I’ve been intending to pen a piece about host style and, with the July 4th holiday just around the corner, now is the ideal time. Being a good host/hostess is an integral part of having great style- your home should be a reflection of you, and how you welcome and care for people leaves a real impression. Hosting a fabulous party (no matter the size) is not about spending a ton of money or being a great cook or caterer- it’s about the details.
BOOZE- whether you do or do not drink, having adequate and yummy booze available for guests is an unequivocal necessity. Good wine and beer should be available and chilled appropriately, ice should be at the ready, and a signature cocktail should be the finishing touch. For a summertime party, Sangria is a great choice, as is any alcohol-based punch. The key detail here is glassware. Obviously if you’re having 100 people, it’s not advisable or realistic to use real glasses. But for most of us, parties are more intimate and in those cases, sipping out of real glasses (martini, margarita, stemless) makes a difference.
FOOD- if you’re planning to host and libate people for longer than 2 hours, you must feed them or else pay the price to the party gods in the form of drunk, sick guests. And while oven or stovetop prepared appetizers are a lovely touch, they’re often just more effort than they’re worth. My spreads always consist of three cheeses with two types of crackers (one gluten-free/rice cracker if you really want to be nice to your allergy-inclined guests), a sliced baguette and two dipping sauces or tapenade, a bowl of gourmet potato chips, and dessert type finger foods. The key detail here is the quality of carbohydrate. Serve the more exotic brand of chip or cracker and make sure the baked goods are fresh.
DÉCOR- from the lighting and music to the candles and flowers, each element should reflect thought and consideration. Preparing a specific playlist, adding a few tea lights and flowers, and turning on lamps all elevate the look and the mood of your party. Funny cocktail napkins make a great finishing touch. The key detail here is cleanliness and clutter-free. Use the party as an excuse to do all those chores you keep putting off, like clearing off the countertops, vacuuming the upholstery and polishing chandelier light bulbs. The results, though subtle, make an impact.
Mile High Style Tip: Use caution when selecting candles. People are particular about scent and no one wants to walk into a home that smells like perfume. I recommend choosing unscented candles, especially if you’re burning many.
This bra (introduced to me by my girls at Chelsea) forever solves the problem of ‘what to do about my bra straps showing’. With the Marie Jo Daisy Bra, you want them to show. Available in three styles and eight colors, at Christina’s in Boulder and Sol in Denver.
One great side effect of moving is an automatic re-prioritizing, both of the things required from a new home (the subject of my article last week), and from old belongings. As I go though this process for the 4th time in my adult life (and getting increasingly better at it), I’m learning what, of my ‘stuff’, is worth consigning, moving and showcasing.
Without a doubt, collecting and displaying art has become priority #1 for my home’s evolving style. Art personalizes and humanizes. It speaks to you and of you. It warms, rarefies, energizes, entertains, and provokes. No piece of furniture can do that.
In keeping with the Boulder’s ‘love the local’ motto, supporting the artists in our community is both essential and practical. For one thing, there’s incredible talent in these 25 square miles. Most have lived, studied and apprenticed all over the world, choosing to live in Boulder for the same reasons we all do. And since this is not New York, San Francisco or Miami, the price point reflects a considerably more affordable commitment.
My favorite local artists, whose work comprises a sizable percentage of my collection, are Will Clift, a Stanford-educated sculptor whose collection has shown in galleries in Santa Fe and Hong Kong, with two commissioned pieces in Denver’s swank Four Seasons Hotel; Kevin Hoth, a multimedia artist, photographer and educator, currently teaching at The Art Institute of Colorado and The University of Colorado in Boulder, with 70 national exhibitions under his belt; Pattie Lee Becker, a Brooklyn transplant, Rhode Island School of Design and Columbia University graduate and recipient of numerous grants, awards, and fellowships; Nico Toutenhoofd, an art photographer and retired photojournalist of 10 years whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Newsweek and Life Magazine, among others.
The only thing more impressive than their credentials is the work itself. Take a look and see what speaks to you.
