Party central: Interior designer makes pampering guests an art
As an interior designer and event planner, Afaf Batayneh knows how to set a celebratory tone at her Bloomfield Hills home for any occasion. Last month, Homestyle caught up with her as she planning one of her fabulous fetes to celebrate Eid, the festival that marks the end of Ramadan. Other than her children, who are grown, perhaps nothing makes her happier than hosting others.
“I love to party,” she says. “A party gives you a good feeling; you’re happy to see friends, chat with them and have a good time.” To create that welcome feel, she says you should dress nice, have a smile on your face and give your guests a pleasant greeting. It’s also important to be comfortable and well-rested when they start to arrive. To make everyone feel at home, she starts with the red carpet treatment like valet parking and a beverage cart with flavored water stationed in her driveway.
Batayneh, who was born in Jordan and studied interior design in Lebanon, London and New York, takes a worldly approach to her festive décor. Known for her impeccable attention to detail when decorating for a special occasion, she pairs intriguing pieces gathered from her travels with online and local finds. “I always mix antiques with modern. What matters is how it looks together,” she says.
Her travels provide plenty of inspiration to support her passion for decorating and entertaining. “I appreciate nature, architecture and design,” says Batayneh. Many of the captivating contents seen throughout her enchanting house come from distinctive destinations like Paris, Morocco and New York.
Each party starts with a theme to keep the look cohesive. The Evite for her latest gathering featured a photo of tall floral arrangements in her home that gave a hint of what guests could expect.
For her recent celebration with a garden theme, the floral wallpaper in her foyer serves as the perfect backdrop. “I love flowers and this is a small area that you just pass by, so it’s not overwhelming,” she says about the pretty pattern that makes a colorful statement.
In the formal dining room, an antique container on the table holds faux arrangements that are replenished with fresh flowers when she entertains. Water glasses accented with napkins that are scattered with velvet petals create a lovely detail at each place setting. Cement garden urns on pedestals that flank the buffet are filled with boxwood spheres. “There is always greenery in my house. Green works because of all the nature around it,” says Batayneh.
For her nearby serving area, she made a lovely layered centerpiece from an array of decorative objects, such as branches, birds and candles for an organic display. “A centerpiece can be many different pieces, not just one,” she says. “Instead of a vase, it can be a cluster of things. You just need to know how to put them together.”
Dimensional butterfly decals on the wall convey her appreciation for the brightly colored creatures. “Butterflies are light and free and they can go anywhere they want,” says Batayneh. Even her powder room gets dressed for the occasion with attractive accents like a garden urn filled with towels.
In the family room, a floral motif appears on some of the permanent pieces like pillows and chairs while an ottoman and side tables wear custom slipcovers. Batayneh designed them to resemble evening gowns with delightful details like bows.
Between parties, she continues to add unique features to her interiors like the custom window treatments she designed for the breakfast nook that were inspired by an image from Morocco. Their architectural shape echoes the wallpaper, a series of mirrors and the chandelier. An ornate accent piece that looks like a gazebo acts as a centerpiece for the table in the cozy circular space that overlooks the back yard.
Repetition is among her tricks of the trade. “It makes it more harmonious when you repeat colors and shapes,” says Batayneh. “That is how you create the feel without being overwhelming; having a common denominator between pieces.”
Strategically placed signs in the kitchen that say: GOOD TIMES and BON APPETIT, relay special messages to her guests. “Sometimes I put things out for them to read like napkins that say: EAT DESSERT FIRST,” she says.
Her outdoor spaces get the same treatment as the interiors. For instance, the faux flowers, boxwoods and topiaries on the back deck could easily pass for real blooms. As she points out, they do not attract bees, which is an added bonus.
On the front porch, a pair of colorful upholstered benches from Home Goods provides a happy introduction to the welcoming home. “I always buy with a theme in mind,” says Batayneh who added flowers and votives to the expandable screens above the benches. Mirrors add an architectural detail, she says.
Mature trees that surround the scenic property add color and drama to the front yard where a variety of seating areas includes a glass chandelier paired with modern chairs. “I like to mix modern and traditional,” says Batayneh.
Bistro tables simulate an outdoor café, while large-scale lanterns are displayed around the garden. “If in doubt, go big,” she adds.
For special events, some of her decorating essentials include flowers, candles and lighting like the classic string lights that elevate the atmosphere inside and out. “I love lighting. When it’s cloudy, I turn the lights on in my house as if I’m having a party. It adds to the mood,” says Batayneh.
Though she goes all out for her guests with special touches like valet parking, homemade food and extensive décor in and around her spacious home, it doesn’t take a big house or garden to decorate when entertaining, she says. “It can be as simple as a corner of your home and it will be a surprise. You just have to do it from the heart.”
Jeanine Matlow writes the Smart Solutions column in Homestyle. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.