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Once you get in the habit to look for them, inspiration for DIY projects can come from almost anywhere. I think if I listed them in order, my last three project ideas came from a window display while out clothes shopping (but yet didn’t actually find the jeans I was looking for, of course); a painting I saw at a restaurant while out on a date (one of the very rare chances I attempt a social life); and a bench I saw while taking Charlie to the dog park (outdoor projects on the brain!). And since I live in a large city like Atlanta — with lots of its own unique neighborhoods and blended cultures — the chances of running into something new is pretty high.

At the end of last week, my sister and I attended a store opening in Alpharetta, GA for The Container Store. These types of events aren’t usually a sponsor-related thing (I’m not partnered with the brand and haven’t worked with them before, etc.), but it’s more of a someone-found-my-email-address kind of deal, and uh… like many humans, I have a very hard time turning down free food. It’s fun to go and get sneak peeks of new products, too (or in my case, repeatedly “test” the motion-sensor trash can that opens and closes when you wave your hand over it. I have a completely irrational need for a high-tech garbage can now).

container store organizers

I usually don’t share these events much on the blog because they are often midweek, tend to have a low-key vibe, and there’s not a lot to photograph (I still share ideas and inspo of behind-the-scenes-type stuff on Snapchat, Instagram, etc. if there’s something unique). But this time around, things were noticeably different. Honestly, going to a store where you expect to see a display of trash cans and drawer organizers (don’t get me wrong, there were still those) to also find a live band, a giant bar (yay, champagne!), and four individually-styled food stations was pretty cool. So, I took a bunch of photos of the most interesting party ideas so that I could pass them along to you guys for your next party or holiday event. Granted, some of these work better when you’re talking about a large venue, but there are lots of opportunities to scale smaller as well!

Spread things out (but in a way that makes sense)

The hors d’oeuvres were in one section, the American-inspired food in another, the sushi in another, etc. If you have enough space, try to first plan out how people will normally flow from one area to another. But, it was also helpful that none of the areas in particular felt forced for where we needed to begin; some went right for the bar (ahem), some went for the dessert, and others just started wandering to the dance floor. Lots of options that weren’t all clustered together meant fewer bottlenecks.

hors doeuvres

Repurpose non-kitchen items (or lesser-used ones)

I love it when things get clever. Let’s start with my favorite one: a closet system… sushi bar?!?!

sushi display

I get that I’m enough of a geek about DIY ideas that this might be impressive to only a handful of folks. But I was completely smitten at the unique display and how interesting of a twist this was. I’m not actually a fan of sushi (cucumber rolls are about all I can handle), but my sister loved it, and they had takeout containers of noodles in the lower drawers and trays of eggrolls as well. Super cute, and yummy too.

closet system sushi station entertaining ideas

The utensils were dispersed in bamboo organizers (I’m thinking either kitchen caddies or small trash bins are great for this purpose) at the corners of the display; this fit in nicely where it normally would have been wasted space, but also helped people grab the chopsticks and start using them without having bits of paper wrapping everywhere (which would have been a pain for the catering staff to have to keep up with).

chopsticks and utensils entertaining ideas

Make the cleanup part of the styling

The staff who kept bustling around to restock (food was flying out of the drawers just as fast as they were being put in place) had a fun way of doing this, too: instead of replacing the food or even the dish they were served on, they just replaced whole drawers or stacks of trays each time. Pop out the old drawer, pop in the new one, and they could be in and out. I could easily see this working for an assortment of cupcakes or desserts as a twist on the usual tiered setup at a shower or birthday, especially with little kids around.

noodles restock

Trash was also collected in some of the larger flexible plastic bins that The Container Store sold rather than normal bags or trash cans (and quickly; the staff was quick to scoop up some of the plates and dirty napkins people would leave on the stocked shelves). It was clear that even the little details were thought of, right down to how people were expected to dispose of their waste.

The next station we spied was simply an arrangement of (bathroom?) shelves and trays, but color-coordinated to match the style of food being served. But, I’m not kidding when I say these were stations right next to actual store displays. This was what was going on in front of me:

american food station

While on my right, normal bathroom ideas:

bathroom shelving ideas

And to my left, my sister giggling over her tiny pot pie. Ok, I was pretty amused too. I found a recipe online that I think even I couldn’t screw up, so I’m going to try it soon.

mini chicken pot pie

Fresh flowers are always welcome

Onto station number three, which was full of hors d’oeuvres (and we soon realized, probably the station we were supposed to have started at). The “garlicky stuff on top of pretzel bread”, as we both put it, was the hands-down winner of the night, but I was equally impressed by the flowers (which I’ve now learned are anemones and possibly compatible for growing in Georgia!). Gotta look into getting a few of these ASAP.

white anemones

Food > decor

Not pictured: the dessert station. It was similar to the red/white/blue one, but in orange and pink colors. My sister Em enjoyed it, but since I’ve given up sugar for Lent this year (the headaches, yeesh!), I had to steer clear. Sorry, folks! (It was also pretty sparse by the time we found it, too, so I wasn’t able to get decent snaps anyway.)

That’s about it for now! Which idea was your favorite? Got any of your own to share? I also just got back from a weekend trip to Savannah where the weather was perfect, so I’m in the process of editing those as we speak and should have them ready for you soon. Then, it’s on to our regular DIY programming!

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  1. Great post- I loved the closet susi bar! I recently got one of those motion sensor trash cans from Costco for $40 (on sale, but even full price of $50 it is fairly reasonable compared to The Container Store Model). We needed something to use during a kitchen remodel (when we had to squish all kitchen activities into the living room) that would keep the dog out of the trash – it worked wonderfully! My kids liked it so much they were disappointed when they found that the new kitchen has a pull out trash bin!

  2. I just wanna say this is genius on The Container Store’s part. What a creative way to get people into the store to check it out, and also show off their wares at the same time.

    Although I suppose it’s not too difficult to get people to come to your store if you offer them free food ;)