Designer Emily Painter Shares Outdoor Party Ideas


Emily Painter is a born host. “My mom is a big entertainer,” says the Florida-based interior decorator. “I grew up with her having parties and events at our house all the time, so it’s something that I’ve always done.” Painter, who previously worked for Bahamas designer Amanda Lindroth, wanted to make at-home entertaining more accessible—and stylish—for the average host. “I realized that the rental market was really just for commercial and event-planner use; it wasn’t very friendly to people having dinner parties,” she says. So Painter solved the problem herself by launching the table-linens rental company Freshly Set in May 2020. (Editor’s note: The brand is currently on hold as she makes some changes.) Inspired by spring, she used her collection of designer linens, napkin rings, and place mats to set the scene for two memorable backyard soirees. Keep scrolling for dinner party inspiration.

Carmel Brantley; Styling: Page Mullins

Find Fun in the Setting

For Painter, open-air entertaining delivers boundless inspiration. “When you’re outside, you don’t have to match a certain room’s decorating style,” she says. “You can do anything you want or try any color scheme, which I think is really fun.” Instead of looking to her dining room walls for creative direction, the host took note of her surroundings and designed her brunch table to reflect the tropical locale.

Carmel Brantley; Styling: Page Mullins

A Whimsical Dinner in the Garden

“I strive to make a really beautiful, dreamy experience for my guests,” says Painter of her approach to hosting. This overgrown corner of the yard cultivates its own magic, she notes, so it’s the ideal backdrop for an intimate gathering. The designer selected hand-painted blue-and-white china for a more formal setting and added taper candles in glass hurricanes to dial up the mood. “When guests linger and you can’t get them to leave because they’re having such a good time, that’s a sure sign of a great party,” she says.

Carmel Brantley; Styling: Page Mullins

Hand-painted plates and complementary linens lend an easy sophistication to the table.

Carmel Brantley; Styling: Page Mullins

A Beachy Brunch with Friends

A tree-shaded deck offers the ideal spot for an alfresco meal. She arranged the centerpieces herself, mixing monstera leaves with peonies from her local flower market for pretty pops of pink. “Even the leaves on their own can look really great,” says Painter, who recommends using clippings from the yard whenever possible. Organic elements like raffia and straw temper the formality of the elegantly calligraphed place cards while bamboo-inspired dinnerware from Blue Pheasant and large pearlescent shells add to the party’s island vibe.

Natural textures and floral prints set a pretty, but relaxed tone.

Carmel Brantley; Styling: Page Mullins

A Drinks Station with a Twist

“Stripes feel classic and preppy and can work anywhere,” says Painter of the tablecloth that she chose for the bar setup. She tied in the brunch table’s pink-peppered palette via a floral bouquet and a vibrant signature cocktail. The copper mug filled with fresh mint and the wicker basket of lemons and limes both work double duty, she notes: They add splashes of color—plus guests can use them to garnish their drinks. The pitcher is from Simon Pearce, and the glasses are by Blue Pheasant.

Match your signature drink to the place setting. Painter added another shot of pink to the table by serving her guests raspberry-mint spritzers finished with bougainvillea-filled ice cubes. The site of the party is this 1937 Colonial home, which stands out in West Palm Beach’s El Cid neighborhood, where many of the historic houses are Mediterranean in style. Plus, it has a spirited past: “Our neighbor told us it was a convent for many decades,” says Painter.


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