Oct 30, 2009
50-day holiday calendar
50-day holiday calendar
50-day holiday calendar
Lifestyle expert Lauren Conrad knows a thing or two about throwing a successful outdoor event.
Lifestyle expert Lauren Conrad knows a thing or two about throwing a successful outdoor event.
Celebrated reality star, bona fide entrepreneur and entertaining expert Lauren Conrad dishes on how to throw the outdoor bash of your dreams.
Land a reality show gig when you’re in high school and life can lead you in many directions. For L.A. native Lauren Conrad, her ambitious beginnings starring in MTV’s megahits Laguna Beach and The Hills are a mere footnote to the admirable career she’s since crafted for herself. Now an accomplished fashion designer, bestselling author and overall lifestyle pundit (one look at the star’s pastel-happy Instagram and it’s clear she has an eye for all things beautiful), Lauren knows hard work – and, above all, how to commemorate such achievements. In conjunction with the release of her new entertaining book, Celebrate, we caught up with L.C. for advice on throwing a celeb-worthy outdoor soiree with elegance and ease.
The Guest List
Further validating her status as a seasoned party host, Lauren explains that the perfect number of guests hinges on the amount of time you’d like to spend talking to each person and making sure you’re realistically able to do so. “Hosting an intimate gathering isn’t just about saying hello to everyone – it’s about taking the time to have a conversation,” she says.
Believe it: Fashioning a show-stopping scheme for an alfresco affair can be easy and affordable. “If you have an outdoor location that’s really beautiful, you don’t have to do a lot in terms of decor,” says the designer, pointing to a dinner party tablescape she created, where a few strands of string lights, along with a row of vintage glass bottles spilling with cheerful flowers, were all it took to make the backyard setting shine. “If you need to cut the budget further, you could decorate with just greenery,” she says.
An Intimate Setting
“One of the nice things about having a small outdoor space is that it doesn’t take a lot to decorate it,” says Lauren, adding that a few floral arrangements are often all you need to lend a tiny yard an enchanting atmosphere.
“If you have a large backyard, you can host 25 people and the space might still feel empty,” she says. “But if that same group were on a smaller rooftop, it would feel like a full party.”
A much debated topic in the realm of entertaining, surprise parties don’t sit well with some, including this lifestyle expert. “When party planning, it’s about following the do-unto-others rule,” says Lauren. “I don’t like people shouting at me. I’m anti surprise.”
Having grown up in L.A., Lauren is no stranger to fussy diets. “Half the people here won’t eat gluten,” she says with a laugh. On that note, the star suggests keeping the most common food preferences in mind when planning a menu but not going overboard. “I have a few friends who have crazy dietary restrictions, but they’ll typically enter an event knowing they might not be able to eat everything, and I think they’re used to that.” The Cali native is also quick to add that when there’s a guest of honour, the fare should always cater to his or her tastes.
“I love outdoor parties that revolve around a meal,” says Lauren. “There’s something so relaxing about eating outside.” Whether you’re hosting a cozy Moroccan-style brunch or a casual beach-inspired bash, the crafty celeb recommends serving small bites that don’t need to be cut (we can’t get enough of the rainbow-bright sorbet bar shown below, for which Lauren created serving bowls by hollowing out tropical fruits).
“If you’re not having a formal sit-down dinner, it’s nice to offer food that can be enjoyed while standing,” she says. Lauren also suggests jazzing up classic spreads like charcuterie boards and cheese platters with fresh herbs and edible flowers.
Drink of Choice
L.C. prefers serving cocktail creations – be it mojitos, margaritas or sangria – out of a large pitcher. “You can make a big batch so you’re not constantly running to the kitchen,” she says. “It’s also nice to have a large glass drink dispenser or colourful pitcher so people are able to serve themselves. It’s no fuss.”
Left to Right:
1 Lauren’s Instagram (@laurenconrad) is dotted with elegant decor ideas, such as this gold-accented vintage place setting from her bridal shower.
2 Count on this design-savvy host to create the classiest of champagne towers, as seen on her Instagram. We can’t think of a better way to celebrate just about any occasion.
