Whether you plan a formal party weeks in advance, or bring it all together in a matter of hours with impromptu invites and a genuinely relaxed approach, there are a couple of essential ingredients that turn any gathering into a memorable occasion – good company, delicious food and drink, and not least, stylish settings that help create the right ambience. This doesn’t require endless expense and complicated arrangements (a stressed hostess is not conducive to a happy party!), but with a little thought and inspiration, you can make every celebration at home really special for you and your guests...

1. Intricate candle holders like these throw the light beautifully and are especially effective with coloured tea lights. Strings of gleaming baubles and beads make a great decorative addition.

2. Sweet treats in colours that pick up on your scheme are a great idea, and look lovely arranged on pretty cake stands, such as this one from Indigo Living. It’s almost a shame to eat them!

3. This retro-style drinks trolley from Crate & Barrel looks chic with colourful cocktail-making essentials, or is useful as a crockery and cutlery station when space is at a premium.

4. Paper lanterns and glass candle holders in brilliant shades look fantastic arranged together. Place against a mirror for double impact.

5. This table setting from Zara Home combines mix-and-match glass and tableware, along with reflective metallic chargers and coasters, to achieve a smart but low-key effect.

6. Deep-blue dishes - with a dash of cherry red - like this look so striking on a table that has a similar colour scheme.