Danielle Rollins hostess extraordinaire and author of Soiree shares her tips for mixing it up and making merry!
Your book’s stunning cover showcases your spot-on eye for color and mixing things up that informs a lot of your Taigan choices. I love the turquoise print cloths with the deep fuschia peonies and the orangey red lacquer stands for the goldfish bowl centerpieces. Tell us about some more of your favorite color/flower combinations?
I love color and I am not afraid to use it. I am not a rule player to say the least, and I subscribe to the motto, “More is More”! The Hermes Siesta Island china [featured on the book’s cover] has so many wonderful bright colors, and mixing it with such a bold cloth pattern really made it pop. I find that if you mix enough pattern then the colors all sort of blend and then they do match! I love saturated colors, particularly bright and jewel tones. Old Master painting color combinations always work, and I have a little thing for any shade of turquoise, since as a Pisces I am drawn to water colors. But I truly love a bold mix of just about any color, and I honestly think you can make any colors go together. Combinations I love include: persimmon/deep goldenrod/burnt umber; Yves Klein blue/taxi cab yellow, Miles Redd red; bright orange/lime green/shocking pink/white; and always navy mixed with just about anything!
When you chose the great-looking 1930s salt cellars on your Taigan shopping spree, you spoke of mixing old and new, of “curating” a table. Tell some of the novices among us more about what you mean by that.
When you are decorating a room, a certain amount of tension is needed—a mix of textures, scale, new and old—and it is the personal details that really reflect the person, and make the room have zing. Well, it is the same for a table. Using all one pattern, or all new or all coordinated things just looks dull, not to mention unimaginative and impersonal. Adding a few vintage pieces, whether it is silver, or a set of antique china, or inherited linen elevates the table setting to have a timeless and more individual feel.
You love gorgeous monogrammed linens like the Grace Hayes napkins you chose from Taigan and the Herend Chinese Bouquet china that also makes an appearance in Soiree. But you don’t mind mixing the high and the low—as in the enamel plates and faux-bamboo handled flatware you mix with Grace’s napkins. Tell us why that works so well.
Some women buy a new lipstick when depressed, I buy linens! Plus, like shoes, they always fit no matter what you weigh! Even better you don’t have to try them on. I love a bit of “granny chic,” so things that have a sense of timelessness appeal to me. I am young(ish) so I don’t like stuffy. Enamel plates are genius, unbreakable, and dishwasher safe, they work indoors and outdoors. Plus they are much more chic than melamine in my book! Using things that are slightly more casual mixed in with something more formal evens it all out, and adds an organic feeling to table setting. Again, having pattern, bold prints, multi color palettes and texture makes it work.
As a sort of corollary to the above question, I see that, like me, you love to commandeer things meant for other uses for tabletop duty. Using the Anichini bath sheets as tablecloths is so genius and so chic. Give us some other examples from your own parties.
Remember when you were a child and your imagination was the driving force behind playtime? Creating forts out of blankets and whatever else you could find? Or elaborate tea parties with dolls and teddy bears and nothing was off limits as far as what was proper or not? I think a lot of the reason I use things for something other than what they are intended for comes from that childlike part of me, as well as from financial necessity & optimistic resourcefulness! The saying “Necessity is the mother of invention” holds some truth! I make the most of my own table coverings because I cannot find what I want. Sometimes a tablecloth I have won’t fit the table I have so I have to improvise and put another layer of color underneath it. I love layers on a table, too, because I think it makes it look more interesting.
I have been known to fashion table coverings out of colorful sheets, fabrics bought by the yard from the local fabric store, rough burlap, stitched together bandanas, my grandmothers old quilts, shower curtains, craft paper, newspaper, fabrics leftover from decorating projects (either whole or used as trim on plain linen), or textiles picked up on vacations. I have also painted cheap tables with chalkboard paint, lacquered myself with high gloss spray paint, and I am not afraid to salvage something someone else has cast aside.
Clearly, I am a bit of a magpie and I hate throwing out things. “Reuse, reinvent, and recycle” is one of my own mottos!
I love all the really creative invitation ideas—right down to the choice of stamp—featured in your book. And I see you’ve chosen some pretty letterpress paper on Taigan. Can an e-vite ever come close to setting the tone that a “proper” invitation does (especially when that “proper” invite is in the form of a great musical CD or a pretty folded fan, as in your book)? Where do you come down on this increasingly popular (but tiny bit lazy) form of asking people to parties?
The invitation is the first thing people see, and it sets the tone for the party. I think it also gets people excited. When you get a pretty invitation amongst all the depressing bills in the snail mail, it’s sort of like getting triple cherries on the slot machine! Nothing is more chic than heavy cardstock and a tissue lined envelope. I am old school that way. I like things to be the way they are supposed to be. For a formal gathering I think a real invitation is the only way to go. I love “to remind” cards and I like hand writing my own invitations on my personal stationery.
However, I am also a “functioning perfectionist’, as well as a single mother, so therefore, I am not above an email invitation. I prefer to take a screen shot of the design of the invitation and email that rather than send as an evite or Paperless Post. I also sometimes do one beautiful invitation in sumptuous curly lettered calligraphy and then photograph and email it, or I do something else clever in the spirit of my party—I have even done a funny video! In this month’sIn Style, Lela Rose took a photo of scrabble tiles spelling out the invite for a game night party. I thought that was really clever and I plan to copy her! Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery!
