Creating the Perfect Summer Dinner Party

A stylist and photographer, Karen Mordechai of Sunday Suppers manages to creatively bring together all the essential elements of a good dinner: food, decor, and ambience, without ever losing sight that it’s all about connecting with the people around the table. Here the editors of Remodelista asked Karen to share her insights on entertaining with friends.

Photography by Karen Mordechai except where noted.

Remodelista: What is the first thing you think about when you are having people over for dinner?

Karen Mordechai: I think about the season and an overall feeling that a great meal can create. The starting point can be a location, a time of day, or a particular ingredient that is beautiful at the market.

RM: How do you plan out a dinner?

KM: Start with one element that inspires the meal i.e. breakfast in bed. As a visual person I always start there with either a mood board or color palate. The layers build organically—I create a menu based on what is seasonally current. The location can then dictate much of the decor, and then I keep adding layers as I plan. Menu, design, decor, paper goods, and little touches all come next. I try to keep it all very simple but well thought out.

RM: Do you have everything ready ahead of time?

KM: Yes, absolutely. A well-planned list of to dos. I do as much as possible in advance. But when that is not possible, try not to fret. Guests love to join in the prep and help out. I feel it creates a lighter environment for all.

RM: Do you have a go-to meal that you can pull together at the last minute or do you like to try something new?

KM: I do tend to try new things all the time—but I would say that a good roast is a great way to feed a crowd. It can often be left alone in the oven for hours and the sides and accompanying dishes are not as difficult to execute.

RM: Your go-to table setting?

KM: Kraft paper, white dinnerware, vintage flatware, and bistro glassware.

RM: How do you keep a table looking fresh?

KM: Start with the basics and a clean palette and then add a layer of interest that ties into the season or the meal in a simple, unfussy way. Lots of greens for spring or a feather on each setting for Thanksgiving. There are very simple ways to create beauty on the table. Rethinking textures for a new use is one of my favorite things to do—a vintage wallpaper as a table runner or a cheesecloth to wrap a gift or a newspaper to create a menu.

RM: Best way to serve food?

KM: I love family style; it adds a sense of community and enjoyment and suits our type of food, which is honest and straightforward cooking.

RM: What’s secret is to creating a good dinner party?

KM: A great mix of people and good food. In the end, those are the most memorable evenings.

For Karen’s recipe for Tomato Salad with Coriander Dressing, visit Remodelista.

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Carole R.
Carole R4 years ago


sarah s.
sarah s4 years ago


Sue Matheson
Sue Matheson4 years ago


j A4 years ago

interesting ideas

Jonathan Harper
Jonathan Harper4 years ago


Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne R4 years ago

Some really nice ideas.

Natasha Salgado
Past Member 4 years ago

Very lovely ideas---and the toast looks so gooooood! Thanks

Aaron Bouchard
Aaron Bouchard4 years ago

thank you

Marie W.
Marie W4 years ago

Very pretty.

Jill G.
Jill G4 years ago