Summer’s meant for long, balmy days with your toes in the sand and the sun on your face. But some days, you just can’t make it to the beach. Here’s a solution: Bring the beach to your backyard. We asked Centerport-based designer Amal Kapen, of design firm Amal Kapen Interiors, to show us how it’s done, and then got some tips and ideas from other local party experts. We even rounded up some of our favorite items to help bring the shore home.
When Kapen decided to throw a backyard birthday party for a super-chic friend, she says, she wanted to keep the theme light and elegant. “I went with a ‘Slim Aarons meets the Delano Hotel’-inspired beach party,” says Kapen, referring first to the late socialite photographer and second to the luxury Miami Beach hotel.
Kapen decided to build on what she already had at home. “My jumping-off point was the colors in my Quadrille Fabrics porch pillows: green, white, blue and purple,” she says. For seating, she blended her outdoor furniture with some indoor chairs she brought outside for the event. “Being a vintage furniture dealer, I have lots of vintage iron and rattan furniture on hand,” she says.
She threw in some blue, white and purple beach balls from Oriental Trading, a few rattan rugs and a white umbrella from Safavieh ($160), then added towels found on Amazon for about $30 each. She kept the lighting simple. “Lighting in the form of candles, torches, lanterns and a fire pit are affordable ways to add ambience to a summer beach party,” she says. “You can pick up inexpensive torches at Lowes.” She also used lanterns from Pier 1 and Pottery Barn ($55-$65) and anchored them using containers filled with sand from a local beach. A bar cart, from Serena & Lily ($498), helped keep all the beverages and barware contained.
Then, she ordered rental palm trees from Medford-based Island Wide Palm Trees ($600 for four, including wood boxes, pickup and delivery). “For this party, we used a single-stem Christmas palm,” says Kevin Boehning, owner. “It’s a very pretty tree, and it gives a tropical feel to any party.” Boehning also rents out a 20-foot-long tiki bar.
The resulting party is as close to the beach as you can get without actually sidling up to the ocean or Long Island Sound. “Throwing down colorful striped towels and using beach chairs can also add to the fun,” Kapen says. “We floated mini beach balls in our hot tub, but you can do this with a kiddie pool.”
TIPS AND IDEAS
- Get guests excited before they even get to the front door. “Start with beach party-themed invitations, so guests know what to expect and what to wear,” says Debbie Markley, owner of Islip-based event planning company The Party Elf.
- “Include some silly activities with beach balls, hula hoops or a beanbag toss, and don’t forget to set the mood with some great summer music,” says Centerport designer Amal Kapen.
- Markley suggests beach-themed decor such as surfboards — even cardboard cutouts work — table umbrellas and lots of beach balls. “Ask guests to bring their beach chairs,” she says.
- Seri Kertzner, owner of Little Miss Party Planner, which plans Hamptons and New York City events, suggests using anything you can think of that evokes a beach theme, even if that means thinking outside of the (sand) box. “Beach pails are great for filling with ice and water bottles, or even as bowls for serving snacks such as pretzels and popcorn,” she says.
- Also, Markley suggests placing buckets of sunscreen, bubbles, flip-flops and sunglasses on the lawn.