What better way to show your forever friends how much they mean to you than with a Valentine's Day Party for friends? This creative collector puts her heart into doing just that.
By Barbara Schuetz
Photography by Jim Wieland
Styling by Pam Stasney
What better way to show your forever friends how much they mean to you than with a Valentine’s Day party for friends? This creative collector puts her heart into doing just that.
Valentine’s Day comes wrapped in tradition—sentimental cards, heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, bouquets of red roses. But among all the candy conversation hearts and lace-edged valentines, why not consider a new tradition, too?
Kathy Engler, a part-time floral and home designer in Brookfield, Wisconsin, loves Valentine’s Day and entertaining. She’s the hostess with the mostest when it comes to her vast collection of ornaments, tableware and decor for special days and seasons. So when a friend saw Kathy’s house embellished with hearts, she asked a natural question: Why didn’t she throw a valentine party?
Kathy took her up on it. But instead of focusing on couples, her party celebrated the special role girlfriends play in one another’s lives.
On the guest list for the Valentine’s Day Party for Friends: about 20 of Kathy’s best gal pals. On the menu: savory appetizers and scrumptious desserts. The spread included a three-tiered, heart-shaped red velvet cake, an Italian angel food cake, and her Chocolate-Praline Layer Cake, plus a white chocolate raspberry fruit tart, a friend’s signature eclairs and lots of luscious chocolates. All were presented lovingly on milk-glass dishes, including some of her 44 pedestal plates, which she often stacks to hold pretty cookies and candies.
“Everyone said we didn’t need the appetizers—they just wanted to try all of the desserts!” Kathy says.
Her girlfriends filled plates shaped like conversation hearts, sipped flavored martinis and had a blast thumbing through 1970s Seventeen magazines saved from their high school days.
The Valentine’s Day Party for Friends also gave Kathy’s guests a chance to see her annual montage of valentine collectibles, from antique postcards to heart-shaped candy boxes and cookie cutters.
“I just love hearts,” she says.
Among her prized possessions is a group of heart-shaped candy boxes dating to the 1950s, displayed on a wall shelf in the dining room. “In high school, a guy gave me a box of chocolates, and I kept the box,” she recalls. “Every time I got another box, I saved it, and then I started buying them.”
She’s amassed antique valentines and valentine postcards as well. “They’re so simple and sweet, with
cute sayings nobody uses anymore,” she says.
Then there’s her tree of hearts, with ornaments from hearts to angels. Small heart-shaped frames hold photos of her two sons, now ages 21 and 25, in red-and-white high school football jerseys. Kathy made the tree from wild dogwood branches, anchored with clear crystal stones in a tall vase.
Rounding out her decor are six wreaths, kept from Christmas, that she accents with hearts. Three adorn patio doors that let in natural light all year round. “I’m a gardener,” she says. “Having the outdoors coming in is important to me.”
The French doors open up the dining area, as did a recent renovation. Done with the help of her sons, father and good friends, it provided more storage space for her dinnerware and decor, plus a few features to enhance her entertaining. Lighted cabinets with glass doors showcase her prettiest dishes—and save her running to retrieve holiday ware from storage. A handy bar area includes a sink, fridge and drawers. Soft sage-green walls make an attractive and versatile backdrop for her ever-changing seasonal decorations.
Clearly, this the heart of Kathy’s home, on Valentine’s Day, and every day.
Download a PDF layout of Kathy’s kitchen here.