Penny Lyons is here to tell you that entertaining does not have to be hard. Lyons — founder of the website Lyonslifestyle — and her husband, Jim, have been throwing parties and events of all sizes and stripes for nearly four decades, styling ﬂorals, menus and tablescapes, plus designing and preparing her own food and cocktails. Lyons says her goal is to bring back elegant at-home entertaining by proving it can be simple (you don’t have to do everything yourself!) and inexpensive (she’s a big proponent of mixing high-end and low-end pieces). The key? “Making the ordinary extraordinary,” she says. She created this Nantucket-inspired elegantly casual lobster dinner beside the pool at ICON Harbour Island exclusively to inspire TAMPA Magazine readers. Here are her top tips for pulling off your own get-together.
Begin with an inspiration
“My inspiration for a poolside lobster dinner was my love for al fresco dining while taking advantage of Tampa living, combined with my favorite summer meal — baked stuffed lobsters, a recipe handed down from my mother-in-law,” Lyons says. She adds that guests love sitting at a beautifully and thoughtfully appointed table. “It says, ‘I’m happy you’re here and I’ve gone the extra mile to make you feel special.’”
Create a cohesive color scheme for your whole party
The Connecticut native says she’s passionate about blue and white, an eternally popular color scheme that’s found in pieces to ﬁt any budget. Everything in her setup ﬁts the theme, from the stemware to the wine labels to her own Lily Pulitzer dress. Lyons found her place settings and the garden stools atop the cocktail bar at Coton Colors, one of her favorite Tampa boutiques. “The plates are bold in color and design and are perfect for poolside dining,” she adds. “I also love to mix and match patterns and styles and sizes. There are no rules in entertaining.”
Select a “pop” color
“A pop of color is always a welcomed idea, and a blue and white color scheme provides just the right canvas,” Lyons says. For this dinner party, she chose yellow as her “pop,” inspired by the lemon served alongside the lobsters and found in the center-piece, the lemon four-layer cake, the Mexican sweet corn, lemonade with blueberries, melted butter and more.
Add a touch of whimsy
Lyons says this is one of her secret weapons. For this table she chose starﬁsh, which she tied with raffia to the colander found at each place setting. She also added tin pail ice buckets and a Simon Pierce glass star from her private collection. “These touches of whimsy often serve to spark immediate convivial conversation when guests are seated,” Lyons adds.