An Autumn Affair

Three creative minds pull together an outdoor party with stylish touches, including take-away bouquets for the guests set up in the back of a vintage Bronco
Sign for Breeze Hill Farm decorated with orange and yellow flowers
A lush garland of fall flowers and foliage created by Mary Cox Brown of Marigold Designs welcomes guests. Photo by Laurey W. Glenn

Ragan and Brad Cain’s renovated and decorated house in Birmingham, Alabama, was about to make its debut on the fall season party circuit. The Cains would be welcoming not just close friends but also interior designers and other tastemakers who were in town for the Birmingham Botanical Gardens’ annual Antiques at the Gardens event.

The ever-stylish Ragan thought she just might need a little extra assistance in pulling it all together. “This was the first big party we hosted at Breeze Hill Farm since we purchased the property,” she says. “I knew I needed help with the planning to be able to pull off a fabulous party.” Enter interior designer Caroline Gidiere of Caroline Gidiere Design and floral designer Mary Cox Brown of Marigold Designs.

outdoor party setup
Paper lanterns strung up over the tables are ready to glow at dusk. Photo by David Hillegas

The first order of business for the collaboration was deciding on a palette for the event. “The jumping-off point was the exterior of Ragan’s amazing house. From the shutters to the boxwood in terra-cotta pots on the front porch and front steps to the deep-forest-green cushions of her outdoor furniture, it just felt right to start with these colors—dark green and rusty ochre,” says Caroline. The palette reminded her of a Rosa Bernal fabric she had been holding onto for years, waiting for the right occasion. “When I pulled it out of my bag during our first meeting, I didn’t have to pitch it. Ragan was with me 100 percent and said that she had always loved this exact print.”

Inspired by a fall harvest party in Danielle Rollins’s entertaining book, Soirée, Caroline started building around the chosen fabric. Boxwood balls in terra-cotta pots and small cups of orange mums were part of the table décor, along with willow branch lanterns the designer picked up in New Orleans.

The boxwoods in terra-cotta pots on the front porch helped inform the color inspiration for the party. Photo by Virginia Jones
Rosa Bernal Collection Sevilla fabric and Amanda Lindroth rattan lanterns dress the self-service drinks table. Photo by David Hillegas
Sevilla fabric from the Rosa Bernal Collection and rattan lanterns from Amanda Lindroth dress the self-service drinks table. Photo by David Hillegas

“The wicker and raffia we used was a natural extension of the palette,” says Caroline. She chose raffia-wrapped glasses for the cocktails and large rattan lanterns from Amanda Lindroth. “Since the party was in the evening, I thought the lanterns would kick it up a notch and, in turn, be the stylish starting point for any outdoor parties the Cains had going forward.”

The team decided that a signature cocktail was in order and chose Rollins’s Blood Orange Old Fashioned recipe (modified for the size of the crowd). “I think every party should have a signature cocktail,” says Caroline, “if only to streamline drinks service when the bulk of the people are arriving—literally by the busload in this case!”

A custom card created by Holly Hollon gives guests the instructions for making a Blood Orange Old Fashioned, the signature drink for the evening. Photo by David Hillegas

How to present the drinks was next on the agenda. In a brainstorming session, the team decided that silver punch bowls would feel too formal, but they needed something chic for the ice. Mary Cox saved the day with the introduction of copper bowls that she had in her inventory.

“They were the perfect add,” says Caroline. “Mary Cox and Ragan both have an educated and amazing eye for color, pattern, and design. They were a dream to work with! You couldn’t script a better combo if you were given an option.” Guests who enjoyed live music, tasty fare, and the surprise of flower bouquets to take home would certainly agree.

A vintage Ford Bronco holds bouquets and loose flowers for guests to take home. Photo by Virginia Jones
“When hosting a party, I love for it to feel well thought out and for the flow to be just right and always a little surprise for the guests.” — Ragan Cain
fall wreath
A wreath of chrysanthemums, garden roses, and zinnias adorns a rustic gate. Photo by Laurey W. Glenn