3 With nothing more than a cardboard box, colourful tissue paper, scissors and glue, Lauren constructed a house-shaped pinata for her housewarming party.
For more of Lauren Conrad's entertaining tips, check out Celebrate (Dey Street Books, $34).
How to: Paint outdoor furniture
When undertaking a DIY project, there are usually a few things to consider. Add tempermental weather to the list and suddenly that little list has multiplied. How do you prepare your furniture for painting? What type of paint do you use? How does it differ for different types of material?
Though the process of painting outdoor furniture may seem daunting now, the best way to go about a DIY job is to be prepared. We talked to an expert at Canadian Tire to do just that. Michael Bache, Category Business Manager at Canadian Tire, shares his prepping and painting how tos to help put your DIY nerves at ease.
1 What supplies will you need for prepping and painting?
Depending on the state of the furniture (e.g. new wood, old plastic, painted metal, painted wood) and the type of paint chosen, a variety of items should be considered.
If using brush-on paint, consider using a primer before applying a new fresh coat of colour. When priming your furniture, make sure to use a good quality paintbrush and rags or drop cloths for clean-up. However, if you're using Krylon® Fusion™ no primer is required.
If repainting a metal or wood surface that has loose peeling paint, it must be removed for best adhesion. You can use sandpaper, steel wool, wire brush, scraper, or a stripper. You may require a tack cloth to clean up dust residue when sanding. If sanding a latex paint, a simple damp rag will work just fine.
2 Do these steps differ when prepping different materials, such as metal, plastic, wicker or wood?
Yes. Some products don't require primer, saving you a prep step. Using an aerosol is a benefit, too, as you also save a step in the prep. It generally dries faster and doesn't require clean-up since no paint brushes are involved. Even better, aerosols tend to give a factory style, air brush finish when applied properly, as opposed to a brush-on paint.
Bare wood generally requires a primer to seal the wood prior to painting as the surface is porous. The primer is used to provide a nice, smooth finish. Krylon Dual saves a step on both bare wood and metal since it primes and paints in one easy step. This saves time and allows people to have more time enjoying their furniture and less time prepping it!
3 What type of paint should you use for outdoor furniture?
Always follow the directions on the label for specific product use. This will ensure proper adhesion to your surface.
Plastic patio furniture should only have a paint specifically designed to adhere to plastic and hard-to-bond surfaces. Many general purpose paints can adhere to most surfaces except plastic.
For wicker or rattan, spray paints tend to make a nicer finish and easily gets into the grooves. Muskoka chairs are also easier to paint when using an aerosol as opposed to a paint brush. Now there's even an aerosol wood stain by Krylon. Spray stains make fast work of Muskoka chairs and planters - no brushes to clean up either.
5 What about rust prevention?
Paint designed especially for metal surfaces tends to add rust protection into the paint - make sure the paint says "rust proofing" or "rust inhibiting".
As our climate changes, U.V. rays are also a consideration - they're hard on our skin and our exterior patio furniture! Some paints actually have U.V. protection in their paint. This will help protect your finish to resist harsh weather conditions. We suggest storing patio furniture during the fall and winter months when not in use. If space is a problem, a variety of covers and tarps are available to help protect your investment.
6 What are the best painting methods to use?
Much of this is personal preference. However, some surfaces, like wicker and rattan, have a nicer finish when sprayed versus brushing.
7 What kind of finish, if any, should you use?
Most paint companies offer a variety of finishes to choose from - satin, gloss, textured, metallic, hammered, and more. As long as you use an appropriate paint for your exterior surface and follow the instructions, you should achieve the finish you want. The really nice thing about the variety of paints and finishes available is that people can turn "garage sale finds" into treasures. Mixing and matching old and new creates a different and personalized patio set.
8 How many coats should you use
Follow the instructions on the can, however many paints suggest two coats. When painting remember this rule of thumb: Thinner coats are better than thicker coats. Thinner coats dry faster and produce a harder finish.
9 What should you look for in a brush?
Is it the right paint brush for your paint? Oil-based paints generally have different bristles than latex paints. The brush label will specify this.
