An All-Ages Brunch Party

How to throw a daytime soiree with crafts, treats, and fun for both kids and adults. Superhero capes a plus

A spring woodland–themed table at Brooklyn's Curious Jane included a crowd-pleasing brunch spread from Runner & Stone. Props and products from Octavia & Brown, Serene Spaces Living, and NY Topiary, among others.
A spring woodland–themed table at Brooklyn's Curious Jane included a crowd-pleasing brunch spread from Runner & Stone. Props and products from Octavia & Brown, Serene Spaces Living, and NY Topiary, among others.

If there’s one thing I love to do, it’s plan a party—and I’m lucky enough to have had many memorable celebrations in my life. The rager I threw with my best friend, Meredith, on our junior year abroad in Paris, after which her bougie Luxembourg Gardens apartment would never be the same. My wedding reception at a Balinese-themed courtyard in San Francisco, complete with a sexy bossa-nova band and the smooth jazz stylings of Marcus Shelby. The Lonny relaunch party last summer at a $12 million triplex penthouse in SoHo. But now that I’m a mom and officially on the toddler-birthday circuit, my goal was to plan an event that would be equally enthralling for kids and adults. After all, who better than my friends, family, and neighbors—my support system for the last four years—to help me celebrate getting through those intense early years of parenting?

To be clear: I’ve got absolutely nothing against Disney. Heck, I’ve been known to enlist the babysitting services of Elsa and Anna on many, many an occasion (long car rides; unexpected conference calls; lazy weekend mornings. Don’t judge). But when it came time to plan the joint birthday party for my four-year-old daughter, Poppy, and my three-year-old son, Rhys, I had something a little different in mind. Because both of my kids loved fairies and forests, I wanted to come up with a concept that expressed their interests and captured their imagination without being overly literal. Thanks to my job at Lonny, I had amazing design resources to draw upon. And of course, this party would be the perfect excuse to have some fun with styling out a few tabletop scenarios.   

Little did I know it would turn out to be a truly epic event—complete with superhero capes, DIY magic wands that actually lit up, decadent brunch treats from a master baker, and a dessert bar for the ages. (Also: topiaries!) Here’s how it all came together, with massive thanks to all the players involved.

A brass rabbit and vintage scale as party decor: why not?
A brass rabbit and vintage scale as party decor: why not?
My little family in birthday-party mode.
My little family in birthday-party mode.

THE SETTING

In the artistic, industrial-atmospheric neighborhood of Gowanus, Brooklyn, Curious Jane is one of those gems that celebrate creativity and childhood in a fresh and engaging way. The brainchild of local mom Samantha Murphy, the company provides classes, camps, and parties and events for girls ages six to 11. “Everything we do is project-based and all about tinkering and exploring,” says Murphy. “Our goal is to remove fear of failure and let the girls create, invent, troubleshoot, and build.”

With its high ceilings, large windows, and colorful hand-painted fabric panels by Brooklyn’s Fort Makers, the Curious Jane studio is a natural fit for an all-ages party. On one side of the space, we set up the expansive brunch table and bar; on the other, the children’s craft table, staffed by three patient, personable instructors with an innate knack for storytelling. The theme of the party was Magic and Mystery, which brings together “surprise, sparkle, sleights of hand, fairy houses, elements of nature, and more,” explains marketing and outreach coordinator Melisa Coburn. During the party, my kids and their friends were absolutely enraptured by the projects—a decorate-your-own superhero cape and a DIY wand with a battery-powered light—and could have kept going all day, without a single bored attitude or toddler tantrum in the mix. “Last summer, we invited girls to recommend projects and themes via our Curious Jane Idea Quest, which inspired popular new classes such as Kitchen Chemistry, Mini Pet Design, and Spa Science,” says Murphy. (Click here for an easy DIY Glitter Jars project from their Spring 2015 magazine.) All I can say is: where was Curious Jane when I was growing up?

The crafts area evoked the spring woodland theme with Laura Kicey's Moonbeam Tapestry from Urban Outfitters. 
The crafts area evoked the spring woodland theme with Laura Kicey's Moonbeam Tapestry from Urban Outfitters. 

THE DESSERT TABLE

One of the places I miss most from San Francisco, where I used to live, is Miette. The storybook patisserie—a dream destination for lovers of sweets and old-fashioned candy-shop interiors—bakes up some of the most scrumptious treats around, from melt-in-your-mouth chocolate shortbread cookies to fleur de sel caramels. Proust’s madeleine had nothing on Miette founder Meg Ray’s macaron.

