Meet Monica Pedersen: interior designer, HGTV host and author of Monica Pedersen Make It Beautiful: Designs and Ideas for Entertaining at Home. Her stunning new coffee-table book showcases 10 fabulous parties and includes tips, recipes and a mega dose of inspiration. We caught up with the designer during a week filled with—yes, you guessed it—parties to celebrate the launch of her book.

LN: Who is this book written for?

MP: I see my reader as someone who not only loves to entertain, but also one who simply loves interior design. Unlike many of the other books on entertaining that are simply loaded with recipes, this one shows you how to create the environment in which we entertain our guests at home. All of the parties I hosted in the book were for real people. The photography makes you feel as though you are sitting at the table as a guest. And the text is a behind-the-scenes narration of who, why, where and how I got it done, including tips to recreate these events on any budget.

LN: Of the 10 parties that you hosted for the book, which was your favorite?

MP: The Stag’s Leap Wine and Design party was my personal favorite from a design standpoint. The textures on the table made us feel like we were in Napa—one of my favorite places. The party took very little prep, and hosting it gave me a lot of time to spend enjoying my guests over a great glass of wine.

LN: Why are design and entertaining so closely connected to your way of thinking?

MP: My enthusiasm for design and entertaining was definitely passed down to me by my mother. I learned from her that designing a table for a party means using the same muscle memory as designing a space. It’s still about color, scale, lighting and function.

LN: What are your top five tips for planning a successful party?

MP: First, create a menu that’s been tried and tasted. This is no time to attempt a new recipe. Second, pull out your serving pieces and accessories well ahead of your party in order to void any last-minute runs to the store. Third, define your budget and stay within it, even if it means a smaller gathering. Fourth, if you are hosting outdoors, have a backup plan in case of bad weather.And finally, bring your sense of humor. Everything doesn’t have to go perfectly to have hosted the perfect party.

LN: What are the ingredients that the most fun and memorable parties seem to have in common?

MP: The right mix of guests, a nice bottle of wine, good music and hosts who aren’t stuck at the kitchen stove.

LN: Do you think people tend to plan parties with an over-emphasis on food and drinks at the expense of atmosphere?

MP. For the most part, yes. While the term ‘foodie’ has become part of our everyday vocabulary, it seems to me that less and less thought goes into the environment in which we celebrate great food. I’m just as excited about sitting at a greatlooking table as I am about looking at a great menu.

LN: Where did you learn to entertain?

MP. My mother was a gifted hostess both through what she served and how it was presented. While she definitely had her share of hosting disasters (anyone who entertains can relate to that), she never lost her sense of humor. The real secret to hosting a great party is to preplan, work within a budget, and make any excuse you can to gather friends and family. In the end, it’s really about making the effort.