Every party I make has a theme. I've done Thai, Southwestern, Moroccan, Vietnamese. Last year I did a Brazilian dinner because the Brazilians had won the World Cup. I served caipirinhas, a drink made with sugarcane liquor. I covered the whole table with beach sarongs that said copacabana. This year I did a Frida theme, with Frida and Diego place cards, a religious Frida shrine, hundreds of Mexican paper flowers, and just a lot of Mexican stuff.
We always do a theme. People get excited to know that there's some kind of a gimmick, some novelty: Mexican, Asian, tropical, or something like a tea party or a sake party with Japanese appetizers, or a chocolate lovers' party with everything from chocolate soda to truffles.
I'm big on color. I like to choose a palette that goes with the theme of the party, like deep, rich reds and pinks for Mexican. Sometimes the theme is a color palette, and I create the setting around it.
If you're giving a holiday party, for instance, you can decide to do everything in red—the plates, the glasses, even certain foods. Or another approach: Once I invited 15 of my best friends and told them to bring two of their best friends, and it was really an incredible dynamic.
I do a lot of gardening, so my themes are usually based on the seasons, even if sometimes I go against the seasons—I'll decide that, in the middle of January, when there's 10 inches of snow on the ground, I need a sense of summer. But normally I go with the season, like mint juleps, fried chicken, barbecued ribs, and homemade cake on the Fourth of July.
I'm not big on themes. I think entertaining is about connecting with friends, and anything that makes the event too important diminishes the connection. My only reason to have a party is to see people I want to see.
My old loft was air-conditioned only in my sleeping area, so I never had parties there in the summer. But one time there was a reason to have a party in June, and I had bought this huge stock of vintage stilettos for my shop. So I said, "Let's have a bikini-and-high-heel party." I told everybody to come with their swimsuits. My friend Artie hung all these beach balls and blow-up tubes.