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Top tips for entertaining at home

Sad about all the event cancellations in Hong Kong? Turn your FOMO into JOMO (joy of missing out) by getting people around to your place for some fun! Who better to share expert secrets to entertaining at home in Hong Kong than JOHN MCLENNAN? He’s the founder and executive chairman at Indigo Living, a brand recognised by you (our readers) in our recent Readers’ Choice Awards 2020, where it won a slew of awards, including Best Interior Designer or Home Stylist.

Top tips for entertaining at home

#1 Update Your Dining Setting

“New placemats and napkins are one of the best ways to provide a fresh look for the table. If you have simple coloured dishes, then go for a bolder set of napkins and placemats in a colour coordinated to the napkins.

`A bold new centrepiece is also always a sure-fire way to give the table a new look and feel. Add some candles as a finishing touch to set the mood and create ambience.

With these three simple updates, you’ll feel like you’re dining in a whole new room.”

Entertaining at home - cheese platter

#2 Create Distinct Spaces

“In a small flat, you need to divide the space for appetisers from the dinner area, if possible. I believe in doing drinks and appetisers in the living room first, amidst comfortable seating and in a casual setting – this acts as the perfect counterpoint for a slightly more formal dining space.

After dinner, we move back to the more cosy living area for coffee or a nightcap. This is the perfect way to end the evening, keeping guests circulating and conversations lively.”

#3 Control the Mood with Accent Lighting

“Divide the lighting into two zones: overhead, and tabletop or floor lamps. This allows you to use the overhead lighting when you need it to be bright all over the room and then you can lower the levels with table or floor lamps that act as task or accent lighting.

If you can add a dimmer to the overhead lighting, that also helps and acts as another option – it’s not costly and usually only involves a new wall switch.”

Indigo living room

#4 Subtle Scents

“It’s always nice to walk into someone’s home and catch a subtle scent in the air. Try something light and airy in warmer weather and something a bit heavier when it’s cooler. It’s a disaster to have that scent overpower everything, though. You still want to be able to smell your glass of wine and, of course, the dinner being served. Anything too strong and you risk it taking away from the overall ambience.”

#5 Be Sustainable and Stylish

“You don’t need to give up one for the other. Candles are a stylish way to light the table. To decorate the table, faux flowers are unbelievably realistic these days and can be used again and again in different arrangements. The fact they are reusable ensures a reduced carbon footprint, which in the long term is better for the environment. If you prefer fresh, then I’m a big believer in supporting local businesses, so visit your florist and decorate with their locally grown flowers. Try to stay away from single-serve table-top ware (especially disposable plastics) and opt for wooden or ceramic bowls. Lastly, never, never, never serve anything with a plastic straw.”

#6 Devise a “Wow” Moment

“Nothing says ‘bring on the party!’ more than wheeling in a bar cart filled with drinks for the evening or with dessert and cheese at the end of a meal. I personally like to have my bar cart filled with my collection of whiskies and roll it out for guests to pick their favourite and enjoy an after-dinner tipple. The bar cart is so versatile that everyone should have one at home, even if it only holds a small collection of favourite things and a plant until it’s needed for the next party.”

Heading Out?

“For quality of food and service and great value, I love to grab a gang and head to Beef & Liberty in Lan Kwai Fong. It’s relaxed, casual and perfect for catching up with friends. If I’m in the mood to really go all out, I will do it at my home where I can design the menu, cook the food and set the table to impress. Nowhere is better if you don’t want to be in a hurry to have the evening end.”



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This article first appeared in the Spring 2020  issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.