Is the paint brush the right size to do your project? If you are painting furniture, smaller brushes may be better. Ensure it fits into your paint container.
A roller can be great for large flat surfaces, like a tabletop. This can help reduce brush marks, too!
10 How does climate affect the painting process?
Weather is a big factor. For the most part, if you're getting a sunburn and sweating, it's probably too hot to paint. This will cause the paint to dry too fast. If it's too windy and you're using an aerosol paint, your paint may dissipate before it reaches the surface. Either wait for the wind to die down or use cardboard to build a spray tunnel. Humidity can affect the paint's dry time, which leaves more time for surface imperfections to take place on your finish. In general, 21ºC and about 50% humidity are ideal conditions for painting.
12 Any last tips?
Remember to protect other surfaces if working outside by using masking tape and drop cloths. Most importantly, regardless of your project, remember to always read product labels thoroughly and follow directions.
Recipe: Spiderweb sugar cookies
1 Beat the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until creamy. Add the egg and beat until fluffy. Blend in the vanilla. Sift in the flour, baking powder, and salt, mixing just until combined. Divide the dough in half, wrap each piece in plastic wrap, and chill for 60 minutes.
2 Preheat the oven to 350˚F and grease 2 baking sheets.
3 On a floured surface, roll out one of the dough halves to a thickness of about 1/3 inch. Cut into circles using a 3-inch round cookie cutter or the top of a drinking glass. Gather and reroll the scraps. Repeat with the remaining dough half.
4 Carefully lift the cookies with a spatula and transfer them to the prepared baking sheets. Bake for about 8 minutes, until light golden. Do not overbake.
5 Put the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl, and melt the chocolate in the microwave: Heat on high for 60 seconds, and then stir well. If it’s not quite smooth, continue to heat in two or three 10-second bursts, stirring well after each burst. (Alternatively, you can melt the chocolate, stirring frequently, in a double-boiler, over just-simmering water. Avoid overheating, which can cause chocolate to seize up into a stiff mass.)
6 Spoon the melted chocolate into a ziplock bag. Seal the bag, pressing out any air. Use a toothpick and make a tiny hole in one corner of the bag to release a very thin stream of chocolate for writing.
7 To make the spiderwebs, spread white royal icing smoothly over the surface of each cookie. Immediately, before the icing can set, pipe a spiral of chocolate over the surface, starting in the middle and working outward. Starting in the center, use a toothpick to pull outward and inward, alternately, through the icing, making a spiderweb design.
Makes: About 36 cookies
Whether you’re making a spiderweb on a cookie, cake, or cupcake, you first need to lay down a base of white or dark icing, then pipe out a spiral of a strongly contrasting color on top (such as white icing with a chocolate spiral). Using a toothpick or the tip of a skewer, start at the center of the spiral and pull gently all the way to the edge. Wipe the tip of the toothpick on a paper towel, and then pull the toothpick from the outside to the center, alternating directions in and out all the way around the circle. (If this makes you nervous, you can also pull out from the center only, but your web won’t be quite as complex.)
Royal icing is extremely versatile; you can divide the amount in this recipe into small cups and tint each portion any color you like to make a decorating buffet for your kids (and yourself).
Tour this lovely cottage on Lake Simcoe!
A designer lends her expertise to help a couple resolve a colourful debate over the scheme for their family cottage.
"He wanted dark tones and a woodsy Aspen vibe. I wanted everything white with clean lines." The “he” referred to is the husband, the “I” speaking is the wife, and in terms of their decor preferences for this new-build 4,900-square-foot cottage overlooking Lake Simcoe in Innisfil, Ont., they were clearly at odds. But the Toronto-based couple, who has a seven-year-old daughter, a five-year-old son and a Samoyed puppy, did agree on one thing: The design had to be practical. And after many reassurances on the wife’s part that her vision could be inviting and relaxing, she says, “My husband eventually gave me free rein. I wanted a gorgeous unfussy space that was easy to maintain.”
