Windermere Living: Summer Parties Made Simple

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of Windermere Living.

By Amanda Zurita

Summer, especially this summer, is meant for barbecues, outdoor movie nights, garden gatherings, and rooftop cocktail affairs. Keep the focus on reconnecting with friends and family by opting for unfussy, minimalist decor and clean color palettes. It’s about time we have something to celebrate, isn’t it?

Backyard Barbecue

Upgrade the summertime tradition of the backyard barbecue with stylish and simple tools.

Image Credit: Jayme Burrows / Stocksy


The most time-honored summertime gathering takes place in your own backyard, and a lineup of modern tabletop grills and tools means you can feed a fête without much fret. For example, BergHOFF’s sleek tabletop grill has a compact design that can easily transport to a balcony or the beach—simply add charcoal, and you’re ready to take orders. Or switch it up with one of this year’s most popular cooking contraptions, a portable pizza oven, like the one made by Ooni. With models powered by gas or by wood fire, these ovens can cook a 12-inch pizza in as little as 60 seconds and will work for meats and vegetables, too. Focus on main courses, and ask your guests to bring sides or desserts to share. Complete the ambience by piping a playlist through portable outdoor speakers like the Move by Sonos, which are equipped with voice control and Bluetooth tech, so you can play DJ with ease.

Elevate Your Grill Game Without Going Too Crazy

  • Burgers on the menu? Stuff them with gourmet cheeses, like bleu or mozzarella, before throwing them on.

  • Sitting down together? Time your steaks right by searing them first and finishing them just before serving.

  • Make it a pizza night—with or without a pizza oven. Load pies with your favorite fixings, roll them out on a pizza stone, and cook them over the open flame.

  • Don’t skimp on fruits and veggies. Grilled vegetables are summer’s side dish; peaches and pineapple make for a sweet and juicy dessert (make it á la mode!).

Garden Party

Elevate your outdoor space with basic romantic elements.

A group of people sit around a large table at a backyard party.

Image Credit: Trinnette Reed / Stocksy


A garden party is a glorious way to gather with friends for an elegant afternoon. Start by creating a special space in the yard by laying down some outdoor rugs or erecting a temporary canopy to provide shade. To illuminate the celebration, surround the table with candlelit lanterns, or string outdoor lights between overhead branches. Then, it’s all about the tablescape. Select durable (and unbreakable) dishware like sustainable bamboo plates and bowls from Fable New York, which come in a range of colors like soft blush, buttery yellow, and eggshell blue. The same goes for glasses, which can be as durable as they are chic in fluted acrylic designs from West Elm. To distribute your chosen refreshments, fill a cheery pineapple-shaped beverage dispenser from Nordstrom with punch or lemonade, or stock bottles of bubbly in a sleek Permasteel rolling patio cooler. Once you’ve covered the dining and decor, add extras that keep your guests comfortable, like classic paddle fans, supplied by party stores and wedding suppliers like The Knot. Keep mosquitoes at bay with a discreet Patio Shield repeller by Thermacell, which creates a 15-foot zone of protection around your gathering.

Add a touch of natural beauty by creating simple flower arrangements based on what’s in your yard—or the local farmers market. Seasonal blooms like tulips, peonies, and ranunculus come in many shades and have a textural, wild appearance. To step outside the expected, add branches from cherry or olive trees or fresh fruits from trees on your property. Take your time adding and subtracting elements until you achieve a look you love. A flower frog or stretch of lattice can help hold everything in place. For a minimalist spray, choose a monochromatic color palette, or keep it light with just a few blooms.

Sunset Soirée

Watch the sun set from your rooftop, porch, or balcony at an elegant yet restrained affair. 

A man and a woman attend an outdoor party during sunset.

Image Credit: Jovo Jovanovic / Stocksy


To set a classic (and classy) mood, make a portable record player the center of attention, and invite guests to bring a favorite album. Many options, like the turntables from Crosley, have Bluetooth capabilities, so you can link speakers and switch to digital music with ease. To keep the evening chill away, set up a portable fire pit (Solo offers wood-burning, smokeless options in a number of sizes). Citronella candles, like Pottery Barn’s artful candle, help maintain the romantic ambience while keeping the buzz kills away.