In furnishing a home, wood seems to be the de facto material of choice. Readily available, durable, and timeless, it’s no wonder popular stores like Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel and Restoration Hardware have made an industry around this material. But as the Mile High Style aesthetic maintains, too much of any one thing is overkill, uninspired and boring. A room full of wood looks heavy, feels overbearing, and lacks style and imagination. So switch it up. There are many fabulous materials that, in addition to serving as the perfect complement to wood, are style superstars in their own right.
*Lucite – embodying a modern sensibility, these tables, consoles, and desks are perfect for small or cluttered spaces because they carry no visual weight. Accessories such as mirrors, lamps, and trays have become the emblem of chic décor with manufacturer Kartell leading the way. The mainstream retail market has steadily warmed to lucite as it can now be found in the catalogues and showrooms of America’s favorite stores. Not bad for plastic!
*Metal – characteristic of the Industrial look of the 20s and 30s, furniture made of materials such as brass, chrome, brushed aluminum, steel and iron embodies real presence and personality and adds a masculine feel to any room. Typically reclaimed and repurposed from factories, these pieces are now being reproduced by Restoration Hardware in their first departure from an inventory that was exclusively wood. Bravo.
*Marble – utilized in furniture both antique and modern, marble is elegant, beautiful, and classic. It also needs to be incorporated into any room with thoughtful moderation, as marble is opulent, and too much opulence is tacky. Ideal as a side table or the top of a demilune console, a little goes a long way.
*Lacquer/Mirror – Definitely my personal favorite, these two materials create the same glamorous aesthetic and provide a feminine feel to any space. A mirrored chest works beautifully in a bedroom, and tabletop accessories like coasters and boxes contrast perfectly with any wood beneath.
I love (most) interior designers. The good ones take an aesthetically unlivable space, lacking any cohesive style, functionality, and personality, and transform it into something breathtaking yet livable. And while I would prefer the average person have (or learn) the savvy to do it themselves, I prefer your home reflect someone else’s good taste rather than your own questionable taste (assuming, of course, that this is the case.) But there is a point where designers take it too far, falling into the traps and clichés of their industry. The following are talking points to avoid falling for them yourself.
Diversity– simply put, you don’t want your house looking like the latest catalogue of Pottery Barn, West Elm, Room & Board, etc. Mainstream furniture chains provide important pieces for any home, but they should be just that: a piece here, a piece there. Round out your rooms with finds from boutiques, antique shops, hand-me-downs, even Craigslist.
Humor– a well-rounded life embodies humor and the same should apply to a well- rounded style life. Achieving this, however, is somewhat elusive. You can’t really look for funny pieces; you have to kind of happen upon them. That said, a funny book nestled inconspicuously among a more serious coffee table stack is the easiest way to get a laugh. Back in New York City, I bought a vintage Ivana Trump book entitled ‘Free To Love’, the cover a glamour shot of the author and a testament to 80s excess and cheesiness. Visitors to my home are never quite sure whether or not the book is meant as a joke. That is the funny part.
Mis-match– matching is the scourge of designers everywhere. When your fabrics, wood tones and accessories all correspond, the home ends up feeling formal, uninspired and dated. Good design has to embody an element of spontaneity and effortless chic. Obviously designing a room or serious of rooms is hardly without effort, but it should still appear that way. The impression of countless hours spent getting the wall paint to perfectly match the pillow borders and those borders to then match the curtains is, as good design goes, the wrong one.
Stuff– my biggest beef with many designers is their commitment to populating every space, every corner, every surface with stuff. HGTV, the Home & Garden network, has a very popular room remodel show, ‘Divine Design’ with well-known interior designer Candice Olsen, whose love of décor accents and accessories borders on the hysterical. After her rooms are completed, I always imagine the inhabitants removing at least a third of the stuff, allowing the eye some breathing room. Not every chair needs a corresponding side table, not every couch needs pillows, not every square inch of space needs to be filled. Bring an editing eye to your projects and live with less until you’re sure you need more.