Smart Solutions: Make home shine for Fourth of July

Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News

Now that outdoor gatherings with up to 100 guests are permitted with social distancing just in time for the upcoming Fourth of July weekend and other seasonal celebrations, it’s a great time to get creative with your presentations.

Sorting through the pages I saved from old magazines and catalogs yielded some inspirational ideas for entertaining and tabletop displays.

Whether you host a more formal sit-down dinner or a casual cocktail party, distinctive details always make your guests feel welcome.

A tiered server with plates makes a pretty presentation for your festivities.

A number of pages I saved came from back issues of Better Homes & Gardens. One suggestion took a layered approach to serving with two clusters of frozen grapes arranged on stacked cake stands for a refreshing presentation that tastes as good as it looks.

Another image showed a table setting with place mats that were given a visual twist with a vertical placement at each seat instead of the standard horizontal positioning. Letting a section hang over the edge lends a special touch.

One page I saved from the same shelter publication featured a series of pillar candles embellished with stick-on vinyl letters to personalize any occasion. A grouping can display a CONGRATS message for a recent grad on one table and the honoree’s name spelled out with the candles placed on another table.

In an older issue of Better Homes & Gardens, I rediscovered the perfect hostess gift. Simply wrap a bottle of wine in a scarf and tie it with a tassel, which essentially gives the recipient three gifts in one.

One of the pages I saved from Real Simple magazine shows how words of wisdom from a fortune cookie can be displayed in a small frame. Just glue the saying to a piece of colored construction paper for a border that makes it stand out against the white backing that comes with the frame. This could make a fun place setting or be part of a centerpiece that sends a special message to your guests.

More inspiration from the same publication suggested stirring cocktails with lollipops in fun flavors like lime to enhance the taste of drinks like a vodka tonic.

One of my favorite ideas also came from the pages of Real Simple magazine. In this case, luggage tags pull double-duty as napkin rings and name cards. They can also serve as practical parting gifts for your guests.

In the book “Simply Green Parties” by environmental activist Danny Seo (Harper Collins; $19.95) that was mentioned in another publication, the cover shows champagne corks with slits in the middle to hold place cards.

Other pages I continue to keep feature fun and easy ways to display containers like terra-cotta pots that hold utensils and Mason jars filled with salsa that seem to echo the casual feel of summer.

These simple ideas include a metal pail filled with an assortment of candy that could make a colorful centerpiece for a kid’s party with takeaways that resonate with pint-sized guests.

Instead of stowing these pages away again in my storage room, I now keep my inspiration binder nearby so I can refer to these photos when entertaining.

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