Cheers to You

A polished party deserves an equally upscale signature drink, but you don’t want to spend all night playing bartender. A Champagne punch you can batch in advance is easy to make but elegant enough to fit the vibe. This recipe for a berry satsuma sangria will fit the bill and please a crowd, especially when served in shatter-resistant stemware from Williams Sonoma. Prepare about an hour before your party to preserve the bubbles.


  • 6 satsuma oranges
  • 1/2 pint strawberries, sliced
  • 1 pint raspberries
  • 1 bottle of chilled dry Champagne or sparkling wine
  • 6 oz Grand Marnier liqueur
  • 4 oz club soda
  • 2 oz cherry brandy
  • Fresh mint for garnish


Place the segments of two oranges and all of the strawberries and raspberries into a large punch bowl or drink pitcher. Juice the remaining oranges for about . to ⅔ cup of orange juice, and add to the bowl along with the remaining liquid ingredients. Stir together and taste, adding simple syrup if it isn’t at your desired sweetness. Serve over a large ice cube and garnish with mint.

Movie Night

Everything you need to get cozy under the stars.


A man and a woman watch a movie on a projector from their driveway.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Pump Up Your Popcorn

Toss plain popcorn with a variety of seasonings: try butter, salt, and truffle oil; crispy bacon, a few tablespoons bacon drippings, butter, and chopped chives; butter, sriracha, and lime—or bake popcorn on a tray with a few cups of your favorite cheeses for a crunchy-melty treat.

It’s lights, camera, action with a backyard movie night to rival any drive-in. If you’ve spent the last year watching everything Netflix has to offer from the comfort of your couch, this change of scenery is (literally) a breath of fresh air. Opening your own outdoor theater is easy with movie screens, like Pottery Barn’s streamlined option, that set up in no time and come with a portable storage bag. Upgrade from blankets or lawn chairs to specially made outdoor bean bags from Jaxx, line the aisles with IKEA’s romantic solar lanterns, and you’re ready for showtime under the stars.

Project: Projector

When choosing a projector, consider brightness levels in your yard. If you have any light pollution, you’ll likely need a projector that puts out 800 lumens for an 80-inch screen size. A short throw projector, placed three to eight feet from the screen, is ideal. Epson’s EF-100 Mini Laser Projector is a good bet, and it’s both powerful and light, weighing just under six pounds. As for audio, most projectors that do have built-in speakers won’t offer the cinematic sound quality you’re looking for, so a set of well-placed Bluetooth speakers will round out the full experience. A pair of Anker Soundcore Motion Boom speakers placed at the back corners of your viewing area can create rich surround sound. And be sure to let the neighbors know about movie night so they aren’t surprised—better yet, why not extend an invite?

Read the full issue here: Windermere Living – Summer 2021

The post Windermere Living: Summer Parties Made Simple appeared first on Windermere Real Estate.

Windermere Living: Board it Up

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of Windermere Living

By Naomi Tomky | Photography by Carly Diaz | Food Styling By Anne Parker


For an intimate gathering or celebration, or just to change up a weeknight dinner, charcuterie boards are impressive crowd-pleasers.

Once an innocuous appetizer, charcuterie boards are stealing the show as stunning smorgasbords studded with salami roses and a rainbow of ripe vegetables, flamboyant fruits, and sweet and savory snacks. Traditionally, charcuterie boards are composed of meats and cheeses—the name even comes from the French for “cooked flesh.” A part of French culinary art since at least the 15th century, they were considered the food of the bourgeoisie for hundreds of years before catching on with higher-end cooks. Now, they return to accessibility as people find ways to customize their boards and feature all sorts of spreads. Trays and wood blocks can be artfully piled with everything needed for a build-your-own brunch buffet, a vegan midday meal, or an elegant soirée starter. Boards tap into a host’s creative side as an easy, fun way to put out an incredible spread that pleases every type of person. “I love making them for entertaining,” says Amy Holt of Peas Thank You in Venice, California, “because it’s a centerpiece for conversation.”


Photography by Carly Diza – Food Styling by Anne Parker


At cocktail parties, casual gatherings, or before a sit-down dinner, charcuterie board–style spreads allow people to create their own bites and discuss what they paired and how they ate it—functioning as both food and icebreaker. The chameleon of catering, boards fit in as easily at a small family picnic as they do at an upscale event, while also giving people more flexibility than a set menu: hungrier guests can make almost a full meal of the offerings, while lighter eaters can sparsely snack. But the ultimate asset of an attractive board to anchor an event is the freedom to indulge artistic whims in building a creative, edible assortment. Expert charcuterie board makers from around the West talk about how they design their signature creative boards with both classic snacks and unorthodox offerings in elegant arrangements for family, friends, and gatherings large and small.

