Entertaining, Tips, Timesavers & Troubleshooters

13 “Steal the Show” Tips for Fall Entertaining – in a Barn

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We’ve all been there…you go to a party in an inspired and compelling setting, you dream about re-creating it…and then life happens and you never think about it again.

Not my friend Betty B. She returned from a “barn” party (in a building that had been built specifically for that purpose) and announced that the true working barn on their farm would no longer harbor its original purpose as a show venue for cattle sales.  It was going through a total transformation — losing that function and gaining the status, full time, as party central!

Attending a birthday party recently at Bittersweet Farms, I was inspired to jot down  some  tips that just had to be passed along. This hostess loves entertaining, take note!

  1. An inviting entry (full wooden-fronted bar is to the left) helps the barn retain that  “gracious home” feeling.


2. Juxtaposing square and  round tables  provides additional interest in a dining venue.

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3. Yes, design the guest list to fill the large space but try to leave enough room  for cozy, non-dining chats by the fire.

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4. Be clever, but not obtuse, in the presentation of seating “vitals” – how nice to have both the table number and table mates on the same card (love the chicken wire).

5. Use lighting that’s already in place and augment with some imaginative details.


6. Raise table arrangements to play up the cathedral ceiling.


7. How nice to  actually be able to read the table number…and also have it contribute to the décor.


8. Use your napkin to send a message. No fussy names here; let’s call it what it is…The Barn (but just a tad bit dressy since it does have the name embroidered on the linen napkins).


9. Be exuberant  in your floral displays – but don’t over do the number of them; try to use garden flowers whenever possible.

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10. Place pillar candles in unique accessories that further the mood and décor.


11. Always plan the kitchen as a surprise star of the space; it’s all the more fun to see what’s actually going on.

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12. Consider a 3-part, farm-to-table appetizer – petit crab cake, homegrown tomatoes stacked with mozzarella and drizzled with pesto, and a demitasse of leek and parsnip soup.


13. Compliment the barn’s new use with selectively placed statuary within and near vicinity to this party venue.

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“Beet” Sculpture by Louis Montoya and Leslie Ortez
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“Leaping Hare” Sculpture by Barry Flanagan
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“Asparagus” sculpture by Louis Montoya and Leslie Ortez
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“Crow and Bench” sculpture by Peter Woytuk

What tips would you like to pass along for entertaining in a barn?

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Bettie Bearden Pardee

About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

6 thoughts on “13 “Steal the Show” Tips for Fall Entertaining – in a Barn

  1. You continue to inspire and make me feel as if I’m right there attending a lovely event!

  2. So gorgeous and inspiring and I absolutely love the sculptures!! Thanks Bettie!

    India Hicks Style Ambassador
    The Arts by Karena

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Karena. It’s quite a wonderful piece of property, duly enhanced by the well-selected sculpture.

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