Want to make your home the perfect haven for warm gatherings with friends? Colour consultant Latika Khosla shows you how.
Latika Khosla is on the board of the Color Marketing Group USA and the founder-organizer of Colors India. She is also the founder-director of Freedom Tree, a wholly-Indian, colour-led lifestyle brand with retail presence in Parel, part of Mumbai’s trendy mill district. Latika’s studio, Freedom Tree Design, undertakes colour consultancies and design assignments.
As spadework on writing about entertaining at home, I knew just who to talk to about hosting a party: friends whose houses are always a pleasure to visit. The evenings are memorable, and the conversation easy. The food is great, and the home is filled with warmth. Discovering the wonderful, tiny details that go behind the scenes from these ‘experts’, left me surprised and amazed at all the effortless planning.
“A party at home is not an event,” says Simi, a fitness trainer, radio presenter and writer. She finds time to let her hair down every once in a while as she balances work and a high-intensity life. So, an evening at home is a cherished thing. Hence, she invites people who she would like to spend her down-time with.
Ayesha has been an educator, counsellor and writer, and now runs her own fashion brand AY’s. “Evenings at home are no fuss,” she says, “and should be enjoyable for me and the people I call over.”
Shomshukla, writer, poet and theatre personality, says she starts by inviting “people who will have a good time together”. For instance, friends who share things in common. This ensures that nobody feels left out and guests enjoy the conversation.
From an interiors point of view, this talk about people-planning is exciting; it is much like designing space. Pieces should talk to each other because they share something in common. A style, casually Indian, colonial or fiercely modern, should flow through the room. Like our odd friends who stir things up a bit at a get-together, is the accent painting that pulls your gaze and becomes the attention-grabber!
Putting yourself in this frame of mind, will entirely change the way you approach your parties. It is not an event, but an evening to be enjoyed. No one will notice if the back of the bed is not dusted or the lampshade in the guest room is a tad shabby. People are coming over to see you, spend time with you and not to inspect the house. They are your friends and family, not examiners. Once you realize this, all the stress will fly out of the window.
A party is built around the food, and all my friends have all grown up on delicious home-cooked fare. Ayesha fondly remembers food made in her mother’s house, the traditional recipes and the spread served every day. Cooking is a passion in her family. Ayesha and her brother, AD, who runs Olive Bar & Kitchen, remember the day when a kebabwala let them down for an event, and their mother stepped in to cook up a storm in their house. In her parties, Ayesha likes to serve food she has grown up with, something she is familiar enough with to comfortably make herself. She chooses things that her guests will enjoy and are easy to make.
Simi also believes in the personal touch. She feels that the person’s own energy should go into making the food, and that makes the spread special. Shomshukla says she loves doing a regional cuisine from her part of the country. Of Bengali origin, she even considers distinct flavours such as mustard or khus-based menus to appeal to her guests. There is a consistency of cuisine, with the main dishes being the hero and the perfect regional accompaniments.
Like a menu, the decor of a room, too, should have one main piece that is the stunner; the feature that people will drool over: a classic sofa, a gracious bookshelf or a statement piece in the bar. And in the same vein, accompaniments should be built around it. A masculine sofa could have a surprising set of organic chairs as a softening counterpoint. Monochromatic seating could be brought to life with vibrant silk cushions. Or highly colourful settings could be balanced with cool, white cushions — just like a spicy dish is calmed down with yogurt.
Every day is a party
Each of my friends was surprised when I asked them if they did anything special for their home on a party day… because they don’t! Their homes are always ready to receive guests. For one, they are cleaned every day. They almost always have flowers. The bathroom is always equipped with guest towels. They’ve seen this happen in their parents’ homes, and their children will inherit the same legacy.
For Ayesha, it’s important that an evening at home with friends engage all the senses. She is big on flowers, but not on formal arrangements. Seasonal flowers, bountifully stuffed in a jug, is her signature setting. She also fills her home with music — familiar songs that guests would enjoy listening to, maybe even sing along to, as the evening wears on. Candles make an appearance on certain occasions. Plates are laid out with exotic or ornamented napkins, adding a touch of fun.
Simi and her whole family are now tuned into taking up a part of the responsibility of making the evening a success. Her husband insists on a home-made Indian dessert; Simi likes to stage it in an exotic bowl and bring out her silverware and katoris. The gorgeous silver may make the kheer look more tantalizing, but it never takes away from the effort that went into its making.
While travelling, the family may spot an interesting piece that could be used in the home:; a wooden platter for starters, a pair of serving spoons, or bounteous blue bowls for salads. Corners of the house can be spruced up with travel souvenirs as a recollection of happy memories with the family. As Simi says, lifestyle is style that is continuing in your life. You don’t change everything around just because you’re throwing a party at home. That day is a window for others to see how your home comes together.
Something else is common in the spirit of these three friends… each of them is irreverent in her own way, and time spent with them is always time well spent!
Some more images…