Magnificent Morning

When a client for her charcuterie board business requested a bagel spread for a bar mitzvah, Sylvie Stulic, of the Bay Area’s On the Board Gourmet, saw it as the perfect opportunity to get creative. Now it’s part of her standard offerings, and she’s gained knowledge on the best way to build a bagel board.

Functional Design

The big size and flavor of caperberries always draws wows, says Stulic, while she adds extra brightness with red sweetie drop peppers. “I love to include a floral element,” she says, which may be actual (edible) flowers or cucumbers styled into roses. One standard bagel fixing not found on the bagel boards, though, are onions. “They contaminate the other flavors,” Stulic explains.

Tips of the Tray

Unless the board is enormous, Stulic slices and cuts the bagels in half so that they don’t visually overwhelm everything else. She uses the halves to create a line down the middle and creates symmetry with the colors around it. Aim to keep the bagels surrounded by dry ingredients so they don’t get soggy on the board. For serving a crowd or an event, bagels work well because they are traditionally eaten at room temperature. But at home, she branches out, creating similar breakfast spreads for her family out of crepes, waffles, and pancakes.


Photography by Carly Diza – Food Styling by Anne Parker

Creative Colors

The rainbow platters made by Amy Holt of Peas Thank You in Venice, California, stand out for their bold use of patterns, whether as a fun fruit display, a vegan snack selection, or a traditional meat and cheese board.

Shop Savvy

“Start at the farmers market,” says Holt. That’s the best place to find natural-looking fruits and vegetables, like radishes with their stems and broccolini with flowers. But even if limited to a grocery store, she can look for the same effect with tomatoes on the vine and celery with nice leaves to use as a garnish. Instead of buying pre-sliced meats or trying to slice them at home—especially for small boards that only need a few slices of each type of meat—Holt uses the deli counter at the grocery store, which will cut them to order. Holt uses honeycomb on cheeses and tops a chia seed pudding with toasted coconut to add special touches.

Tips of The Tray

Bring variety in shapes as well as color by cutting and stacking the food creatively: put berries on a skewer, clip the grape bunches into manageable sizes, and fold the meat in different ways. Start with the biggest things first by plating any dips or spreads. Holt uses a coconut chia seed pudding as the anchor to her fruit boards and hummus on her vegan spread. Arrange foods in groups of three, and always use odd numbers, as they are more naturally pleasing to people. Use triangle formations to direct the eye across platters, drawing attention to the whole board, rather than a single spot or line. Finish by tossing a small, attractive garnish all over the board—berries, little tomatoes, or cilantro flowers—to add a decorative touch.


Photography by Carly Diza – Food Styling by Anne Parker

Edible And Upscale  

When the fashion industry slowed down during the pandemic and the events Rona Argana once planned dried up, she used her sharp eye for design to craft grazing boxes as gifts to send to her friends. That turned into For Love and Graze, her North Hollywood, California business that spins casual snack platters into eye-catching displays.

Ingredients for Elegance

Use the green color of leaves to signify freshness, says Argana. She likes mint sprigs in the spring, rosemary and sage in the winter. (Keep them well hydrated ahead of time, so they last longer.) Fancy can still be fun, and she loves to use letter-shaped cookie cutters and slices from a log of mozzarella cheese to add celebratory messages. Savory needs a balance of sweet, so even her traditional snack boards always include a sugary nibble like chocolate-covered almonds or yogurt-covered pretzels.

Tips of the Tray

Start by setting out a neutral color palette of the crackers, meats, and cheeses. Then bring in a limited range of colors, sticking to greens, oranges, and reds. Balance each color with multiple tones and items: use both olives and grapes for green and offset the reds from berries with similar shades of citrus. Most of all, Argana says, don’t forget the purpose of the creation, and consider the flavors as much as the colors: “Make sure it tastes as good as it looks.”


Read the full issue here: Windermere Living – Summer 2021

The post Windermere Living: Board it Up appeared first on Windermere Real Estate.