Spring Soiree Hosting

with Camila Paffen

Eleven years ago I traveled to Colombia for the first time, and of the many takeaways from that trip was the realization that Colombians are consummate hosts- a belief that has only deepened throughout the years I’ve spent in this country I now call home. Whether it’s their mastery at setting a stylish table, a talent for ensuring your glass is never empty or the skill of concocting an ambiance of chemistry and connection, I’m convinced Colombians possess a sixth sense when it comes to entertaining. 

With springtime in full swing comes an eagerness for long lunches that lead into dinners surrounded by friends. City bound for the season and itching to satiate my need for warmth and color indoors, I sat down with Camila Paffen, founder of Casadfiori, for insight. As a florist, she knows her way around party planning and tablescapes. Here she reveals more about her particular art of hosting.

How would you describe your hosting style?

Bold and special. In my house I enjoy anything from setting a table and cooking to choosing the playlist for day and night.

When hosting at home, where do you begin?

Aroma is the first thing. I tend to every detail. I use a special aroma for the linens, the house and the bathrooms. I love when my guests tell me that they love the way the whole house smells.

Seating plan or open table?

I used to always opt for assigned seats, but then I realized the magic in meeting or running into someone with whom you want to talk and with whom the conversation flows. Knowing that you will not be separated from this person when it comes time to sit is comforting.

As a floral aficionado, do you have a preferred floral table top arrangement?

Thank you! Flowers have always been a part of my life since I was little when my mother would celebrate me, and until today when I receive them full of love. I think that waking up and seeing your house full of flowers, somehow, makes you a different woman, it makes you wake up full of happiness no matter what.

I always use carnations for the table. Although they say these are very common, the ones I use in my house are far from it. They always come in many colors and unique patterns within the flower. It’s a different type of touch that I personally enjoy.

Are there any particular homeware or tableware brands you collect?

I have been collecting objects from Christofle for several years now. It’s something that can be passed from generation to generation if you take good care of it. I don’t like to play into consumerism. On the contrary, I carefully choose pieces I can keep with me throughout my life, and perhaps the lives of my future children.

What’s the biggest hosting faux pas you’ve experienced?

For me, it’s not so terrible to have minor etiquette errors. Nowadays, everything is a little more funky. In my house, I focus more on the enjoyment of my guests and not about whether the plate is raised to the right or the left. What I do not tolerate is a distant host who makes the waiters or workers do everything. To me, being present and letting your guests know is the most important part of the night.

Buffet or plated meals?

Plated meals. It gives you time to look people in the eye before eating, and to chat a bit while serving.

Best kind of menu for a springtime gathering?

Something fresh. During the day I would go with a ceviche, salted branzino, Greek salad and lemon potatoes. In the evening, maybe something even lighter, like a tuna salad with mangoes. There is one I replicate from Hillstone’s. And although in my house one always eats very healthy, we never skip dessert. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I love sweets, and I usually offer my guests two or three different types of desserts.

In Colombia, a good bar is never lacking at a party. What are you serving at home these days? 

Our friends drink everything, so I always stock anything they might ask for. We usually start with wine and then move on to something stronger. I’m not a soft liquor person, so I always have very good whiskey. It’s the only thing I enjoy drinking.

What’s your approach to guest lists?

I always like the guests on my list to have things in common. I feel like the night flows easier this way. Although, from time to time, I might mix things up a bit to see what happens.

What’s on your playlist?

I’m very Burning Man in my music, Arabic and Spanish songs, a good mix. I have my entire playlist on SoundCloud, for the beginning, and also for the end of the night. You can find me under my name Camila Paffen. I know you’ll like it.

Do you believe in party favors? 

No, I think the best gift for a guest is the memory of a magnificent night the next day.

Any personal unexpected touches that make a difference?

My house is on a mountain. I think it’s really special when the sun begins to set and we light the narguile on the balcony while watching the sun descend behind the mountains. It is something very nice to see.

A non-negotiable when it comes to hosting?

Good attitude. It’s the key to everything. When you’re feeling good, everything works out, people are happy. Very different from doing things reluctantly or out of obligation.

Describe your ideal lunch or dinner party.

My ideal dinner or lunch is one in which we are all happy at a table where there is a lot of love and smiling faces. Of course, good food, good dessert and good music.