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House Curious

Lifestyle and interior shop. Social workshops for the creatively curious.

Filtering by Tag: tips


Sommer Pyne

Styled by Sommer Pyne

Styled by Sommer Pyne

Summer is in full swing and it's perfect BBQ weather and a great excuse to throw a garden party. If you’ve been following me on the gram you’ll know that I turned 40 and I’m milking it for all it's worth. I’m not just having one big party I’m doing several small things across the year and on my actual birthday I hosted a garden party with a small group of friends. If you’re looking for an inexpensive way to throw a party with maximum gorgeousness, then here’s how you to it.

Styled by Sommer Pyne

Styled by Sommer Pyne

Think about a theme and then base your colour scheme, flowers and any other decorative ideas around this. It can be really loose so don’t over think it too much. It could be as simple as your favourite colours, Spring or festival vibes. I find having a theme helps give me a starting point to focus on. I’m Australian so I wanted to have a little nod to my roots but done in a very tasteful way. Nothing snooty just a beautiful laid back affair with lots of botanicals.

You’ll need the following...

1. Wooden pallets to form a low table. 

You can get really creative and stack them or just use a single layer like I’ve done here. They come in lots of different sizes, but the ones I used are 120cm x 100cm. The number of guests will dictate how many pallets you need but roughly speaking you can fit 4-5 people per pallet. You can buy pallets online if you google them or if you’re after free pallets head to your local Big Yellow Storage and I’m sure they will be happy to off load them to you. They usually have plenty lying around and they hold on to them for about a week and then they pay for them to be collected, so you’ll be doing them a favour.

2. Sheets, towels or blankets

Firstly lay 4-6 sheets down in a row (the number of sheets will depend on how large your table is) and make sure there is enough sheet sticking out on either side to sit on. I allowed about 70cm each side. This is your base and now you need to layer. Place either towels or picnic blankets around the edge on top of the sheet. I used these cool stripy towels from H&M, which were really good value and were perfect with my setting. I then added cushions so people could lounge on them. I used a variety of cushions from House Curious and some extra large ones from Sainsburys. 


3. Botanicals and foliage

This was the most fun for me as I love flowers and I managed to find the most beautiful Australian botanicals that were perfect for my Australian theme. I had a mixture of eucalyptus, monstera, banksia and some other exotic flowers. I also bought lots of extra foliage and palm leaves. The best place to buy your flowers are from a wholesaler or flower market as it can get quite pricey or see what you can grab from your garden. I always go to The New Covent Garden Market when I'm doing an event but make sure you go super early to get the good stuff. 

I used palm leaves as my place mats, but you could also use banana leaves, or use a roll of craft paper instead. It’s all about the layering! I used two large glass vases from House Curious as my centre piece and filled them with my gorgeous Australian botanicals. I placed the large vases of botanicals in the middle of the table and then used branches to weave between the vases to complete the centre piece. 

4. Ice buckets filled with icy cold rose is a must.

Place ice buckets on the pallets so people can help themselves to the bubbles and rose. This gorgeous ice bucket above has just landed at House Curious and is the perfect accessory for summer parties.

5. Mix your plates

I used a mixture of plates from our Nordic Sand and Palm print range available here. No need to be matchy matchy, head to your local charity shop and get a selection of different plates. Gone are the days where everything has to match.


6. Extra-large balloons with tassels

Extra large balloons are great for adding that extra wow factor and they are very Instagram worthy. If price isn’t an issue you can get some great balloons from BonBon Balloons who also deliver. Or if you’re a bit thrifty like me you can buy extra-large balloons on Amazon for a steal. I also found DIY tassels from here. If you’re the craft type you can make your own tassels from scratch, which I did for my daughter’s birthday one year. It’s time consuming so if you’re time poor don’t do it. Here’s a link to a YouTube video on how to make your own.

7.    The little extras

Weave tea lights in and around the foliage and dot lanterns, fairy lights and festoon lights around the garden to add a summer warm glow for when the festivities carry on into the night. 

8. Props and games

I used a large Fortnum and Mason picnic basket as a decorative piece, but I also filled it with some games, sunscreen and picnic blankets. I love a bit of tipsy badminton!

To see more of the festivities of the day head to my instagram highlights.

