Lisa Cannon and the art of hosting the perfect party
TV presenter entertains in style, though the ideal evening will inevitably end with dancing
A selection of table items at Lisa Cannon’s home. Cutlery and table linen, Meadows & Byrne; napkin rings, Vera Wang. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Lisa Cannon sets her table with charger plates, simple flowers and lots of candles
If you’re invited over to Lisa Cannon’s pad for a bite, brunch or a banquet, you can be sure you’re in for a good time. The TV3 Saturday AM host loves entertaining and want guests to walk in and think, wow “she’s pulled out all the stops”.
If hosting a formal dinner, Cannon confesses to buying most of the menu at Avoca – “I don’t want to poison anyone” – and putting more effort into the table than anything else. “Charger plates are a must, they add a touch of glamour and help dictate the colour scheme for the rest of the table. Proper, pressed linen is non-negotiable, I love napkins, napkin rings and placeholders by Rachel Ashwell, and while I’m fond of tablecloths, they only make an appearance at Christmas in our house.”
Cannon recalls spending many hours as a student working in five-star hotels, where all waiting staff had to hand wash and polish all wine glasses and cutlery to a sparkle before they made it near a table. “I still do it to this day – there’s nothing worse than been given a lipstick-marked glass, or a knife with dishwasher gunk all over it,” says Cannon. “Apart from one Waterford glass vase, which I love (as photographed), I veer away from crystal glassware, even though I’ve inherited lots of it. I just feel it can look too fussy and I would get freaked out if my guests smash a family heirloom. So I keep the water and wine glasses simple and put glass tags on each stem, so guests know which glass is theirs: I’ve fun ones that say tipsy, rowdy, muddled, flirty as they’re easier to remember than a shoe or love heart, five glasses later.”
For atmosphere, Cannon is all about candles. “My husband Richard often walks in and jokes, are we about to make a sacrifice there’s so many candles burning. A few stocky church candles on a decorative holder make a simple centerpiece, but neither should be so high you can’t see the guest across from you. And then I’ve scented candles burning anywhere else I can find a surface.”
A Nineties-themed Spotify playlist sets the tone in the background and flowers will be plucked from Lisa’s garden if in season. “For proper dinner parties, I nip down to Foxrock Flowers for heirloom roses and arrange them in a goldfish bowl vase, but for more casual affairs I’ll snip some hydrangeas or a big bunch of lavender from the back and make into a centrepiece.
“I often tie one or two twigs of lavender together with a ribbon and place on each plate. Or if I’m feeling romantic, I’ll place an individual rose in with each napkin,” says Cannon.
But it’s not all silverware and formalities Chez Cannon. “If we’re having the neighbours over for Christmas drinks, or Richard’s crew of lads, I just lay big platters of salamis with grapes, mini jars of pate with bruschetta, and I have this cute little cheese house which you stack with different types of cheese on each level. It gets savaged every time,” says Cannon.
There’s buckets of beer and champagne, “but I find men have no appreciation of champagne, so I just sneak them prosecco, they never notice the difference,” winks Cannon. “For wine, we go to Corkscrew on Chatham Street and take their recommendations. It might be a gorgeous red from some odd boutique vineyard in New Zealand that costs €7 and it’s received better than an expensive bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
“These nights invariably end up rather messy with everyone dancing around the living room to club classics, and often go on till 6am the next morning. One of our neighbours said he didn’t get out of bed for two days after the last one we had and even slept through his birthday.” Moral of the story? Keeping up with the Cannons is not for the fainthearted.
Lisa Cannon will give a talk: Tablescaping and Entertaining Ideas and Inspiration in The Irish Times Home & Design Theatre at the Ideal Home Show on Saturday, October 29th.