So you want to throw your house a party because you’ve figured out how old it is. You know the era. But when it comes to throwing a period-authentic party to celebrate your home’s birthday, you’re at a loss. Never fear: here are a few tips on a Victorian-style soiree from Demetra Aposporos of Old House Journal and pointers on a bungalow or mid-century shindig from Patricia Poore of Old House Interiors.
The Victorian Era was the age of excess, and always dressed to impress. Dinner parties pulled out all the formal stops, with multiple courses of rich (and beautifully presented) plates. The perfect backdrop? Tables layered in white (or cream) lace, linen, or cotton tablecloths, outfitted with meticulous displays of fine silver, china, crystal, and individual salt cellars, all glowing by candlelight. Top the whole thing off with exuberant, richly colored floral displays and a formally folded napkin (“The Bishop’s Mitre” or “Lady Windermere’s Fan” — both popular at the time — will do nicely) centered on each dinner plate.
– Demetra Aposporos
For a party theme, consider the times: Victorian opulence endured into the 1910s; not long after, Prohibition would introduce speakeasy parties. Simple and affordable decorations that evoke the era include crepe paper (twist and swag from a chandelier to the corners of the room) and all things natural. Use lots of flowers; scatter fall leaves down the center of a white tablecloth, or border the table with a flower garland. Keep the lighting low. Play charades . . . or the piano.
– Patricia Poore
A PARTY FOR YOUR MID-CENTURY MARVEL
Is your atomic ranch about to turn 60? Throw a cocktail party! Hide the iPod and put vinyl on the hi-fi. Food has to include Swedish meatballs and a hollowed-out pineapple on a canapé stand. (With fancy toothpicks, fasten jumbo shrimp, pitted black olives, and chunks of the fruit to the outside of the pineapple, and fill the well with horseradish-ketchup cocktail sauce.) Serve highballs — the Tom Collins was all the rage in the ’50s: gin, a teaspoon of fine sugar, a squirt of lemon juice, and club soda over ice in a tall glass. Don’t forget the maraschino cherry!
– Patricia Poore