers in the dyed water, you’ll need to cut the stems. Use a pair of gardening shears or sharp scissors to cut an inch or two off the stem 1–2 inches (2.5–5.1 cm) at a 45-degree angle.
At this time, remove any extra leaves that you don’t want. This will allow for optimal water absorption, expediting the overall time it takes your flowers to change color.
After picking your flowers you can leave them sitting out without water for a couple of hours. They will get thirsty and once you cut the stems and put them in your dye solution they will absorb the color pretty quick.
Put your bouquet of flowers in the prepared vase The color won’t show up in the flower petals immediately, but it won’t be long. Depending on the flower it could take 1 to 6 hours for them to be nicely dyed. The longer you leave the flowers, the more intense the color will be.
Carnations: Please do not be a pansy when it comes to carnations as some do, they are an inexpensive lovely flower that can be bought in bulk to use for creative displays.
SIGHT: Table Decorations
Atop the table, I created small pyramids of these clear boxes, for the food to sit above, tapas or sharing boards work well. A series of small cocktail tables were dropped in blue silk tablecloths and an outrageous metallic blue fabric was added to the borders. I then created a lounging area by placing ottomans and lampshades (also covered in metallic blue fabric) in cozy corners. I like the idea of this, a place for secret stolen conversations with couples or old friends, so I do this at most of my events. Then the large mirrors arrived and my vision of a shimmering, expansive space began to take shape. Mirrors have been used to “enlarge” rooms since the beginning of time I am sure, but you don’t have to hang them on walls, feel free to lean them against a wall or hang them at an angle from the ceiling.
SMELL: Engage the Senses
As I am a Brit at heart, smell is an important part of who I am, and why should it not also have a presence at my events. For winter, I go nuts, literally. I roasted pistachios, simmered some coconut broth and sizzled some chorizo in the kitchen to create a wonderful tangy and nutty aroma for the room. I sometimes also get a nice fragrance from Jo Malone for the bar or drinks area. On the subject of drinks, what is more sexy than a few shapely ice cubes jostling in a glass tumbler or the pristine gloss of a newly frozen lake.
*Oh, Jason, please let “Frozen” Go. Just let it go!*
To wipe away any winter blues, I also added plastic “ice-cube” lights into clear boxes and placed them in cocktail glasses to add a cool, almost sci-fi blue glow to the room and the drinks (available on Amazon and eBay). So let’s talk warmth, the guests could sit on clear chairs, while admiring themselves in mirrors, while eating off blue glass plates or warm wood platters on clear boxes filled with coloured carnations or blue light “ice-cubes”. These smooth surfaces created an ice-palace feeling, and can be applied to any contemporary party. Throughout the evening I noticed guests running their fingers across the clear and even surfaces.
Earlier I spoke of the food, while anyone that follows me on Twitter knows I love a little mystery and drama so I often mix this into my menu with lots of bold flavours and bright colours. You could just put out some cured meats and cheeses but I like to offer more substantial dishes that appease larger and more elaborate appetites and I love the sociability of tapas. Tapas, also provide a variety of flavours. As a winter party,the emphasis needs to be a little more on food to quiet the hibernating impulse we have and avoid the urge to stay home, watch Netflix and chill.
My Winter Wonderland of Tapas Suggestions:
Goats Cheese, roasted pistachios over a bed of baby greens.
Yellowfin tuna sashimi and glass noodles with chinese parsley essence and spicy soy lime dressing.
Butter packed crayfish or lobster with coconut broth and mushrooms.
Grilled Chorizo and sweet potatoes with green onions and sherry vinegar with prosciutto and melon salad with watercress and spiced pistachio nuts.
(Thank you to Urban Caprice for teaching me so much about food)
When creating your own menu, think about what would tantalise the guests, think of exciting colours and combinations of sweet and smoky spices. Serve the food every hour or so and start with simple foods while gradually adding new and more complex flavours, as we did at the recent launch of the new EventMB party in London at Salmontini.
Drinks, for me, it would be a selection of Martini opportunities, why not try my Winter Blues Martini:
Winter Blues Martini
1 ounce Vodka
1/2 ounce Blue Curacao
1/2 ounce creme de cassis
a splash of fresh lime juice and blueberries for garnish.
Rim the martini glass with white sugar. Shake, strain, and pour liquid ingredients into a martini glass. Garnish with blueberry kebob.
Display bottles of frozen vodka inside decorative ice blocks: cut off the top section of an orange juice container and fill it two thirds full with distilled water and sliced lemons, limes and oranges. Insert a bottle of Citrus Vodka and put it in your freezer overnight. In the morning, remove the orange juice carton and you’ve got yourself a stunning citrus ice sculpture that doubles as a “cooler” for your vodka.
To create a surprise kick, for your Martini who not rub the rim of the glass with a slice of hot jalapeño pepper and then dip the glass in sugar?
Although I am a massive advocate for Spotify, may I suggest the following songs to truly add some heat to your winter ice (ice baby) event:
The Buena Vista Social Club soundtrack
Pat Benatar: Best Shots – Fire and Ice
Chef OST –
Jamiroquai: Funk Odyssey
Buddah-Bar – All volumes
Celia Cruz, Regalo del Alma
Stan Kenton’s Cuban Fire.
Best of Cafe Del Mar and of course The Gipsy Kings: The Best of.
To create the mood before the event even begins, send invitations in a miniature cobalt blue clear box or tube to set a cool aesthetic tone for the night to come.
It always amazes me how the perfect soundtrack can totally transform the feeling of an event or party, as the guests arrived looking cooler than anything I created I was as cold as ice. Perhaps this just was not **on fleek** as it could be and truly accept the otherworldly landscape I had constructed. In the first two hours they drank and sipped their drinks and wore the pained expressions of people who were secretly dreaming of removing their restrictive bespoke suits and high heels. But a change of pace occurred when the second wave of music filled the air and the irresistible rhythms of salsa took their hips hostage. The volume of laughter and conversation rose with the melody of people shuffling betwixt lounge area and the more intimate cocktail table settings as they explored the room. Faces lit up as every new dish added fragrant new spice entered the air. As those buttons on those perfectly tailored shirts began to open and the heels came off, it was as if the whole room finally fell into a line dance playing it cool while also heating things up.
**On Fleek – is what all the cool kids are now saying – Google it**