Ready-to-serve hors d’oeuvres: Try Clemson Blue Cheese (order at www.clemsonbluecheese.com), French honey mustard, and crackers. Each of them has a shelf life of three months or more, and together make for a pretty presentation.
The cure for the common cocktail napkin: Stock up on favorites as you come across them, from chic designs by Caspari to the hilarious messages from MikWright (you’ve seen these: big ’70s hair meets wisecracking peanut gallery). Or try printing your own clever messages; check with your stationery store or visit custom design sites like www.thestationerystudio.com.
Find your (local) sound: Dispense with choosing tunes simply for the sake of background noise; instead, center guests with sounds from around town. Build a core collection of artists who play locally, like Cary Ann Hearst, Jay Clifford, or Steve Fiore & the Good People.
Top shelf (left to right): Windowpane lantern, $15 at Celadon; bulb oil lamp, $36 at South of Market; cutting board, $7 at HomeGoods; Zebraboard cutting board, $7 at HomeGoods; European porcelain faucet-topped salt and pepper grinders, small, $75; large, $85 at South of Market; metal polka-dot cocktail shaker, $26.95 at Coastal Cupboard; mixed-media tabletop dress form, $260 at Out of Hand; Le Creuset butter dish in “Caribbean Blue,” $24.95 at Coastal Cupboard; porcelain cake stands, $85 each at South of Market; cotton napkins, $18 for set of four at South of Market Middle shelf: Forest-green goblets, $65 for set of four at Global Awakening; mint-green tumblers, $52 for set of four at Global Awakening; Savre fine cutlery, $13-$20 each at Maine Cottage; Vance Kitira candles, small, $10.75; large, $12 at Celadon; Willow tumblers, $45 for set of four at Global Awakening; orange martini and wine glasses, $4.20 each at Urban Outfitters; Squircle plates in yellow, blue, and green, small, $5; large, $6 at Urban Outfitters Bottom shelf: Souper bowls in yellow, $5 each at Urban Outfitters; mint cookies by Market Street Munchies, $3.25 per bag at Piggly Wiggly; porcelain coffeepot and teapot set, $30 at Celadon; melamine tray in lime and white, $15 at GDC Home; solid jade rectangular vessel, $199 at Dwelling; Emile Henry ceramic pitcher in “Citron,” $47.95 at Coastal Cupboard; Southern Cocktails by Denise Gee, $14.95 at The Sitting Room; Southern Cakes by Nancy McDermott, $19.95 at The Sitting Room; Emile Henry mixing bowls, $69 for set of three at Williams-Sonoma