To get the look, she turned to Lidia van Zyl, a designer based in Barrie, Ont., who’s well known for decorating waterfront properties in the area. “When I was hired in 2014, the cottage was in its planning stage,” says Lidia. “This allowed us to pore over the plans and confirm almost every detail before the walls went up.” The walls themselves played a crucial role in setting the tone for the space. “Honouring the husband’s preference for a traditional look, I incorporated shiplap into the mix,” says Lidia. The wooden boards, which were most often used in the construction of homes, were applied horizontally in the kitchen, powder room, foyer and master bedroom. “Shiplap, even when painted white, provides a rustic contrast to drywall and has an informal feel that really adds to the casual cottage vibe,” says the designer.
While the scheme may be all white, it’s anything but stark. “The key to decorating with white is to use different shades of it,” says Lidia. “If you look closely, you’ll see the walls are a crisp white, while the beams are coated with a warmer shade.” Wide-plank pale hickory flooring completes the airy backdrop, which Lidia chose to punctuate with bold hits of black. “I love contrast, so I added black accessories to almost every room,” she says. Lidia extended this theme to the furniture as well and, with the kids and puppy in mind, paid specific attention to practicality. “The grey sofas in the living room are covered with indoor-outdoor fabric, so they’re stain resistant and easy to clean,” she says. “And some of the pieces, such as the living room coffee table and foyer console, are crafted from steel, so they’re pretty much damage-proof.” She also introduced a few well-placed antiques throughout the cottage to create interesting tension between old and new.
The 18-month process of building and decorating netted a year-round family retreat that Lidia describes as “refined but rustic.” And even though the wife had total control, she did make an effort to include her husband – sort of. She says: “He really wanted dark floors, but even he conceded the light ones looked better. So I let him think he helped with that decision in a roundabout way. Now we’re all happy!”
Accessories like the rope-hung mirrors and the lantern-style pendant lights make this practical space feel decorated. “I don’t like to take risks when decorating,” says one of the homeowners, “but I did want to mix things up in the kitchen so it didn’t read as plain.”
Designer Lidia van Zyl played the natural tones of wood and stone against sleek black accents to create character in the living room. The tall armoire holds things like games, books and blankets, while the bare floor, a practical option, is easy to clean. A trio of metal sculptures above the reclaimed wood mantel is a departure from the expected mirror or artwork.
In the foyer, the staircase’s natural wood handrail and treads were a purposeful choice. “If we had painted them black, it would have drawn the eye up the stairs as opposed to straight through the cottage to the lake,” says Lidia.
A mix of neutral tones creates subtle depth in the dining area. “The table and chairs appear white at first glance, but they’re actually a soft shade of grey,” says Lidia. the chandelier, painted white to downplay its ornate shape, illuminates everything from meals to crafts.
“This cottage always makes me smile,” says one of the homeowners. “It’s an amazing feeling to open the front door to beautiful surroundings.” the stone skirting – a concession to the aspen look the husband wanted – ties in nicely with the herringbone brick walkway.
The artful arrangement of dark-hued antiques in an all-white area of the living room makes a graphic statement. the antlers are a family heirloom.
“I love a white kitchen because I don’t like distractions when I’m cooking,” says one of the homeowners, “and I can also see what needs to be cleaned.” low-maintenance Caesarstone countertops and a glossy tiled backsplash on the range wall make cleanup even easier. the massive island is outfitted with cupboards that hold cottage necessities, such as candles, batteries and a tool kit.
While the silhouette of the chandelier in the master bedroom is traditional, its wooden beads give it an earthy appeal that suits a cottage. the wicker basket, sisal rug and rustic artwork (it’s made of wood and says “I Love Us”) echo that earthiness, which is tempered by the black furniture.
Hooks and baskets are enough to keep the mud room in order since the basement has ample storage. The built-in bench always comes in handy.
Like the rest of the cottage, the powder room is energized with hits of black. “I love the graphic mosaic-look floor here,” says Lidia. “It’s actually 24-by-24-inch tiles, and they have just the right amount of pattern for a small space.” Vintage racquets used as informal artwork perfectly fit the laid- back vibe of this family retreat.