My Great Outdoors: A Summer Party on a Tight Budget

Name: Landscape Designer Justine Heilner
Location: East Hampton
Type of space: Summer Benefit Party
How did you do it: I did this party in collaboration with Farm Design’s Abby Clough, another landscape designer based in Sag Harbor. We used apple and peach boughs and bupleurum from local farms, lanterns, mason jars, tea lights and creative cuttings of weed plants we found on site to create a fresh, simple and festive atmosphere in a renovated barn. We also used the owner’s colorful blankets and textiles as accents, and cheap, undyed canvas bought in bulk in the garment district to cover the rented tables.

We asked Justine if it was possible to have an event with an outdoor vibe inside a New York City apartment and were surprised by her answer!

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She suggested that when trying to simulate the outdoors, you think of all your senses—use a fan to get a breeze going! Love this idea! (the one above is from etsy)


Not very many New Yorkers actually have outdoor space for dinner parties. How can you create the feel of eating outdoors while inside?
The thing about having an outdoor space, especially in the city, is it can be a place where priority on what information you are receiving is inverted, from the intellect to the senses. Think about what feels good, what smells good, how fresh air feels on your skin.
Use a fan to get a breeze going—feel and hear the place you’re in, open the windows.
I’d start with fabrics that feel summery and look colorful on the table. Then add plants. Lots of plants. And no overhead light. If you want to take it all the way, try using garden furniture in your house—seriously, this can look great all the time and make your place feel like a real escape.

Recommended store, site, product or resource?
It’s all pretty basic—for me the most important thing is picking plants that are fresh and seasonal. I always go with whatever looks best on the day that I’m buying them—try to keep an open mind and open eyes.

One of my favorite things to do is use herbs in bouquets or as the greens with another flower. There are so many good looking, and smelling mints and basils and thymes available at the Green Market. I look for texture as much as color, and I tend to prefer masses of the one or two plants, so that you can really start to appreciate the complexity and character of each plant.

For a party like this one:

Green Market (especially Union Square or Prospect Park) for plants and flowers. If you are planning ahead, definitely talk to the vendors about your plans, they are often happy to bring extra or something specific for you.

Flower District (26th-28th st/6th ave) for vases and tools

Restaurant Supply shops on the Bowery for tea lights and votive candles

Wal-Mart for the mason jars

Garment District (37th-39th bet. 6th and 8th) for fabric

Pearl River department store (Broadway and Broome) for lanterns

Thanks Justine!