organize a party

Sweet-pea spread and thinly sliced radishes on toast make an easy appetizer.

The elements of a good party are simple: casual conversation, seasonal canapés, cocktails, ladies in floral dresses, and dogs underfoot. Jason Oliver Nixon and John Loecke of Madcap Cottage, who recently held a casual summer gathering at their home in High Point, North Carolina, break down the party planning basics.

1. PARTY VIBE

Easy, relaxed, no pretense. “Feel free to kick off your shoes, and dogs and kids are always welcome,” says Nixon.

Dogs and kids welcome.

2. DRESS CODE

Come as you are—colorful and comfortable. “In New York we’d go to a party and everyone would be in black,” says Nixon. “Southerners wear pink, orange, and yellow; the women love their floral dresses, and the men sometimes have critters on their pants.”

Nixon and Loecke sport their colorful party best.

3. BLOOMS FOR ROOMS

“We look to the garden for bright, happy flowers such as zinnias and dahlias and mix with traipsing vines—a sort of Constance Spry moment,” says Loecke.

party planning

Loecke creates an impromptu arrangement with flowers just cut from the garden.

4. TASTY BITES

Southern favorites a little gussied up. Think pimento cheese and red peppers on pumpernickel toast, and zucchini roll-ups with goat cheese and matchstick vegetables. “Everything is easy to pick up,” says Nixon.

organize a party

Pimento cheese and red peppers on pumpernickel toast

5. CRAFTY COCKTAILS

“Our house cocktail is a Gin Rickey, but we switch it up a bit for a party,” says Loecke, such as Gin Brambles (gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, blackberry liqueur) and Lavender Lemonade (vodka, lemonade, lavender simple syrup, prosecco).

party planning

Sparkling Lavender Lemonade and Gin Brambles

6. PARTY PLAYLIST

“We start with jazz, and as night falls we kick things up a notch—Blossom Dearie and Nina Simone segue into Roxy Music,” says Nixon. “We have a disco ball that spins in the basement, so the party often ends up down there.”

A flower-garnished platter of shortbread bars topped with various fruit fillings in the center and drizzled with a sugary glaze

Music and a little something sweet, in this case a tray of ribbon shortbread, complete the party.

7. PARTING WISDOM

“Be confident and relax,” says Loecke. “And if something doesn’t turn out as planned, open more liquor and order a pizza. No one will notice the gaffe.”


By Karen Carroll | Photography by Anna Naphtali