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The Globe and Mail

It's back to the 70s at TV host's parties

Samantha Pynn, host and designer of HGTV's Pure Design and contributing design editor for Style at Home magazine, patterns her playlist after her personality, mixing thoughtful pop/folk and seventies retro.

"My favourite kind of gathering lately has been a small one; it could be colleagues from work, but mostly it's family and friends - any time, I'm set up to entertain. I'm a plater (meaning she plates or serves food), not a cooker. I order in a lot of sushi; I go to Pusateri's or Whole Foods to pick up stuff. I'm not a big meat eater, and the menu depends on who's coming for dinner, but I usually make people eat a lot of vegetables."

She adds: "Music hugely influences the mood of a party, especially if it's an intimate party, because if you've got something too loud or overpowering it becomes a distraction. You want to be able to chat with people, so music is secondary; maybe that's why I picked these tunes - a little grocery-store music background, but also kind of groovy, easy to listen to.

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"If I were having a giant party, I would want different music. You have to read your crowd and have different playlists. If people are ready to rock out, you want something more upbeat, but if it's Friday night and people are tired, you want music that makes you mellow and wind down the week."

In her own words, here's her playlist:

"Toto's Africa is a good introductory tune to say 'this is the kind of music that's gonna be playing.' "

"America's You Can Do Magic is a happy song; it's like a time capsule that transports me back to when I was a kid. I had a good childhood and we always had music playing."

" Hello, It's Me by Todd Rundgren, is a good, mellow-out tune. It has a bit of bitter-sweetness to it, sentimentality, nostalgia to it. There's a version of it where he's in the studio and he counts it in, and you hear them gear up to it. This is one of those songs that, again, transports you right from the beginning."

" Joe Cocker's Feelin' Alright is more like a grooving tune, and it works with all the other more mellow songs in my list; the drumming at the beginning and that whole just-want-to-dance to it, but at the same time, you won't break out and do the cha-cha. Groovy to have a drink to or totally start dancing to."

Carly Simon and Carole King albums, because I love that singer/songwriter generation. I love Carole King's Tapestry album, but the song You're Beautiful is such a great anthem. King is a great lyricist and she plays the piano like she is killer and she's got one of those voices that just belts, that low-alto voice that just hits you. It's a happy, empowering song, and yet there are moments that are so thoughtful."

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Yesterday's Songs by Neil Diamond has a sense of nostalgia and a bit of a disco-y feeling to it. He's got those back-up singers singing along with him, so it's not the serious Neil Diamond on You Don't Bring Me Flowers. But then it's also not like 'let's sing along at the pub to Sweet Caroline.' "

" Olivia Newton John's Magic is a song I used to work to; I would get up and dance and sing to it and my co-workers would love it. I don't have a karaoke machine at my house, but people do sing."

Lionel Ritchie's You Are was really big in '83 and I was in Grade 3 and we went away on one of those sleep-over trips, so I have great memories, but I think it's a cool song and it's extra cool to play now - in a nerdy kind of way."

Dr. Hook's When You're in Love with a Beautiful Woman is in fashion. We've moved back to that more glamorous look. Tom Ford is all about clean, tailored glamour and the return to formality. I don't think we were all that formal when this song came out, but when you look at fashion right now - all the sequins and sparkles for clothes for the holidays - there's something about that song that says you should be wearing a sparkly sequin dress."

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