Design Experts

Inside design: Preston Bailey

Inside design: Preston Bailey Author: Style At Home

Design Experts

Inside design: Preston Bailey

PrestonBaileyparty.jpgPreston Bailey has created lavish parties for Oprah Winfrey, Donald Trump and Uma Thurman. His wild imagination and painstaking attention to detail have earned him the sobriquet Event Couturier. He's published his design secrets in four books. The star party planner shares a few great entertaining strategies.
Outdoor entertaining can be challenging, though.

S@H: What are the toughest challenges?
PB:
The weather. Everyone hopes it's going to be a beautiful day; better to prepare for the worst. In summer, have fans in case of a scorcher. In spring, have heat lamps on hand. Make sure there's shade in case it's a sunny day. Big beach umbrellas are cheap and easy; just imagine 30 of them in bright colours spread out on a lawn. Ask yourself questions like, Is the event sited properly? Can people, especially women in high heels, walk? If not, lay down some colourful turf. And beware of bugs. I once had a party on a Caribbean island, and before sundown, the island became infested with mosquitoes. We’d noticed them earlier, so we were prepared. There are non-toxic sprays you can use in advance, and sonic machines that keep bugs away for hours and don’t harm the environment. 

Images courtesy of Preston Bailey Designs.

S@H: Sonic bug machines? What other technologies make entertaining easier?
PB:
Tents that anyone can install in a few hours! The old ones took ages, and I often decided not to even bother. Outdoor heaters are also widely available and make it possible to entertain outdoors both earlier and later in the season. One of my favourite innovations is the Plexiglas pool cover. Lay it over the top of a pool to create more room and floor space. Dancing over a lit pool is very exciting!

S@H: What's one of your shining successes? What made it unique?
PB:
Oprah's 50th birthday party. There was such love, and everyone was so enthusiastic. It was a joyful occasion, and that makes such a difference. Ultimately, a design is a design; it’s the feeling in the room that energizes me.

S@H: Can you share a horror story?
PB:
At a really high-end event 15 years ago, I had set up a tent in case it rained (I thought I was so smart). It rained torrentially, and although I'd covered the pool, the rain seeped through and flooded the site. I've had events with fireworks that didn’t go off. I had a centrepiece fall on someone—luckily, she didn't get hurt. But, hey, you learn from mistakes, right? Maybe I'll address some of those screw-ups in my next book! 

Get outside
We asked New York-based party planner Preston Bailey for a few outdoor entertaining tips:

Start with nature. Use it as your backdrop, adding accents that complement what Mother Nature has already given you. "Make sure your 
seating arrangements give everyone the best view," says Preston.

Use candles wisely. "Get hurricane votives in different sizes 
and place them everywhere. They'll ensure you're not running around relighting all of your candles."

Have a Plan B. "With every 
outdoor event, I always have a covered or indoor space set up so we can move everything and everyone at a moment's notice." 


Be imaginative. "Don’t just entertain next to nature—get right in it. If you're near a beautiful lawn, move your party onto it, picnic style, with blankets, pillows and chairs. If you're at the beach, give everyone flip-flops, and set up big pillows and towels everywhere so people can lounge in the sand."

Images courtesy of Preston Bailey Designs. 

Comments
Share X
Design Experts

Inside design: Preston Bailey