Style: Cottage calls for new entertaining strategy

Mary Carol Garrity
Tribune News Service

When we lived in our historic Greek revival home in Atchison, Kansas, I loved to have seasonal open houses, welcoming guests to tour my home and garden. Nell Hill’s visitors have told us they miss the homes tours and have asked if we will do them again at my new cottage on the lake.

Since my little nugget of a house is suited more for intimate gatherings, and my new neighbors would begin to hate us if we held an event of this kind in our sleepy community, I’m going to invite you into my home in a new way.

Once a month, join me in my cozy cottage, to linger for a while as we talk about decorating, entertaining, life. I’ve named this special feature “Welcome to Innisfree: My cottage on the lake,” after our home, which we call Innisfree, inspired by Dan’s favorite poem by W. B. Yeats, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree.” I hope you will join me and share our quiet life on the pond in the coming year.

Entertaining outdoors during the summer is lots of fun, so when our daughter Kelly asked if we would host our granddaughter Maeve’s first birthday party, I said yes faster than a toddler can stick her hands into her birthday cake.

We really enjoy filling our home with friends and family. Kelly took care of the guest list, inviting a few of her and Britt’s closest friends. It was fun to have our home packed full of families, with kids running pell-mell throughout.

On my to-do list was decorating the home in Maeve’s favorite color: pink, pink and more pink. My friend Rebecca created beautiful party goods, which we used to festoon the rusty garden statue I keep on my dining table.

She designed personalized labels for the water bottles, a crown for the birthday girl and flag banners we used throughout the home. That’s all we needed — just a few festive touches here and there, and the decorating was done.

Since we don’t have much room indoors any longer, we’ve had to change how we entertain. To make way for more folks, we throw open the French doors in the living room and dining room, so guests can spill out onto the deck. We moved the row of Adirondack chairs down by the lake to make way for a dining table, where the children could eat.

When Dan and I entertain in the warm months, we use our patio, equipped with a grill, fridge, storage and comfy seating. This is one of my absolute favorite spots in my new home, reminiscent of the treasured screened porch at my Atchison home.

A trick to making your food and drink displays more dramatic is to use risers to add visual height. I use a tiered server over and again when I entertain because it’s so versatile.

We also served pink lemonade in cute portable bottles, complete with candy-striped straws, so the guests could have some refreshments down by the pond.

As the sun began to set, and our tired, sun-kissed guests said goodbye, each child received a party favor, a little treat to remember our sublime afternoon together, celebrating life at Innisfree, our cottage by the lake.

Thank you for joining us!

This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity's blog at She can be reached at