A BBQ is perfect for this kind of setting and again makes for a chilled affair. I was lucky enough to have Anna Barnett do my catering for my birthday bash. After all it was my 40th so I wanted to relax and enjoy chatting with my friends. We had seabasss, slow roast lamb, BBQ corn, scallops, delicious salads and the most incredible cheese board. Our guests were asked to fill their plates up and we all gathered around my makeshift table feasting and chatting in the sunshine. The icing on the cake was live music by Steve. If you want to create that extra special touch to an event then Steve is your man! We spent the afternoon grazing on our large cheese board and my lovely friend made expresso martinis for everyone. We partied on into the night and I was a very happy 40 year old. Now that’s how you put on a garden party! If you found this interesting or helpful in any way please comment below and share your garden party tips with me. Don't forget to tag me on instagram if you use any of these tips to throw your own party. 

Sommer x

Food Stories: Autumnal Halloween Recipes and Creative Table Centrepieces

Sommer Pyne


On Thursday we launched our very first live food stories on instagram with the lovely girls from Spread London, which was very exciting but a little scary. The concept is simple, we invite friends to come and cook for us every month and we share it all with you live. Think cooking demonstrations, cocktail making and stunning curated table designs plus lots of helpful tips along the way. Jess and Emma cooked up an Autumnal storm to get us all in the Halloween spirit.


First up on the menu was the pumpkin risotto with sage, smoked pancetta and hazelnut. This was hands-down the best risotto I've ever had. I mean it was seriously that good. It's so versatile too and can be switched up for vegetarians by using veggie stock and excluding the pancetta and you can either serve it as a starter or main. In the spirit of Halloween and to add a little more fun for the kids we served the risotto in a pumpkin. If you don't have time for this simlpy serve it in a lovely bowl from the Nordic Sand range, available at House Curious.

Roast Pumpkin, Smoked Pancetta and Crispy Sage Risotto with Hazelnuts

This is a really fantastic way to use any pumpkin left over from Halloween. A hearty and warm Autumn dish that works really well as a starter followed by a delicious rare beef or steak with rocket and gremolata sauce or as main course in itself.

To serve 4

1 small pumpkin

300g Arborio Rice

1 stick of celery, finely diced

2 shallots, finely diced

1 clove of garlic, crushed

100ml white wine

500ml chicken stock

6 slices of smoked pancetta

100g hazelnuts

1 bunch fresh sage

200g butter

Sea salt

Black pepper

Olive oil

Parmesan to serve

1.     Prepare your pumpkin by slicing it in half and scooping out the seeds with a spoon. Slice your halves into chunks, coating them in some olive oil, salt and pepper and pop them in the oven on 180c for approximately 30min. When the pumpkin is starting to brown and is soft throughout then remove and set aside.

2.     Whilst the risotto is cooking, or your pumpkin is in the oven, pop your pancetta under the grill and keep an eye on it until it’s superbly crispy and bubbling. The hazelnuts need to go on a plain baking tray for 10mins so you could always pop these in at the same time as the pumpkin.

3.     To make the risotto base, melt 100g of butter in a large heavy bottom pan on a medium to high heat. Add the clove of garlic, shallots and celery and sweat down for approx. 5 mins until the onions and celery have become soft. Be careful not to let the butter burn and add a splash of olive oil if it starts to turn a little brown.

4.     Add in the risotto rice and stir thoroughly until the grains are well coated. After another couple of minutes pour in the wine and let bubble on a high heat until it has reduced by 1/3.

5.     Reduce the temperature to a simmer - you are now ready to start adding you stock in small amounts and stirring thoroughly after each addition. Your risotto may need a little more, or a little less liquid – you’re looking for al dente rice with all the liquid absorbed.

6.     Put half of the pre roasted pumpkin aside and chop the remaining half finely, until almost a paste. Mix the well chopped pumpkin in with the risotto until piping hot again and get ready to serve!

7.     To make the crispy sage butter, simply melt the remaining 100g of butter in a small sauce pan and add the sage leaves individually. The butter will foam and the leaves darken, which is when it is best to either remove them and dry on a piece of kitchen roll (for very crispy sage) or to pour the delicious sage butter over your finished risotto.

8.     To serve, place the risotto in the bottom of a bowl (or hollowed out pumpkin) and lay some of the roasted larger pieces of pumpkin on top along with a few shards of pancetta, the sage butter and some chopped toasted hazelnuts. Add parmesan to taste and enjoy!


Something for the kids and big kids alike. These gorgeous marshmallows were so good, although I think my fav was the salted caramel. I love the extra touch of dipping them into the chocolate fondue, I mean witches cauldron of course! Hmmm yum, that's right here's your excuse to dust off your fondue set.


Vanilla Marshmallow

This is our basic recipe which you can add different essences and flavors to in order to create your perfect marshmallow! We find this recipe sets quite quickly which is great for baking, but don’t hesitate on transferring the mix from bowl to tin or you might find yourself eating set marshmallow straight from the bowl.

