Warming Up To Party Tables

The official start of summer is the perfect time to gather friends together for a fabulous and festive party. Whether you prefer a picnic or a more formal dinner party, celebrity event planner Colin Cowie has some great ideas, which he showed off with the help of The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler.

To accomplish a great "look" for a party, you don't necessarily have to spend a lot of money. Cowie advises that the first thing you should do is focus on color.

"Today, in this particular instance, I'm using navy blue and white," he said during his demonstration on the program Tuesday. "It is a perennial color scheme for summer. You can't go wrong."

If you are hosting a luncheon outdoors, it's a good idea to cover the chairs with towels. "Sometimes it is hot, and you tend to stick to the chair," Cowie explained. "It makes it a bit more luxurious or comfortable, particularly if you are having a pool party."

To decorate the tables, he used white azaleas in white porcelain pots, though one also could plant basil, rosemary, thyme, parsley and other fresh herbs. To add a nautical theme, he embellished with twine (with the help of double-face tape).

The menu for a party like this would include shrimp cocktail and a salad nicoise.

The modern minimalist table, with most of its furnishings from Crate and Barrel, is ideal for a nighttime party. Think natural colors and glass: glass plates and bowls with taupe napkins. Everything looks very expensive, but it's not. As for the lighting, try hurricane candles with sand and white pillar candles inside. The centerpiece can be made of seashells (which you can find at most crafts stores), with white carnations tucked in. In warm weather, there are no worries about this centerpiece wilting.

You can also run a seashell landscape down the center of the table. The napkins can be detailed with a seashell with the guest's name written on it, and then tied with raffia.

For the menu, try tomato gazpacho and finish up with paella.

Cowie's favorite scent of summer is citronella. If you're going to dine outdoors, you have to keep it in mind.

"There are so many bugs," he says. "We can use it in the citronella tiki torches, which gives it a tropical feeling… Under the table, I always like to put a citronella candle, because it keeps (the bugs) from biting our ankles. Our ankles are like filet mignon for these critters."

The poolside or picnic chic party is all about bright colors: fuchsia, mango and saffron. If you are beachside, you don't want to use glass, but you can use melamine, which is fun and colorful. And you can combine fresh and good fake flowers to decorate, with ribbons to make it look more "pulled together."

The centerpiece: a shallow bowl filled with tropical fruit, some green leaves and a few bright blossoms. Then just tuck some other flowers around the base, between the bowl and the tabletop.