Photos by Friesen Photography
Portrait by Haley Frost Creative
As the owner of boutique rental company, Gathered., Carrie Brusven knows that the secret to planning an unforgettable event is creating an atmosphere for your audience. When her mother-in-law asked Brusven to help stage an informal meeting, she decided to take their potluck one step further to create a lakeside dinner party that guests will be gushing about for years to come.
Don’t worry if you weren’t on the list because we’ll make you feel as if you were there and share inspiration that will help you design your next outdoor get-together.
Meet Carrie Brusven
Carrie Brusven is the owner and lead designer of Gathered. Boutique Rentals & Events, a business that provides furniture, décor and staging for special events. All of the items in their inventory are hand-picked by Brusven, and many of the pieces are unique, vintage heirlooms that you would be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.
For this event, Brusven was tasked with staging a styled cocktail party, followed by a sit-down dinner for her mother-in-law’s book club and their husbands. In total, the party consisted of 12 adults.
The location of the dinner party was outside of the client’s cabin on West Battle Lake. “It was just the perfect spot. They had this great-big, wide-open, flat space before it dropped down to the lake. It was made for a little cocktail party,” Brusven said.
Brusven took her inspiration from the one thing that all of the party members had in common. They were all connected through the book club. That is why she chose to use books and a typewriter throughout the dinner party décor, because she wanted to tell the story of their friendship.
“We pick items for the stories they have to tell.”
When planning the staging of this event, Brusven began by deciding where they were going to serve refreshments. Once that was settled, she knew what she would need next. With every cocktail party, Brusven likes to create a bar-front, bar-back and an area where guests can visit and enjoy their drinks.
To help define the space, Brusven laid out a Persian area rug. Then, she pulled an antique alter from her inventory, which Brusven has dubbed “Linus,” to use as a bar-front. On one side, she transformed industrial shelves into a bar-back to achieve an eclectic look. On the other side of the bar, Brusven pulled a vintage, infant bath tub that she sourced all the way from Hungary to use as a cooler. Brusven then brought three wine barrels to serve as bar-height tables where guests could congregate and converse over hors d’oeuvres and drinks.
Like many pieces in her inventory, the emerald green Emmett sofa has an intriguing history. Once hidden in the basement of her mother-in-law’s cabin, Brusven rescued this piece from under 50 years of dust, only to find that it was in pristine condition. Since then, it has become one of her most popular rental items. Its nickname has a fascinating story too. Brusven christened the sofa in honor of her nephew, but the name also reminded her of the previous cabin owners, the Everett family, who left the piece behind. Brusven felt that the Emmett sofa practically belonged at this dinner party because the event took place right outside of the cabin where it was found.
Hors D’oeuvre Bar
The hosts wanted to offer hors d’oeuvres and needed a place to serve them. Brusven dressed up the hors d’oeuvre station with a macramé table runner. The hors d’oeuvres themselves looked especially appetizing as when placed on cake plates, marble trays and wooden platters.
Brusven wanted the table settings to be elegant, yet approachable. She chose grey plates and cloth napkins that she purposely mismatched to give off a less formal vibe. To display these napkins, she used ceramic napkin holders that were also made by her sister, owner of Abby Lingle Pottery. Finally, vintage glassware brought colorful bursts of excitement to the table settings.
With the centerpieces, Brusven wanted to emulate the warm tones of a summer day. To do so, she ordered peonies, hypericum berries, peach carnations, dahlias and bright red sedum from a wholesale vendor. She then asked her sister to throw simple, white, ceramic vases with a pearlescent glaze. Due to their subtle elegance, these vases really allowed the palette of Brusven’s arrangements to pop. “My sister made a whole set to add to our rental collection. We’re very lucky to have those from her,” Brusven said.
Brusven revealed one of her centerpiece secrets. “Our grapewood branches were on the table. Everybody thinks they are driftwood, but they are actually clippings from a vineyard in California,” she divulged. Regardless, these branches evoked the lakeside view, which served as a backdrop for the dinner party.
To illuminate the event late into the night, Brusven strung up string café lights that clipped to poles she installed in the ground. “We have string café lights in our inventory-we can put them up anywhere, and we have put them everywhere,” she emphasized. “My husband always says, ‘It’s not a party unless Carrie brings her café lights,'” Brusven laughed.
While setting up for the dinner party, Brusven met an unexpected challenge: Mother Nature’s mood swings. “It was just wild,” the Gathered. owner said. On her way to West Battle Lake, Brusven checked the weather multiple times. Each time she did so, the weather radar showed nothing but sun. In fact, “Right up until we heard thunder and the rain started coming down, it still said sunny and no rain,” Brusven exclaimed. Luckily, she and her assistants had already set everything up and covered the furniture with tarps just in time to wait out the storm, which only lasted about 20 minutes.
When planning outdoor events, Brusven always comes prepared with a plan B in case the weather goes awry. This usually involves a backup location. However, because the forecast showed no signs of rain, this occasion was an exception. To anyone planning their own outdoor party, Brusven strongly suggests having an alternative location in mind just in case Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate.
As you can see, the menu for this lakeside dinner party consisted of offerings that you would expect to see at any summer potluck. However, to ensure that everyone brought a different dish, Brusven sent out a list of suggestions that guests could refer to when contemplating what to contribute to the meal. Still, the atmosphere of the event was far beyond that of your average outdoor barbecue. “We wanted to show that care and thought had been put into the planning of the event,” Brusven conveyed. That night, the guests’ reactions reflected this effort. “Everyone said, ‘Oh my gosh, I didn’t know anybody did anything like this,'” she shared. Guests stayed long after dinner had been served, enjoying s’mores by the fire and appreciating the concept that Brusven brought to fruition.
Gathered. Boutique Rentals & Events
670 4th Ave. N. Suite #126 Fargo
Find Gathered. on Facebook by searching “gathered,” and follow them on Instagram @gatheredrentalsandevents.
For more inspiration, you can also follow Brusven on Pinterest by searching Carrie Brusven @ Rustic Trunk.