1 egg white

50g icing sugar

50g corn flour

1 tbsp vegetable oil

200g sugar

200ml water

1 tsp golden syrup

12g powdered gelatin

1.     Whisk the egg white until stiff peaks appear and place aside. Prepare a 20cm square baking tin by oiling it and dusting with corn flour and icing sugar.

2.     Put the sugar, 100ml of water and golden syrup in a heavy bottomed saucepan and mix with a wooden spoon. Bring to the boil and continue to heat until the sugar reaches the hard ball stage (121c).

3.     Meanwhile, gently melt the gelatin in 100ml water until dissolved, this will only take a few seconds so best to do it right before the sugar reaches temperature.

4.     When the sugar is at temperature, remove from the heat and slowly pour in the gelatin, stirring all the time. It will spit and foam so do be careful. Next, pour the hot liquid in a steady stream into the egg whites, whisking continuously with an electric hand whisk. Continue to whisk until the mixture thickens.

5.     Pour the mixture into the pre prepared baking tin and set aside to cool for approx. 1 hour or until the marshmallow has set. To remove them simply pull gently at the edge of the tin and the marshmallow should roll out as a sheet which you can put on a board dusted with icing sugar to slice up into squares, remember to dust the raw edges of the cut marshmallow so that it doesn’t all stick together again!

To decorate:

Salted Caramel

Who doesn’t love salted caramel on absolutely everything?

Makes one 300g jar

200g caster sugar

100g unsalted butter, cubed

120ml double cream

Large pinch of salt to taste

1.     Melt sugar on a medium to high heat, until it turns into a golden liquid whisking with a hand whisk all the time.

2.     Add the butter and continue to stir, the mixture will foam so do be careful.

3.     When all is melted, turn to a low heat and pour in the double cream slowly as it will spit and foam again, then just add the salt!

4.     Leave the salted caramel to cool and then drizzle on your marshmallows. If you have left overs, you can always refrigerate it and put back in a saucepan to make it liquid again.

Cherry Compote

This bright red cherry sauce makes the marshmallows look rather gory – perfect for Halloween!

Makes 1 400g jar
1.5kg cherries, pitted
300g sugar
Zest and juice of 1 lemon

1.     Put all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the fruit has softened.

2.     Stir the compote with a wooden spoon and continue to simmer until thickened, approx. 30-40mins

3.     Leave the cherry compote to cool and then drizzle on your marshmallows. If you have left overs, you can always store it in sterilized jars to be used in other baking adventures.


Chocolate Fondue

Makes enough for a full fondue ‘cauldron’ of chocolate sauce. This can also be easily served in small bowls for children or along with some fruit for dipping.

400g dark chocolate

85g unsalted butter

280ml carton double cream

300ml milk

1.     Melt the ingredients in a saucepan and transfer to your fondue ‘cauldron’ for kids and big kids to dunk in to.

Mulled Cider with Amontillado Sherry

Hot booze is one of our favourite things about Autumn. Getting a thermos filled and sharing with friends around a bonfire is an absolute treat and a great alternative to mulled wine, which we can worry about in December!

Makes 4 glasses

1L good-quality English medium cider

6 cloves

¼ nutmeg , finely grated

1 cinnamon stick

1 vanilla pod

2 orange, juice of

200ml apple juice

200ml Amontillado sherry

Sugar or maple syrup to taste

1.     Pour the cider into a large pan on a low heat and let it warm through, then add all the spices and turn the heat up.

2.     Add a few strips of orange peel and the juice from both fruits, and the apple juice and bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and leave to infuse on a simmer for approx. 10mins.

3.     Taste test and see if you’d like to sweeten the cider a little, sometimes they can be very dry. To serve mix through the sherry at the last moment to finish and serve with a slice of orange. This is really an adaptable recipe – so seasonal and mull away until you’ve found your sweet spot, it will only get tastier!


White Hot Chocolate with Cardamom and Orange

Jess is truly obsessed with hot chocolate, it’s official and this is her favourite seasonal twist on a white chocolate comfort-in-a-cup.

Makes 4 mugs

800ml full fat milk (or substitution of your choice eg. coconut, almond etc)

200g good quality white chocolate, broken into small pieces

8 cardamom pods

4 strips of orange peel

Cinnamon to garnish

1.     Bring the milk, zest and cardamom up to a vibrant simmer on a high heat. Once the milk is warmed through and infused approx. 10min (be careful not to let it burn on the bottom of the pan or over boil) then simply strain into a jug, add the chocolate pieces and mix thoroughly until the chocolate has melted.

