Make a garden party look expensive on a budget - clever hacks from hosting guru Laura Jackson

Hosting at home has never been easier

Laura Jackson sat on armchair in her home
(Image credit: Laura Jackson)

We've officially entered our hosting era on the Ideal Home desk, and it's partly inspired by hosting guru Laura Jackson. The TV presenter and co-founder of interiors marketplace, Glassette, has inspired us with her favourite savvy hosting tips that offer that organic quiet luxury aesthetic, on a down-to-earth budget. 

Entertaining at home is in full swing this year, with many of us sacrificing holidays abroad for the British seaside or even our own gardens. And it's easier than ever to invoke the holiday spirit with some homespun hosting tips - you can even take yourself to Sicily with the Italian Nonna Chic trend.

In the brand new series, Britain's Best Beach Huts, we see Jay Blades and Laura Jackson explore the UK coastline for the best-decorated huts - from a 1940s vintage emporium to a premium bolthole on the country's most expensive beachfront. With ample inspiration to make the most of a Great British Summer, we're also looking to how we can host at home to enjoy every single second of the sought-after sun. 

So whether you have a small garden to work with or a ready-made outdoor kitchen and living room, follow Laura's tips for hosting a la British seaside. 

How to host a garden party like Laura Jackson

Hosting at home has never been simpler thanks to many thrifty tips that mean you don't have to spend much money to create a party for your friends to write home about. Whether you're looking for budget garden ideas to enjoy your own space or if you're lucky enough to relish in dining on the beach front, you can easily put together a picnic-esque set-up. 

'We've got some gorgeous landscapes, amazing people, brilliant chefs and restauranteurs in this country,' gushes Laura Jackson. 'I think it's just it made me realize how I want to spend more time in the UK as a whole.' We didn't need any more convincing! 

1. Make your own napkins

Pink napkin on plate on table with dried flowers tied around.

(Image credit: Future)

One easy way to make a tablescape feel complete is with napkins - but not the paper kind. Cloth napkins, particularly linen, make an outdoor dining set-up look restaurant quality and will make guests feel like you've gone to the utmost effort. 

You can of course buy these new, but Laura suggests 'go to your nearest linen shop. There's a really big cheap one near me in London.'

'I think just going and getting really inexpensive materials and making your own. Even Etsy will sell off-cuts which are more sustainable.' 

You don't have to worry about owning or knowing how to use a sewing machine either. 'I just used to tear it. I used to cut it and then peel the edges off so they're all nice and frayed, so you never have to get them tailored,' advises Laura. The result? A table design that looks chic and purposefully off the cuff. 

2. Elevate ice cubes

Gin glass with ice cube with pomegranate seeds.

(Image credit: Future)

When hosting at home, the attention is really in the detail. Small, inexpensive touches will have the biggest impact when wowing guests, or just making the mundane moments at home feel extra special. 

Ice cubes are simple to amp up depending on the theme of your menu, or drinks. Laura recommends 'making an ice cube with edible flowers. It's all of those little touches that you can do to make something feel really special.' The larger the ice cub, the more room you have to make a statement, so we recommend opting for a playful sphere style like this from Amazon.

Not only do they take almost no time at all to prepare but they can also be frozen and kept aside for way past your event. This way you can make sure your garden bar is kept stocked up and you can enjoy a slice of the good life day to day. 

3. Decorate your own tablecloth

Hosting, or enjoying, elaborate dinners with children can be a challenge, which is something that Laura knows all too well. The key to making dinnertime pleasant for both adults and kids is all in providing them with an activity to make it feel like playtime. However, you might not want toys strewn across your tablescape. 

Instead, Laura suggests opting for 'brown paper that we let the kids draw on if we're wanting to do a pizza night or even a dinner party.' 

This keeps the kids busy with colouring but also leans into the down-to-earth cafe aesthetic that is popular for casual summer hosting. 

4. Go picnic style

Garden with outdoor seating as pillows on grass

(Image credit: Future)

No room for a garden table? No worries - just sit on the floor. Whether you're hosting in your garden or on the beach, laying down a blanket and some outdoor cushions creates a casual environment perfectly positioned for catching up with friends and family. 

It's also a quick and easy way to elevate a regular weeknight meal. 'Having dinner on the floor as a picnic is always really nice,' enthuses Laura. 'Whenever I'm thinking about what can I do for the kids tonight and it's been warm, we've just had a picnic in the garden. Just put down a blanket and some indoor cushions.'

5. Make use of your beach treasures

Tablescape with shells used for food on plates

(Image credit: Future)

Trips to the seaside are useful for more than just R&R time, it's also a chance to stock up on table accessories for free. 

Laura's genius idea to 'put things in shells. Whether that be salt and pepper or even butter,' is a great way to bring a holiday aesthetic to hosting at home, and will act as a centrepiece for the rest of your table decor. 

You can also use shells as a makeshift mini bowl for presenting your meal - just make sure you wash them thoroughly first. 

6. Don't forget lighting

Outdoor table lamp on dining table set outside, wine bottle in cooler and flowers in vase

(Image credit: Pooky)

Ambience is everything when hosting, even if summer nights offer plenty of light much later on. When the sun starts to set, set the mood with lamps and candles, instead of turning the big light on. 

'Focusing on lighting is always great,' says Laura. 'Whether it's one of those little Tala lamps or even candles, you can turn it right down. I think it's all of the bits and bobs that can really elevate a dinner.' You can even DIY your own garden lighting with a touch base and lightbulb which is great if your budget is smaller.

There we have it, follow in Laura's footsteps for a dinner party that is equal parts stunning and savvy.

Holly Cockburn
Content Editor

After starting out her journey at Future as a Features Editor on Top Ten Reviews, Holly is now a Content Editor at Ideal Home, writing about the best interior ideas and news. At Top Ten Reviews, she focussed on TikTok viral cleaning hacks as well as how to take care of investment purchases such as lawn mowers, washing machines and vacuum cleaners. Prior to this, Holly was apart of the editorial team at Howdens which sparked her interest in interior design, and more specifically, kitchens (Shaker is her favourite!).