We’ll get straight into it: First tip, decorate your entire life in blue and white, then wear a red shirt…DONE. Apparently, we are really set up for the 4th of July year round over here with all the blue and white. Just add red!
But seriously, it’s pretty easy to dress our house to wear its 4th of July party dress, which is maybe why thought it was an appropriate place to showcase some festive but low maintenance ideas for their July/August 2018 issue. You may have picked up the magazine, but in case you didn’t, here’s the longer version of how I like to do my low maintenance decor and parenting on this summer holiday.
STEP #1: USE WHAT YOU ALREADY HAVE & ADD POPS OF RED.
Dig into your shelves and pull out anything that is blue and white. Surely your dishware is white, and you probably have a blue vase or bowl (if not, I’m concerned…that, or you’re new around here and in that case, welcome). All you need is a hit or two of blue mixed with your white to have your base. Then, add the requisite red.
If you don’t want to buy red serveware, you can bring in that hot color in napkins, or like I did…in cherries. As I wrote about before, please don’t buy or offer cherries to your choking-prone preschoolers wearing white. They attempt to eat them because cherries look like candy and in your attempt to dig out the seed so they don’t choke, you will get cherry juice all over their bright 4th of July outfits, your hands and your cement patio tile—the former being much worse than the latter (it came out of the tile, thank goodness). But the point is, you can make “red food” and add some red paper napkins or a red cloth runner to take it from “4th of whatever month” to “4th of July.” Maybe you use strawberries, cupcakes, watermelon, fried chicken covered in red sprinkles (yum?), a meatloaf covered in ketchup, chicken strips where the breading was dyed in red (do people actually do this?), Sangria or use food grade paint to brush on steaks on roasted chicken. Get creative! I’m open to all of these ideas. If you can make all your food red or striped in some way, you are sure to be granted a seat next November SOMEWHERE in the government (I bet you all have better ideas than some of the people currently in office). I just realized the irony in choosing that particular color to win a place in office…
STEP #2: PICK ONE TIMELESS & THEMELESS PARTY ELEMENT—REPEAT IT FOR A COHESIVE LOOK.
In this case, we chose white bunting and strung it everywhere (the one we used was from , but unfortunately, it’s no longer available on site). It’s instantly festive but it could be used for literally any occasion—any shower, Christmas, Hannukah, St. Patrick’s Day, all birthdays, New Years…you get it, ANY holiday. Well, maybe except Halloween. It screams “party” without saying exactly what the party is, thus being totally flexible. It’s also really fun to go all in and have red and white or red, white and blue bunting. However, I love this because it’s not my go-to for all parties and it’s only one element to store and retrieve (high-five for easy entertaining).
By repeating it throughout your party space, you look like you know what you are doing (instead of looking lazy even if that is the case). It’s what I like to call “Entertaining Manipulation” (I should trademark this). By doing something simple over and over, your guest thinks that you spent hours curating, designing and setting up. Yes, it takes an initial investment (although we DIY’d it before with rope, linen and hot glue and it’s SUPER easy and cheap). But once you have it, you put it up, and take it down in the same place and even leave the hooks so the on and off is so easy, again and again.
STEP #3: CLIP FLOWERS & GREENERY FROM YOUR GARDEN (OR HAVE YOUR KIDS DO IT…SAFELY).
We really should be hiring our children to be our florists. Charlie loves to mutilate our flowers with his kid-safe clippers and Birdie picks me three flower buds every day (with less than a 1-inch stem). But when I actually ask them to help and teach them how to do it properly, they help and enjoy it for a bit.
Sidenote: I’m obsessed with that little person. She is the most confident, independent, assertive, funny, and positive person I’ve ever met. She is the good parts of me times 10, without the bad stuff. She needs no help. She can do anything and everything HERSELF. If you say, “Birdie I love that block tower you built. It’s so tall,” she’ll say “Thanks! I’m pretty good at building high towers.” And she’s not looking for a reaction or bragging. She’s saying it while she’s adding another block and she’s kinda right. If only we could all own up to what we are good at like kids. I never want that to change. Last week, she was having a tea party with her fuzzies and she was caring really delicately for each of them, asking their order really attentively. I said, “Wow, I love how much love you show your animals” and she said “Ya. I know. I’m a really good lover.” She repeated it a few times not to me, but while she was making their tea and it was SO CUTE. She celebrates EVERYTHING. Waking up. Eating breakfast. Getting dressed. Napping. Getting both shoes on. Getting out of the car. Everything is an opportunity to cheer. I’m addicted to her energy and I want to bottle it up so she doesn’t change ever. I also miss her so badly (they are with their grandparents while I’m in Portland this week).
