creates flower arrangements in advance of his
added on a sun terrace overlooking the existing cocktail terrace.
outdoor celebrations are low on prep
but high on style
For interior designer Skip Sroka, principal of Bethesda, Maryland-based Sroka Design, the impromptu dinner party he held last September at his Washington home was especially bittersweet.
Not only was summer drawing to a close, but he
partner, John Kammeier, had just finalized plans for a new custom home in DC and construction would soon be underway.
This would be the final al fresco party they would host in their home of 10 years.
But when it comes to entertaining, Sroka
has never been one to fuss-for reasons sentimental or otherwise.
pulled out dinnerware a few hours before guests would arrive.
The outdoor table was set, the napkins folded and the salad plates placed on trays on the island awaiting last-minute assembly.
also lined up dozens of votive candles on the tables and terrace walls.
"Candles are one of the most inexpensive ways to create that festive mood," he
Minutes before the first arrivals, Sroka
put a few prepared spreads and crackers on trays.
lit a low fire under the pot of homemade pasta sauce that he
had prepared the day before.
greeted guests, poured libations and chatted on the terrace until it was time to cook the pasta.
makes entertaining look like a breeze, a lot of careful planning and innovation went into designing this home where traffic easily flows in and out through seven pairs of French doors.
In 2001, Sroka
and Kammeier gutted and completely rebuilt their 1942 residence-once home to legendary broadcaster Edward R. Murrow.
"About four years ago we decided to expand the terraces and create a few more outdoor rooms," Sroka
"The living room had a cocktail terrace, but then we created the sun terrace behind it.
And we pushed the area around the kitchen forward with a retaining wall to create a really nice outdoor space."
Over the years, he
and Kammeier used the terraces constantly, whether enjoying a quiet breakfast over the newspaper or hosting a large party.
"For as much as people complain about Washington," says Sroka
, "there are actually a lot of nice days that you get to be out."
Once dinner was finally served (delayed ever so slightly by a photo shoot underway), Sroka's friends were chatting up a storm.
was the life of the party-only leaving his
friends to stir the sauce or open a wine bottle.
also enlisted help from his
guests, who were happy to plate the salads or fill the water glasses.