2.     Serve immediately with a pinch of cinnamon to garnish.


Charcoal Cocktail

We mentioned in the live video that we love this cocktail not only because it’s delicious but because it looks really cool - something a bit different for a Halloween party. Don’t be tempted to go overboard on the charcoal as it can make your teeth feel squeaky clean – we have found that the below gives great colour and taste.

50ml Caol Ilsa (or other peat rich) whisky

1 tsp of activated charcoal powder (available from health food shops)

10ml chamomile syrup

Chamomile syrup:

100ml water

100g sugar

4 tsp loose chamomile or 4 tea bags

1.     To make the chamomile syrup, combine the sugar and water in pan over a high heat until the sugar dissolves. Whilst the mix is still hot, steep the tea for approx. 20mins and leave to cool.

2.     Mix the whisky and charcoal in a glass to dissolve then add the chamomile syrup and serve over lots of ice. You could scale up this mix and keep in the fridge in a bottle, then shake it up before guests arrive and pour out over ice! 

Table Design Inspiration

Here are my top tips to create an awe-inspiring table centrepiece with Autumnal cues with a nod to Halloween.


So lets talk about the table.... I love to get creative when I'm entertaining. The food needs to be on point but equally the ambiance is just as important. From the smell that greets your guests to the ambient lighting and table decor. You're guests are going to spend a lot of time around the table so use this as your focal point when thinking about decorating for any occasion.  I wanted the table to feel enchanting and have nods to Halloween and Autumn without being cheesy or tacky... hopefully I pulled it off.

1. Choose your colour theme - on this occasion I went for muted tones, using sage greens with hints of muted reds and soft yellows.

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 12.56.03.png

2. Take flowers out of vases and lay them flat on the table. It's way cooler and looks more like a magical forest floor with lots of hidden treasures.

3. Start with a base - I used eucalyptus as my base, which is one of my favourites. The smell is amazing and it gives you a contemporary look and feel. Scatter the candles and pumpkins and any decorative items. Once I was happy with the placement I added in all my greenery and flowers.


4. Create different heights and layers to create a magical and enchanting look. When you think you've added enough botanicals, add more. Runners and table cloths are also good to create different looks and add layers. Layer your plates and bowls for a more dramatic look, with napkins placed underneath.

5. When placing all your decorative items and botanicals make sure you move around the table and check that it looks good from all angles - remember every guest with have a different view.

6. Hidden presents - I like to surprise my guest and hide fun or silly gifts amongst the botanicals and leave little messages for people to find throughout the night. It's a great talking point and can be lots of fun.


7. Don't forget candles - a flickery candle is a great way to set the tone. Mix them up and use different candles at various heights. Here I used large pillar candles, tea lights and made pumpkin tea lights. 

8. Table names are great if you want your dinner guest to sit in a particular place or for more formal occasions. In the spirit of Halloween I sprayed small pumpkins white and added a tag.

9. Above all just have fun with it and get creative.  Use dry ice for a bit of drama, gold spray paint or even glitter. There are so many fun ways to dress a table and I'm sure with a little thought you'll come up with something amazing.

IMG_9828 2.jpg

10. Mix and match your crockery - We used our Nordic Sand and Sea range from Broste Copenhagen. There are so many ways you can do this using vintage crockery or mix and matching different colours. All matching crockery can be a bit predictable so I say go bold and mix it up.

11. Prep is key - create your centrepiece the day before and lay your table out the night before so that on the day you can focus on the food. Depending on the type of botanicals you use it should last for a day or two.


How to guides

Pumpkin planter with succulents

Pumpkin planter with succulents

Pumpkin Planter With Succulents

1. Choose your pumpkin - there are so many varieties and I particularly like this sage colour that I bought from Planet Organic. The ghost pumpkins also look great.


2. Use a round object to make a circle on the top of the pumpkin. Using a pumpkin cutting tool cut around the circle and remove the lid and flesh. Tip - keep the flesh and use it in the pumpkin risotto.

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 12.20.42.png

3. Add succulent soil to the pumpkin and then simply select and arrange your succulent plants.


Pumpkin tea lights


1. Buy the smallest pumpkin you can find that will snugly fit a tea light. I bought mine from Sainsburys.

2. Use the base of the tea light to draw a circle on top and cut using the pumpkin tool. Remove flesh.

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 12.21.04.png

3. You can either add the tea light or you can paint the pumpkin for a more dramatic effect. I went for white but gold, silver or glitter would also look good.

Name Holder


1. Simply buy a small pumpkin and spray paint your desired colour and add a name tag. How simple is that?

I hope you enjoyed our Food Stories Halloween special as much as we did. I hope you got some inspiration from this post; please comment below with any tips you have for entertaining this season. Have fun creating!

Sommer x