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June 24, 2021 - Atomic Ranch Magazine, Set The Scene For A Mid Century Modern Garden Party


Written By Kathryn Drury Wagner And Photography By Ruby Lane


The weather is warm, we’re finally gathering again—now is the perfect time to throw a Mid Century-inspired garden party. Imagine a lively color palette, the clinking of ice in vintage glasses, and the happy sounds of guests conversing.  

“The Mid Century aesthetic never goes out of style,” observes Ruby Lane Chief Marketing Officer Gisele Barrau-Freeman. “Whether it’s art, accessories, furniture or fashion, there is so much from that era to draw from.” We turned to Ruby Lane to hunt for authentic supplies for channeling the exuberant spirit of a 1950s or 1960s garden party. Here’s what we found.   

Host with the Most 

A proper MCM host would have sent written invitations. Digital invites are fine for our times, but if you really want to set the scene, original, never used invites still can be found online and will set the tone for a stellar soirée.  

vintage party invitation
Vintage party invitations feature graphics and fonts that capture the feeling of the Mid Century.


Mid Century Garden Party: Making Over the Space  

When it comes to creating a perfect Mid-Mod garden party, it doesn’t matter if you have a tiny patio or a large, lushly landscaped backyard. Strategically placed seating, a dining set and eye-catching lighting are where it’s at.  

A few days before the party, mow the lawn if you have one, trim any unruly shrubs, and hose off outdoor seating areas so everything is sparkling. For a dazzling backdrop, plan lighting such as string lights, tiki torches or LED votives. Fresh flowers and quality cocktail napkins help take the party to the next level, too.   

Arrange seating, like these aluminum lawn chairs, and cocktail tables in conversation areas of two to three.  

aluminum patio outdoor lounge chairs
A pair of Mid Century aluminum lounge chairs, with newly made cushions.


On the Menu  

You don’t need to be a master chef to expertly feed guests. Vintage relish trays and chip and dips turn easy party staples like crudité platters and guacamole into special offerings 


vintage anchor hocking 7-piece relish serving set


anchor hocking chip and dip bowls
Both serving items are by Anchor Hocking. At the top, 7-piece relish service set, and directly above, a 1960s chip and dip bowl in Swedish Modern pattern.


For MCM flair, offer retro hors doeuvres, such as rumaki, crab Rangoon, deviled eggs and stuffed mushrooms. If you want to go all out, you could hire a local teenager to pass food around on trays. Or arrange tidbits on a tiered serving tray for a help-yourself display. 

vintage two tiered serving tray
Vintage root beer brown Lucite server.

Themed parties—hello, Hawaiian luau—were popular at Mid Century. For inspiration, turn to vintage cookbook, like Betty Crocker’s Outdoor Cook BookIt has tips on how to master outdoor feasts for all occasions, from the very specific “Supper on the Pontoon Boat,” to poolside buffets, patio parties and barbecues. Or choose a regional cookbook and let that dictate a theme for the party foodTexas’ beaten biscuits, stuffed crab, and brandied peaches? Yes, please!  


vintage cookbook

vintage cookbook
A first edition of Betty Crocker’s Outdoor Cook Book, released in 1961, top, and 1965’s The Texas Cookbook.


A Mid Century Buffet Table  

For both style and safety, keep hot foods hot, and cold foods cold. For chilled foods, place a shallow pan of ice underneath the serving platter. With hot foods, use a chafing dish. (Food trivia: The term “chafing” comes from the French for chauffer, which means to heat.) 

Mid Century chafing dishes come in aluminum, copper, glass, silverplate and stainless steel, and can be works of art unto themselves. For example, designer Georges Briard, working in the 1950s to 1970s, was known for gold and metallic work in his dishware and glassware, displayed in this lovely ceramic-topped chafing dish.  

Georges Briard chafing dish
An Ambrosia pattern chafing dish by Georges Briard, featuring a Fire-King casserole dish inside.


Cocktail Hour 

During the 1950s, rum and gin drinks were the epitome of chic, so mai tais, martinis and Cuba Libres would all be spot-on cocktail choices. But for a summer afternoon or evening, it’s hard to beat a Tom Collins. Here’s how to make this refreshing cocktail:  

  • Step 1: Fill a tall glass with ice. 
  • Step 2: Pour in 2 ounces of London dry gin, 1 ounce of freshly squeezed lemon juice and 1/2 ounce of simple syrup. 
  • Step 3: Top with club soda and garnish with a lemon wheel and maraschino cherry. 

Offer non-alcoholic options like a pitcher of lemonade, bottles of ginger beer and a variety of flavored seltzers. 

copper and wood MCM vintage pitcher
A handmade copper and wood Modernist pitcher.

Vintage Barware  

Of course, a mid century garden party requires some vintage barware. Swinging ’60s sips deserve to be served in style. Champagne goes in coupes, mixed drinks in 3- to 6-ounce cocktail glasses, and tall glasses for Tom Collins—referred to as a highball or… you guessed it… a Tom Collins glass.  

Tom Collins glasses
This vintage gold bamboo-wrapped glassware set belongs on a swanky patio.
turquoise etched vintage mid century modern glasses
Add a pop of color with 1960s glassware.

Retro ice buckets allow guests to freshen their own cocktails and keep sparkling and white wine cold. Teak versions, like those designed for Dansk by Jens Quistgaard, work well in a yard with lots of foliage or a tiki party, while acrylic versions, such as this Guzzini design, have a sleek, Space Age appeal. 

Jens Quistgaard teak ice bucket


Guzzini vintage ice bucket
The Dansk Designs famed “Congo” (top) has a staved teak construction beloved by fans of MCM Danish designs. Directly above, a Guzzini ice bucket with futuristic stylings.


Mid Century Movers and Shakers 

Early versions of cocktail shakers were often ornate, silverplate, spouted affairs, but by the Mid Century, shakers and bar accessories were less formal. Shake—don’t stir—with a vintage cocktail shaker with plenty of personality.  

mid century cocktail shaker
Hmm, what to mix for a Libra? Whatever you choose, you can use this vintage cocktail shaker.


Looking for more tips on authentic Mid Century entertaining? Check out 10 Things You Need to Do When Shopping for Vintage MCM Online.



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