Throwing a party is a delicate art. The vibe has to match the occasion. A Sunday Night Football watch party must include tons of food and plenty to drink. A genteel dinner party calls for soft linens and fine glassware. And a good old-fashioned house party must be carefully curated so there are conversation starters at every turn.
This is particularly crucial when you’re trying to intermingle your friend groups. And if you’re playing the host, you can’t be there to break the ice for every fledgling conversation. Instead… create opportunities for people to ease the tension themselves by finding common ground.
Like something weird or wacky in their surroundings to banter about.
That’s right. If you want your apartment to be a haven where you can host or gather your friends, you'll need to design strategically.
As my perpetual lifestyle inspiration, Emma Chamberlain said in her AD Home Tour,
“My thing with furniture is like have fun with it. I just choose stuff that makes me smile and giggle and chuckle and starts a conversation too. Like somebody new comes over and they're like, is that corn? Exactly? Now you're besties.”
I couldn’t agree more. If I want to connect with someone better or I want my friends from different groups to meet and actually like each other, sometimes it takes strategic planning. And sometimes that strategic planning is a corn-shaped stool.
It’s even better if you make a game of it. I do this in my apartment or even in my friends’ homes. I'll gather a group of people and say, “If you were something in this room, what would you be?” The most ostentatious person is the neon sign. Someone is the water glass. Another chooses the ironic stack of vintage playboys. Someone is the obligatory Ikea couch … and so on, and so on.
This party hack has never failed me. It’s more organic than handing out ice-breakers or nervously waiting for everyone to loosen up with liquid courage. Bonus: it makes your party memorable and your home a go-to destination for a good time. Bragging rights secured.
These are my three cardinal rules to curate a home that’s cool, fun, and perfect for a party:
Make it inviting
No one wants to visit a home that feels like a museum. What’s the use of having all the trendy, minimal Instagram blogger-style decor if you freak out when someone steps on your artisanal rug? To have a home fit for hosting, fill it with things that are fun and not precious.
Yes, you can still have nice things. But make your space inviting to guests. Put slipcovers on your furniture. Or, at the very least, stash those fragile, breakable things before having anyone over.
Make your cool stuff easy to find
Out of sight is out of mind. So put everything cool right in front of everyone’s eyesight. If I’m going to pay a pretty penny for a cool lamp, you’re going to see that lamp. I also make sure to bring out my favorite plates and mugs for company. The Ikea sets can stay on the shelf.
Place your board games out on the coffee table so guests can find and enjoy them. Put all your various seating options out in the living area so guests can lounge on the couch or your pillows and beanbags and stools. Burn a cozy candle. And bring all your fun little trinkets and souvenirs center stage.
Play the host
What feels better than being an attentive host? Flitting between friends, making introductions, and rescuing guests from awkward small talk. One way to help people connect is by drawing their attention to wacky decor elements or a whimsical souvenir from your travels. A conversation might start with you, but it can carry on without you as you go make social magic in another corner of the room.
Here are some of my favorite conversation-starter home decor ideas:
All products featured are independently selected by our editors. Things you buy through our links may earn us a commission.
via Urban Outfitters
Of course, I had to include the now-infamous corn stool. It’s a guaranteed hit at any event. Your friends will be racing to sit on it and won’t stop talking about it — even after they leave the party. I call that a success.
Vacation “Well Tipped Pool Boy” Candle
I love a classic fall scent. Light a leathery or spicy candle, and I’m sold. However, when I want to switch up the vibe for company, I opt for this summer-scented candle by Vacation.Yes, that’s right, your go-to sunscreen brand makes candles. And they’re really cool. This 90’s inspired candle smells like a swimming pool in a weirdly alluring way. Light it up and wait for someone to ask what candle you’re burning. Hurry — before it sells out again! The conversation sparks will fly from there.
A Gallery Wall
The longer you look at a good gallery wall, the more you find hidden in its depths. The more weird, funky prints, the better. My favorite way to make a gallery wall is to fill it with prints I like, photos I took (or am in), and weird moments from my life like ticket stubs or concert setlists. Then frame and arrange them, and voila! It’s like having an art installation filled with easter eggs. Society6 is my favorite place to get a variety of fun prints that have esoteric meanings behind them. C’mon, I’m begging someone to ask!
Nude Bottom Pot
via Coming Soon
This is one of my favorite items to have and, subsequently, gift to my fellow plant parents. This cheeky pot takes the attention off your dying greenery and onto your hilarious, butt-inspired pot. It’s handcrafted and has complete drainage holes and saucers. It’s available in 4 tones and 3 sizes from my favorite kooky home decor store, Coming Soon
A Neon Sign
Neon signs will never fail you. But this one is from the geniuses behind the Love Island neon signs — so if that’s not a conversation starter, what is?