To welcome guests to the party and provide them with a generous, help-yourself way to create their own goodie bags, I set up a dessert table of Miette goodies on the company’s signature jadeite cake stands. (Also in the mix: vintage-style candy dishes and platters from Manhattan vintage prop-rental company Octavia & Brown, and a candy-stripe tablecloth from online party-supply shop Meri Meri. “You need both variation and uniformity—for example, cake stands and serving plates need to be different heights, but of a similar style,” advises Ray. “You don't want one item to overshadow the others. And don't try to say too much with candy; it's more of a colorway than a delicious, homemade dessert.”

An All-Ages Brunch Party
An All-Ages Brunch Party

THE BRUNCH SPREAD

Why don’t more people throw brunch parties? It’s such a simple, crowd-pleasing meal, with the promise of an entire day ahead to work off the mimosas. Luckily, we had Runner & Stone within easy reach of our party location. Known for their sui generis breads and pastries, baked in-house by Per Se alum Peter Endriss, the restaurant is one of Brooklyn’s most popular brunch destinations. Endriss and his team planned a menu of market quiches, salads, baked French toast with homemade raspberry preserves, and all the pastries our group of happy guests could keep down.

Riffing off the fairies-and-forests theme, Lonny staffer Sarah Jean Shelton and I styled out a spring woodland table incorporating natural materials such as vintage woods and greenery at various heights. The vintage prop-rental house Octavia & Brown, a Lonny favorite, provided many of the table’s structural pieces (trays and boxes), as well as its most eclectic flourishes (old books and brass mice). Textural elements such as moss runners, mercury-glass mushrooms, bark vases, and silk rose pomanders came from Serene Spaces Living, a fabulous new source for tabletop accessories and home decor. And because I’m crazy about boxwood, ferns, and topiaries—I mixed both fresh and faux for the lush and layered forest effect. Boxwood mats and balls came from Serene Spaces Living, as well as Bunny Williams’s Treillage; and the stunning ornamental myrtles, potted mosses, and ferns were the proud products of Milton Candelario’s NY Topiary, a must-visit shop in Manhattan’s Flower District for anyone who loves unusual plants.

How to Throw a Kids’ Party with Vintage Decor

In this day and age of disposable toys and an ever-changing lineup of animated movie characters, planning a child’s birthday party can seem like a daunting task. Here, tips from Octavia & Brown founder Liz Geddes on decorating a memorable celebration with vintage flair. 

 

  • PICK A THEME

    “Just because you’ve decided to skip the Frozen party route doesn’t mean you can’t have a fun, kid-friendly concept,” says Geddes. “We love flower and woodland themes in the spring and hot chocolate + sledding in the winter.” 

  • STACK, MIX, AND LAYER

    “Use vintage boxes and crates to create height-filled displays on food and dessert tables. Layer linens and don’t be afraid to flip the boxes upside down and around to achieve the best look. Add vintage cake stands, tins, and containers for a pin-worthy table.” 

  • THROW A PICNIC

    Grab a stack of wool blankets and have your guests head to the park. (Look for Pendleton, Hudson, or wool camp blankets at antiques stores in the summer.) “We love to stock vintage wicker picnic baskets with wine and goodies for the adults, while loading small retro camping tins with snacks for the kids,” says Geddes. 

  • ADD CHARACTERS IN SMALL DOSES

    “Find opportunities to work your child’s favorite toy into the party. We love to hide mini superheroes in the table decor and around the event space. At the start of the party, ask tiny guests to keep their eyes out and then collect them before they leave.”

An All-Ages Brunch Party

THE DETAILS

Because no party is complete without a disco ball, Curious Jane’s Samantha Murphy suspended one over a seating area and set up an impromptu photo booth—complete with fan!—so the kids could pose with their light-up wands as their superhero capes billowed behind them. Almost every surface of the space was embellished with a creative element, down to a bathroom wall turned into a gallery of some of my favorite washi-taped photos of Poppy and Rhys. In place of traditional birthday cakes, we stayed artisan and local with two pies from Four & Twenty Blackbirds. As for my children’s reaction? “This is the best day ever,” Poppy announced with her arms around her brother. They may not remember this party, but I sure will.

Curious Jane's decorate-your-own superhero capes were a huge hit with party guests.
Curious Jane's decorate-your-own superhero capes were a huge hit with party guests.
Create a casual gallery wall with washi tape and your favorite snapshots from family vacations.
Create a casual gallery wall with washi tape and your favorite snapshots from family vacations.
An All-Ages Brunch Party
And then there was pie: black-bottom oat and salted caramel apple from Four & Twenty Blackbirds. 
And then there was pie: black-bottom oat and salted caramel apple from Four & Twenty Blackbirds
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