Okay, back to our regularly scheduled broadcasting (and the flowers). To achieve a more casual look, we used jam jars as the vases. (Full disclosure: For the shoot, we bought pretty jam jars—with actual jam in them—of different shapes and heights, decanted all that jam into Tupperware, then washed out the bottles. I kept them because I loved them.)
Hot tip: If you are into this look, look for different shapes and heights of jam jars when purchasing. I did this for our wedding. I collected jam jars and mason jars and bottles for months and shipped them to Sacramento to create the casual look I wanted.
STEP #4: CREATE A SELF-SERVE DRINK STATION (& LET YOUR GUESTS TAKE CARE OF THEMSELVES).
I’m a terrible host in the sense that I don’t serve or attend to my guests’ needs because I’m too busy talking. It’s not that I don’t want to serve them, I’m just too social. I was a server and bartender for 10 years. I know what it takes to make people feel taken care of, so I do that beforehand. I’m a huge fan of punches, a well set-up bar and food that doesn’t run out (or is easy to replenish). I also rarely have parties where people who don’t know my house are invited. I invite the same 15 people over every time and literally assume that they’ll help themselves, and they do. See. A terrible host. So, if you’re anything like me, do yourself a favor and set up a drink station so your friends/guests can refill their drinks easily without having to dig around for ice somewhere in your kitchen, or you having to stop gabbing to grab the pitcher to top them off. Water, sodas, wine…whatever you think your people will need/want.
STEP #5: SET UP ZONES FOR GROWN-UPS TO HANG OUT.
Our patio is generally where the grown-ups hang out, watching the kids down in the yard, so we try to make it as comfortable as possible. We got these new live-edge benches from Target that I LOVE (they are unfortunately no longer available, but are similar), and jacked up the comfy factor (hard wood + bums for too long = numb bums) with some round pads. Ideally, all these seating would be club-style armchairs, but these look so much better than what we had before, so we are trying them out.
Down below, we created a lounge area with blankets and pillows we already had:
We layered blankets and pillows in our color palette with a lot of stripes to relate to the occasion with bright pops of red. It lures you down onto the lawn and instantly relaxes you once you hit all that soft goodness. The kids can run around you and you feel like you are paying attention and they feel like you are around, when really you are chatting with your girlfriends about your marriage or jade eggs.
STEP #6: CREATE ACTIVITIES FOR KIDS THAT ARE REALLY FUN FOR YOU TO PARTICIPATE IN.
We love a scavenger hunt in our house. For this shoot, we created this extra cute map that we don’t usually do, but you don’t have to do that. We planted 4th of July-themed toys and candy throughout the yard, and they referenced the map and scavenged for them.
They had SO much fun and it was at least an hour of entertainment that we didn’t have to manage. The work was done beforehand but it wasn’t a huge time investment. Young kids don’t need things to be perfect or curated; it’s like an Easter hunt, but for any weekend.
One last tip is to have some activities that are good for both the kiddos and the adults, like cornhole. Yes, the kids will play with them and that can annoy any competitive grownups with Olympic aspirations, but generally, the kids lose interest after a while and the adults have something to interact with. We have found that the ladies can sit and chat for hours on the blankets or up by the table, but the guys like a mini-sport to help keep conversation going.
These simple decor and party ideas are ones that I will repeat over and over because they worked and—bonus points—they were simple. I believe in low-maintenance entertaining because I feel so much pressure to make a party look PERFECT. Being purposefully casual and setting that tone up front with something that feels thrown together yet just planned enough (in your eyes…no one will know it was thrown together) reduces the expectation of perfection. It’s like a wedding. If you rent a super fancy venue and have a lot of crystal drinkware, your guests expect free drinks and multiple butler-passed courses. But if you just have some people in your backyard, they are grateful to have drinks and food at easy reach.
Of course, some sparklers don’t hurt…
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