I’M FROM A LIFE-IS-A-MOVEABLE FEAST school of entertaining. What I mean is, I don’t always host dinner parties in my dining room, and I will just as often set up shop in the library, the family room, or the pool cabana. (I’ve even contemplated hosting a party in the garage for a big birthday party. Seriously. But my garage is painted navy and it is that pretty!) Breaking out of the standard protocol tends to be more interesting for me—and especially for my guests. But even I admit there is a certain kind of magic to hosting people in a room tailor-made for eating, even if it’s just re-plating takeout onto your favorite china, because you can art direct the variables: the flicker of candlelight, the gleam of crystal and silver, fireworks of pattern on porcelain and linens.
At the end of the day, creating atmosphere is what it’s all about. One of the reasons I love entertaining at home so much is that you get to build a kind of cocoon. We’re assaulted all day long by things that demand our attention. But when you have people over, there are no crowds for them to jostle through. No struggle to get the waiter’s attention. You get real quality time with your friends. It’s a chance to reconnect. People loosen up. Nobody’s rushing off. They’ll have one more cocktail. And they aren’t on their phones, either; they’re not sitting there scrolling Pinterest or Instagram. And that’s exactly what design should do: put you in the moment, and make you feel as if there’s nowhere else in the world you’d rather be.
The most prominent design feature I chose in the dining room was a series of chinoiserie wallpaper panels based on a historic English design that I commissioned from de Gournay in custom hues. The panels establish the room’s color scheme with shades of cantaloupe, eggplant and spinach. But what they were really doing is showcasing the hues in the china I already owned, so that no matter which patterns I set the table with—and it’s normally a mix of different ones—it would always look good. I dressed the windows in pelmets and curtains that I was able to bring from my last house. They’re made from a printed Fortuny damask that happened to coordinate well. They were too bright at first, but laying them out for a couple of days in the Georgia sun solved that problem. Side note: Not everything has to be perfect.
The other hero piece in the room is a gorgeous and massive George III breakfront with its original oval glass panels that I bought at auction. An antique sideboard across the room completes the English country vibe and has a serpentine front that echoes the shape of the pelmets. Just so the mood doesn’t get too stuffy, I made sure to bring in plenty of sparkle. We’ve got twinkle in spades: a vintage crystal chandelier, antique sconces, a high-gloss lacquered ceiling and a tall, gilded neoclassical mirror that acts almost like another window, ex- cept it magnifies all the candlelight, china, crystal and animated faces interacting over the table. What can I say? It is pure magic.
A Home for all Seasons: Gracious Living and Stylish Entertaining (Rizzoli, $50) hits bookshelves this month. The lushly illustrated tome travels room by room through tastemaker and designer Danielle Rollins’ Atlanta residence and acts as a primer for living and entertaining with practicality, style and above all, graciousness.