Party Down

By Rico Gagliano and Brendan Newnam / Published by Dwell
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Congratulations, you’ve decided to throw a party! Not only will you be paying for everyone’s meal and putting undue strain on your relationship, but you will now need to make sure you’ve got the right tools of the trade. Rico Gagliano and Brendan Francis Newnam of the popular public radio show The Dinner Party share some design ideas to increase the odds of hosting a winner.

A. Punching In
Less daunting than a wet bar, less boorish than a beer keg, and with higher octane than that Chablis, a big punch bowl full of an iced cocktail is an easy way to help (nondriving) guests quickly lose track of just how much they’ve imbibed. Result: maximum tipsy in minimum time.

B. On Board
The right cutting board can double as a handsome and efficient hors d’oeuvres tray. But beware, specialized appetizer platters shout "trying too hard." A wooden cutting board can also be used as a weapon, part of a table fort, or as a ping-pong paddle.

C. Hide Your Coat Away
Now for something you don’t need: If you have a coatrack, hide it. Instead, instruct guests to toss their jackets on your bed. This a) shows off your bedroom, which you just cleaned for this purpose, and b) creates a cushy make-out igloo where guests can discreetly lock lips after many glasses of punch.

D. Happenin’ Napkins
Did you ever see a tree cry? Its tears are paper napkins. A proper host doesn’t make guests dab their mouths with swatches of the ozone layer. Thank goodness for cloth napkins—little squares of color that double as ascots or penalty flags. Whatever you do, don’t use ShamWows. Yes, they absorb spills, but also facial hair, dignity, and eyes.

E. Vinyl Cut Pro
Record players are the ideal tool for pacing a dinner party because, like fires, they must be constantly tended. Every half hour you will be given an opportunity to recalibrate the evening. Has talk turned to the president’s birth certificate? Oops, better swap the Ted Nugent for some Bette Midler. Okay, now what were we discussing again? Something about the theater, wasn’t it?

F. Go Home
Forget built-in dishwashers. You want a small portable machine that can be hidden out of sight. That way, when you’ve grown weary of your guests’ company, you can pretend you don’t even own a dishwasher and begin cleaning the pots by hand. This is the internationally recognized indication that everyone should go the hell home right now. Roll out the portable to finish up when they’re gone.

Rico Gagliano and Brendan Francis Newman of The Dinner Party offer their best design ideas for a festive evening. Check out their must-have list before sending out invitations.

Rico Gagliano


Rico Gagliano is an arts and culture journalist, producer, and host. Best known for his work in public radio, he spent several years reporting for the business show “Marketplace,” filing stories from England, Ireland, he Netherlands, Sweden, South Korea, India and around the U.S. Currently he co-hosts and co-produces the culture show “The Dinner Party,” which he created with Brendan Francis Newnam. Along with Newnam, he was named one of Food & Wine magazine’s “Big Food Thinkers 40 and Under” and appeared as a guest judge on the Bravo TV shows “Top Chef Masters” and “Rocco’s Dinner Party.” He’s also a certified film geek—he holds a B.A. in Film Studies from Pitt, and an M.F.A. in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute.

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