Even when you have a staff doing the heavy lifting, the hostess has to stay comfortable enough to zip around tending to her guests—and any last minute crisis. I see you’ve chosen a couple of tunics/caftans that are so great for warm weather, outdoor shindigs. Do you have any other go-to party “uniforms”?
The host and hostess should always look comfortable. Since a party is in your own home, going on the down side of dressy is best. If I had my druthers I would sashay down the stairs wearing couture hostess pajamas! I do have a little Auntie Mame in me. I love a long caftan in summer, & have several chic little numbers from Sabbia Rosa in Paris I pull out. Otherwise, palazzo pants and a little top is on the play list.
Oscar de la Renta, Rachel Roy, and Lela Rose are all featured in your book. Any other fashion designer favorites?
I love clothes. You have been in my closet and know that first hand. Since I was a child I think I have subscribed to the belief that if you buy the clothes, then you will have the life. And while I adore clothes, it will probably surprise people to know that I hate to shop. I take very good care of my things, and I keep them forever, rotating things in and out. I tend to follow a designer over the house, and look more at the cut and line of an item than at the label. I still adore Ralph Lauren for beautifully cut clothes, and consistent collections. For more fantasy type pieces I think Naeem Kahn does beautiful work. I love Phoebe Philo and what she has done at Celine, and Peter Dundas at Pucci right now—complete opposite ends of the spectrum I know! No one cuts a jacket like Chanel, and I hold onto all of my pieces, and I will buy vintage pieces when I can. Hermes scarves are something I collect when I travel because I can always remember where I was when I purchased it, and purses are Investments you can use for a lifetime.
I adore the line on Taigan.com, 100% Capri. I was SO excited to see that I could find it outside of St. Barth, Capri, Rome or Bal Harbour. I have worn it for decades and buy entire capsules. The designs are almost architectural and the fabric gets better the more you wear it. Because it is so simple, it really allows the person wearing it to stand out.
That is a tough one, because I really love them all—different ones for different seasons and reasons. But probably my all time favorite would be peonies or Seville roses.
Again, I am very seasonally focused person. Bourbon is my fall choice as soon as the chill hits the air, in the winter I tend to focus more on deep bold red wines or festive champagnes, spring always sings for gin, and tequila is my summer go to liquor.
But my favorite cocktail will probably always be the Gin Gin Mule because of the association with Bemelman’s Bar at The Carlyle Hotel in New York, one of my all time favorite places.
Favorite reason to celebrate?
I would literally celebrate just about anything. I travel a lot and have had the good fortune to meet so many interesting people and do so many fantastic things. I am always making mental notes about a way to incorporate some detail into a dinner or party for my friends and loved ones!
Seasons are also a big thing with me, maybe it is just the start of something new or the passing of time, but I am the eternal optimist and celebration just goes with the territory.
Finally, you say that passion is the ingredient most required for giving a swell soiree, and I totally agree. But surely you must have a few other tips up your sleeve that are slightly more concrete. Care to leave us with those?
The P’s of a good party:
Plan—(and a plan B and sometimes a plan for disaster)
Preparation – do as much as you can ahead of time
Presentation – it is not what you serve it is how you serve it
ImProvise – use what you have, have what you use, and in a pinch make it up and make it work
Polish – a party is part fantasy, make sure the surroundings are neat and clean, the silver is sparkly and so are you—a good swipe of a lipstick never hurt anyone!
Post –its – the greatest invention of all time! I literally stick them on every thing that is laid out to tell what goes where or what goes into which dish, etc. They make great low-fi tabs for seating arrangements and much more!
And of course, a happy host makes for a happy party. No matter what, do whatever it takes to put your self in a party mood. Greet your guests personally in a warm and gracious manner, make them feel like they are the most important people invited, and you will always come out as a genius! Politeness is not a past time!
A few more of Danielle’s picks below…
This vintage cocktail shaker is très chic and functional. Martinis anyone?
I absolutely love these cocktail napkins in the pretty coral color with the Ho Ho bird are divine.
And every stylish hostess needs a cocktail ring!
I think this old school Herend is a great investment and would mix well with a lot of different patterns such as Haviland Val de Loire. Add the tablecloth and nice napkins that make a completely divine setting.
I love the idea of a Southern-influenced dinner: Callie’s Carolina Honey served with an adorable William Yeoward honey keeper. Appetizers of pimento cheese combined with a fried chicken lunch and served with a Bloody Mary garnished with pickled okra would look great in these tortoiseshell glasses.
I live for 100% Capri linen and I buy it when I go to St. Barth every year. It wears forever and has the most chic simple architectural style that allows you to mix your own jewelry to personalize it!
Turquoise enamelware and bamboo silverware are so chic for outdoor and indoor. They’re just as easy as paper and eco friendly. And don’t forget this matching ensemble!
My love of boxwood is reflected in this perfectly petite wastebasket. It’s too pretty for trash so I would use it as a flowerpot. Greenery would look great planted in here as would beautiful flowers!
For a full list of Danielle’s favorite find visit Taigan.com
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