Debbie Travis's top five party tips

Canada's doyenne of home decor shows us the insider tricks for easy entertaining

1. Think comfy and casual
Who says you have to pack up the patio furniture just because it’s October? “I love to have dinner parties outside well into the fall. It feels so rustic,” Debbie says. “Just tell your guests to come in jeans, sweaters and bobble hats.”

2. Stick with a simple menu
“No one wants to see you at the stove for hours sweating over the risotto. Make something tried-and-true,” she says. Debbie’s go-to meal: “A great big steak that you can slice thin to feed 10 people, new potatoes, and green beans, tomatoes and onions. I serve it all the time.”

3. Play games
Between courses, play Pictionary or Trivial Pursuit. “Not only are they a great icebreaker, they also extend the meal into an event,” Debbie says. “And, while the guests are entertained, it gives you a chance to go to the kitchen and get the food ready.”

4. Forget the fuss
The secret to a successful dinner party is a happy host. “Honestly, what people want is a night out where they don’t have to do the washing-up. So don’t spend hours fussing. If you burn the dinner, just pour people another glass of wine.”

5. Relax already
“Half the time, I don’t even get my pyjamas off before guests arrive,” Debbie says. “Everyone else looks great and I haven’t had a shower. But I think that the more relaxed parties, even if you look like a sight, are the happier ones.”

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