As we approach the holiday season, I wanted to bring you a little interview with one of the most sought after hostesses these days, Stephanie Booth Shafran shares with us her tips on elegant and timeless entertainment while even in smaller gatherings. How timely is her contribution and this book, You’re Invited, published by Rizzolli. You’re Invited makes the perfect gift for any occasion, as well as it prompts us to remember happier times when we could all gather without care.
Stephanie, It’s been so fun reviewing your book this past few weeks. It has been quite inspiring for keeping me hopeful to the days when we can all start gathering in groups again.
Being that it is a new world of entertaining with Covid restrictions, in what ways are you adjusting your thought process?
SBS: For me, it is all about quality over quantity. We are hosting small intimate dinners with family and close friends. our favorite is groups ranging from 4-8 people. We have also really enjoyed entertaining outside, as we have spent our summer in sun valley,id. I have also been doing larger tables with more space between guests. I care that everyone feels comfortable, as covid has affected everyone differently. masks make a wonderful hostess gift!!
The book has the most amazing categories, I am sure it was hard to choose what you actually included on the pages.
What were some highlights for you?
SBS: for the book, I really cared about showing a variety of parties which reflected my taste and our authentic lifestyle. For example, I loved hosting the small ladies philanthropy luncheon – my girlfriends are everything to me! I love hosting in our garden, so my 50th birthday party is another favorite. that was inspired by our trips to st barths and bagatelle restaurant. I also loved the housewarming cocktails, as we are often having friends drop by for cocktails. We love our friends and like to see them as often as possible.
My favorite excerpts from the book were “Dining Under The Stars” and “ A Gentleman’s Wine and Cigar Party” I love the collection of ceramic ware and all of the fun that goes along planning these types of gatherings.
How do you curate your dinnerware and accessories? And do you choose themes and back into menus or vice versa?
SBS: The dinner under the stars was inspired by the china I found at my favorite tabletop store in Paris, Talmaris. It is made by Laboratorio Paravicini. I love this china because it tells a story with all the astrological signs. We had a wonderful mediterranean themed dinner that night. I love to mix and match my china and I often let the setting of the dinner lend itself to which china I choose – if we are eating in our dining room, I try to compliment the colors of the fortuny pillows – purples, blues and greens.
For menus, I often follow the seasons, so the food is fresh and colorful, not fussy. For the men’s dinner, I wanted a more unique and masculine menu for the men to enjoy – steak, fries and hot fudge sundaes. I also love comfort food, as I never want anyone to leave our table hungry.
Since you are definitely the hostess with the mostess, what are the most essential tips you can share with us when preparing to entertain?
SBS: I enjoy getting everything prepared before the event, so I can relax and enjoy my guests. I think about every detail weeks and days before – guest list, flowers, china, silver, crystal, setting up the bar, dessert etc. I mentally and physically walk through the spaces and think about how my guests will experience the luncheon or dinner. Right before the guests arrive, I light the candles, turn on music, grab a cocktail and get ready to greet them at the door. A warm welcome is the best way to start a dinner or party. After all, the purpose is to laugh, connect and cherish this time together.
I know we have all experienced this as a host, but what is the worst experience that comes to mind for you and how do you recommend a hostess handle herself or himself in case of party drama?
SBS: Of course, we have all had the worst experience. I once had a guest pass out at cocktails and an ambulance had to come. Luckily, he was fine in the end, but I had to reset the tone and get everyone in a lighter mood. On a funnier note, I did have a dinner party once where I found my dog, a spaniel, on the dining room table eating leftovers while we had all adjourned to the living room. He was faster than the caterer!!
I agree with one of your comments in the book about monochromatic flowers and urban environments. The singular beauty of florals arranged adds such dimension to a room.
What are the best flowers you have found you enjoy working with?
SBS: The simplicity of Sweet Peas. Dahlias for impact. I love working with garden roses, Vibernum and Hydrangeas, esp variegated, are always a favorite. I also love Calalies – they are clean, simple and modern. I love Delphinium for sideboards and mantles, as they are so sophisticated.
One can never go wrong with an abundance of flowers and I love them to look more natural, so they compliment the surroundings – indoors or outside in the garden. Some of my favorite colors are purples, blush, corals, greens and always a classic white. green goes with everything!!
Can you tell us what is your favorite season of the year and why?
SBS: I would have to say that summer is my favorite season, warm weather is my favorite, nature, gardens and everything about being outside. We are usually based in Sun Valley, ID. During summer we have a wonderful group of friends we love to entertain. I love garden roses, Peonies in June and an abundance of Hydrangeas. I love how it stays light until 9pm and enjoying rosé for cocktails on warm summer nights. I also love farm fresh food in summer such as heirloom tomatoes, white corn, peaches and berries.
Lastly, You’re Invited Classic, Elegant Entertaining is an amazing holiday gift idea, if you were to personalize a message to each of your fans and admirers what would that be?
SBS: Thank you, I think the book makes a wonderful gift and I truly hope it inspires others to entertain.
My personal message is – always, love, laugh and entertain! xo Stephanie
Follow Stephanie @stephanieboothshafran for more upcoming Holiday Ideas.
Publisher – Rizzoli
Photographer: The Ingalls