I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: you cannot host a vintage party without enough candles to potentially burn your house down. Of course, you don’t actually want to incinerate your home or anyone in it, so I would suggest a) keeping the candles away from arm level to protect them from the wild gesticulations of your guests and b) putting something non flammable underneath them. A good tip to maximise the light from your candles is to place them where possible in front of mirrors.
I know, not necessarily something you would imagine a necessity for a 1930s soiree, but believe me it makes all the difference. Every Agatha Christie I’ve ever read seems to contain a – significant or otherwise – bowl of chrysanthemums (how does that even work?), but to be honest anything will do. Interestingly, I find potted ferns just scream vintage, and a good arrangement of classic roses also really adds the edge.
Even if this is the only tip you incorporate, I cannot stress its importance enough. The right music will immediately set the scene and make your guests feel more in character and more relaxed. For 1930s, think jazzy or sentimental and, if possible, crackly. You want your guests to feel like they’re in an old movie. If you happen to have a record player and any 1930s records, this would, of course, be perfect; if not, YouTube is awash with vintage playlists or you can buy 1930s CDs online.
#4 Glassware and China
A party suddenly seems so much more vintage when the glassware and the china are old fashioned. If you happen to find some art deco style china in your local charity shop, amazing; if not, I really find anything a bit chintzy will do. And as for glassware, I have literally seen the shyest people in the world become positively RADA when clutching a champagne bowl or martini glass. I don’t know why, but it just works. It will also make your event photos at least marginally less awkward on account of people having something to do with their hands.
#5 Backdrops & Props
Let’s be realistic: it’s hard vintageise your whole house without making some serious lifestyle changes and spending at least a month anxiously bidding on EBay, so focus on just one wall or corner. Cheap art deco posters can be found online, and a wall of these will really add a vintage feel. And you definitely can’t go wrong with an old-fashioned telephone or cigarette holder for people to pose with. I can guarantee you’ll end the night with some wall-gallery worthy photos of your party and a lot of happy guests!
I have recently moved home, to a sweet little flat in Greenwich. Too sweet. It needs some blood on the walls, and by that I mean some decent crime fiction posters to give the chintz an edge. With the new wave in typography wall art, I expected to be picking through pages of beautifully illustrated crime quotes and covers. It seems, however, that detective fiction has been somehow left out of this lucrative loop. So here’s a wishful post of genius crime fiction covers and art I would happily have adorning my home. Print, frame and sell them to me somebody, please.
From left to right: Crime novel by Lillian Bergquist and Irving Moore, published in the UK by Sampson Low in 1949. Set in Los Angeles, California (source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamie179); Raymond Chandler quote by Ben Newman (source: http://benhasapencil.blogspot.co.uk); crime fiction cover art by Robert McGinnis (source http://fantasy-ink.blogspot.co.uk); The New York Trilogy cover, by Paul Auster (source: http://ffffound.com); Cold Shot to the Heart, Wallace Stroby, Minotaur Books; Helen Grant, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden.