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The secret to a great Oscars party? A $30 bar cart

Even if you’re not an experienced host, it’s easy to make your Oscar-watching party Feb. 26 a success. The secret? A bar cart.

We enlisted Camille Simmons, the Long Beach-based proprietor of Planning Pretty, to show us how to put a bar cart — specifically Ikea’s $30 Sunnersta utility cart — to work on Hollywood’s big night.

Since Simmons’ Bluff Heights shop specializes in decor for the aspiring host, she created a barscape that’s not only going to wow your guests, it’s a cinch to pull together.

“Setting up a full table can be intimidating,” she says. “And a stocked bar cart with everything your guests need means you won’t have to keep running back and forth to the kitchen.”

Because who wants to miss that one moment of the broadcast that everyone will be talking about for weeks to come?

Here’s how to create it at home.

The snacks

Serve dishes that guests can happily and easily eat while watching TV; this is not the moment to put on your apron and whip up amazing, time-intensive treats. Instead, let a little whimsy enhance store-bought bites. Simmons ups the ante on premade lamb meatballs with a nominated-film-inspired name: “La La Lamb meatballs,” of course. Flamingo-topped toothpicks, $1 for a package of 24 at Michaels craft store, keep the SoCal vibe going, and placing them on a Ruffle Cupcake Stand, $20 from Planning Pretty, helps elevate the feel — literally.

Simple animal crackers are portioned into Gatsby Champagne Coupes, $12 apiece, and renamed “Zootopia cookies”; Trader Joe’s frozen macarons stacked on a Ruffle Cake Stand, $52, become “Moonlight Macarons” with 15 minutes of painting crescent moons along the curve of the cookies with a clean paint brush and edible luster dust, $5 at Michaels. Marble placecard holders, $30, prop up the snacks’ clever titles.  

And don’t bother hosting a watching-party without plenty of popcorn: Simmons serves hers up in individual Everyday Latte Bowls, $11 at Planning Pretty, with flavored oils (here from La Tourangelle) and a host of seasonings for each guest to dress up his or her serving.  

The drinks

Just as pretty gowns are a staple of Oscar glamour, luxe bottles will dress up your bar cart like nothing else. Simmons pulls a trio of beverages, all in stunning packaging, together for an easy-to-make, hard-to-ruin twist on the French 75 (a slight nod to nominee Isabelle Huppert in the foreign film “Elle”).

“Put out the proper measuring tools, but also choose a recipe that’s simple enough to make while keeping one eye on the TV,” advises Simmons. Here’s her take: 1 part Moët champagne to 1 part Belvoir sparkling fruit juice, with an ounce of St-Germain. (A cocktail shaker makes the process a cinch. A pineapple version, $80, makes it even more attractive.)

The setup

Fear your own bar cart moment won’t be as Pinterest-ready? Follow Simmons’ lead by choosing a cohesive color palette. “It will look like you put a lot of time into planning, when really it’s just helping you limit what you put out there,” she says. Also, enlist cake stands to lend height and keep things feeling curated and not crowded.

Beyond the cart

Keep the festive vibe going with decor that draws the eye upward, like a metallic paper sign from Poshahoolie, $28 at Bonjour Fête, and gold mylar balloons, starting at $4 from Wild Child Party.

And make sure your sofa is stocked with plenty of pillows — people tend to migrate to the floor for these watching parties, so make sure they can prop a cushion behind their back. Simmons recommends keeping a basket of throws and pillows at the ready.

What’s more, you’ll want to confirm that every seat in the house has a convenient place to plop down a treat or cocktail — “you don’t want your guest awkwardly clutching their drink all night,” advises Simmons.

Cheers to that!

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rene.lynch@latimes.com

@renelynch

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