July 11, 2014 at 1:00 am

Smart Solutions

Summer entertaining ideas to charm your guests

The Corksicle Wine Chiller ($17.95 at Sur La Table) makes a great hostess gift for those into outdoor entertaining. (Sur La Table)

Casual gatherings are synonymous with summer. Though easy entertaining is part of the charm, you can still make an effort to welcome your guests.

Get your party started with some tips from Jacob Maurer, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of Sur La Table.

Update your entertaining staples with the latest tabletop trends. “People can’t seem to get enough of Mason jars. They are super versatile, cheap and can be used for a variety of tasks — drinkware, flower vases and candle holders,” he says.

“Lighting and flowers make all the difference. I love buying a flat of Mason jars at the store and using these to clutter the center of my table for tea light holders and flower vases,” Maurer says. And Green Ball Mason jars add a fun pop of color in summer decorations.

Nonbreakable dishes and serving pieces also come into play at this time of year. Some of their best sellers for outdoor entertaining include acrylic bowls and melamine plates.

Other customer favorites relate to niche cooking. Burger baskets, grill grids and skewers are popular, along with the Grill and Sear Plancha, which lets you sear meats and grill veggies at different temperatures so that you can cook all the components of a meal at once.

Nonstick grillware makes outdoor cooking even more convenient. “The biggest innovation in the BBQ world right now has to be around nonstick,” Maurer says. “Nonstick and grillware used to be mutually exclusive.” Now, there are items that stand up to the heat of the grill and allow for easy cleanup.

You can never have too many hostess gifts on hand for last minute get-togethers. Stock up on unique coasters, wine chillers and bottle stoppers as a token of appreciation when you head to someone else’s home.

When it’s your turn to host, give visitors something to remember. “I always want my guests to be comfortable, and sometimes it can get a bit chilly at night,” Maurer says. “I love draping inexpensive pashminas or woven throws onto each of the chairs that guests can wrap themselves in and take home at the end of the evening.”

There’s no need to follow color trends come summer when you can let Mother Nature be your guide. Maurer likes to stick with neutrals throughout the year, such as white dishes, clear glasses and neutral-colored linens, and layer in color with seasonal elements like flowers.

Make a statement by introducing different forms, like rectangles and squares. “Buy your serveware in plain white — it’s versatile and a great canvas to showcase food,” Maurer says. “I love mixing and matching shapes in whiteware to keep it interesting.”

Want more ideas? Consider a local cooking class. Fun seasonal topics at Sur La Table’s Metro Detroit locations (Ann Arbor, Novi and Troy) include a Summer Drink Essentials Demo and the Secrets of Great Grilling. That will surely impress your guests.

For information, go to surlatable.com.

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at jeaninematlow@earthlink.net.