When Always Sunday was founded, it began as a supper club. Lexi moved from Miami to her 200 year old Georgian house in Bath, but she missed the company of the creatives from her art school days. The constant back and forth of ideas and the excitement of being among creative people. And so, opening her doors, she welcomed local artists, architects, sculptors, potters, illustrators, and more into her home for an evening of exceptional food and company. She worked with florists and chefs to fashion an enchanting setting for those present and among these creatives she felt rejuvenated and inspired.
It was not so unlike the salons of the late seventeenth century. Public exhibitions of artwork in Paris attracted a diverse group of Parisians who were interested in works of art, architecture and design.
Over time, these gatherings moved into the homes of wealthy aristocrats and increasingly hosted by the influential women in society. The hostess at these occasions, or 'Grande Dame', allowed women a safe space to share revolutionary ideas in a time when women’s voices were largely confined to their own private spaces. With a guest list featuring great literary, political and philosophical minds of the time, new ideas about education, class, and individual rights, as well as art and design, were borne out of these conversations. It’s believed that these gatherings may well have affected the decisions of French government as many of the attendees would have been the daughters and wives of ministers and politicians, and therefore highly influential during the French Revolution. By the 19th century, the salon party became one of the most important cultural and political centres in France and invites to certain households became intensely sought after.
It’s been alluded that many of the early salonnieres were held in the bedroom where a lady, reclining on her bed, would receive close friends on chairs or stools drawn around her. It’s likely that as these gatherings grew, they moved to larger spaces like the drawing room that were equally lavishly decorated with crystal chandeliers, velvet drapes, and softened with plush seating and candlelight.
A seat at the table
It's no doubt obvious that you'll need to have enough seating for everyone attending a Parisian salon party but how you seat them will make a difference to the way your evening pans out.
It might make the most sense for you to start with dinner around a table first, particularly if not many of your guests know one another as food will never fail to be the perfect ice breaker. But when you eventually move to softer seating, create cosy corners using armchairs, sofas and even dining chairs. We find that guests often split off to smaller gatherings as the night goes on in a bid to regroup and recover from possible over socialisation. It will keep the conversation fresh as new groups are created and allow those more introverted to feel comfortable enough to step up to the soapbox.
Music to my ears
Want to add that Parisian jazz cafe aesthetic to your party? Install a vintage radio or retro gramophone and transport your guests to a jazz bar in the early 1900's with a handpicked French-inspired playlist.
We've picked our favourites if you need some inspiration.
We all know that small talk is the bane of social gatherings. The 'how's work's and 'what did you do this weekend's that fog up social gatherings. They're the straight-laced, grey-pinstriped accountants of the party world. All numbers and data and facts and you know how the conversation is going to end; with an awkward silence when everyone's exhausted the inoffensive responses they practiced on the way over. You’ll make your polite greetings at the beginning of the party and do anything to avoid them the rest of the night.
The best parties have that special guest; the elusive and just a bit dangerous 'what if'. She's mysterious, sexy, full of potential, and you never know how the night is going to end with her around. What if is the 'what if there was a zombie apocalypse?' conversation starter that ends with a paintball fight in your garden, or the 'what if I serve champagne instead of supermarket wine' that ends with a fireworks party on a yacht along the river Seine (yeh, that party went international baby). The 'what if' has no definitive answer, no surefire ending to your night. She's the absolute queen of unpredictability and she'll definitely spice up the occasion.
Of course, Parisian salons were the original book clubs; translating documents and doctrines, discussing the findings and exploring new ideas (with probably a bottle of Bordeaux or two) but we love to introduce our guests to an entirely new experience at our parties. Have you ever tried absinthe the traditional way? Bring out the big guns with a traditional absinthe fountain and teach your guests how to drink the green fairy like they're in a jazz bar in Paris.
The idea is to create an experience that fosters connection and creativity; to welcome the diverse opinions of a group of individuals in a safe and beautiful space.