Pink lighting makes all the difference, says party planner Linnea Johansson (who learned the tip from Richard Gere!)

By Linnea Johansson
Updated December 23, 2012 08:05 AM
Adrian Mueller - Fabrik Studios

Celebrity event planner and chef Linnea Johansson knows how to throw a party. She’s worked with A-list stars such as Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon and Justin Timberlake and just released her second book, Perfect Parties – Tips and Recipes from a New York Party Planner in October. Now she’s lending her expertise to with two blogs geared toward your holiday party planning. Cheers!

When planning a holiday party or a bash for any time of year, you may want to start with an easy, inexpensive dining room makeover.

Giving your old chairs a new look in no time to spruce up your dining room for the holidays and/or any party occasion. Simply wrap fabric against the back of the chairs and then staple the fabric on the inside of the back … and you have new chair slip covers in a jiffy. This works great at home, and you can easily create a new look for a room.

This trick has saved me many times. I once did an event for the Food Network to honor their stars. There was not much to do on the food end as all the show hosts and chefs sent over their recipes for a menu. The space was beautiful but the chairs I rented arrived in the wrong color. So I had to do a little last minute dining room makeover. My team and I rushed out and got fabric from the office and did a quick makeover for the chairs right before the guests started to arrive.

Light It Like Gere
Most of my clients think I am crazy when I say I want to spend 50% of the decor budget on lighting. I always have to tell them the same story to convince them. When doing a job with Richard Gere and his wife at their restaurant the Bedford Post Inn, they not only had tons of cozy lighting in their restaurant, but also had little pink lights throughout the space. As he has been in countless movies, Richard told me that pinkish-hued lights is a movie set trick and makes everyone look great and at least 10 years younger. I have been using pink lights ever since. Thanks, Richard!

So no matter how lavish or casual the party, lighting is the way to make a regular space look different and sets the mood. For at home entertaining, I start by shutting off all the overhead lights and directing any spotlights at your best looking décor item, whether that’s flower arrangements, the buffet or the dinner table. You can simply buy cheap spotlights and set up for the night, or make votive holders by simply wrapping drinking glasses in decorative paper and taping the back, then add votive candles. Cluster the votives around the area you want to highlight.

DIY Frame-to-Trays
Turning frames into trays is one of my favorite decor tricks, and I have used it at countless events. Simply buy a cheap frame, and frame a decorative fabric or decorative paper. Then you can use it as a serving tray, platter on a buffet or decorative charger under your guest plates – easy and cheap to create. And the best part is, for the next party, you can simply frame something new to match that parties theme. As you can imagine, my office has quite a few frames stacked in it.

Table Decor & Bar in One

I love creating a beautiful flowering punch bowl in the middle of the table; it works like a self-serve bar and great table decoration, all in one. As an extra bonus, you’ll keep the party decor bill down. Slice seasonal fruit or my favorite, edible flowers. You can also freeze the fruit or flowers into a large ice block. Place a few votive candles around the punch bowl and it will sparkle and glow.