Renowned decorator and trendsetter, Charlotte Moss, has a problem with the word entertaining. “It reminds me of what a comedian does, what going to the movies or a great Broadway show is all about,” she writes in her new book, “Charlotte Moss Entertains” (Rizzoli, $50). With her trademark style and Southern charm, the Virginia native continues: “The word can also evoke images of state dinner formality, the frightening thought of the boss and his wife coming to dinner, and your mother-in-law’s scrutinizing, hypercritical eye.”
For Moss, the word conjures up a sense of seriousness, grown-up-ness and work. And yet, like most hosts and hostesses have discovered, the rewards of entertaining are never far from reach. “Introducing people, the buzz of laughter and conversation, the smile acknowledging that something tastes great, being told everything looks beautiful, clean plates! The exhilaration of a successful evening, well, what could possibly be more gratifying?” She writes in the 288-page book, which chronicles how she entertains at home, whether it’s for philanthropic events, social gatherings, unique occasions (like her annual ladies “Caftan Caucus”) or holiday celebrations.
One signature event is her annual Christmas buffet, held each year at her Upper East Side townhouse. We collected a few of her holiday (and non-holiday) entertaining secrets below:
Natural makes perfect. “Years ago, I decided to weave the railings of our iron fence and gate with red willow I had seen in large bundles at the flower market,” she writes. She also ended up calling a wood artist who wove the willow branches through the railings. At Christmas time we add garlands of greens across the top, and pray for an atmospheric dusting of snow.”
Think beyond the tree. Since Moss spends a majority of the holiday season at her home in Aspen, she does not do a Christmas tree in New York. Instead, she decorates the front of her town house and garden pergola fireplace.
Don’t be afraid to go digital. “Each year I select a graphic for the invitation that speaks to the season. I send these out by Paperless Post, because it’s so efficient.”
Let there be light. “To me nothing is more mood enhancing and downright sexy than candlelight.”
Hit the right note. “Music at cocktail time is key; it relaxes people and simply puts them in a good mood.”
Flowers are nice, but not necessary. Think beyond flowers for your table centerpieces. “Use what you have; you will surprise yourself and gain confidence at the same time.”
The element of surprise. “I think a good way to make an event memorable is to add an element of surprise, or something that puts your stamp on it. This could be a special cocktail you have made for the evening, your table design, an entertainment, a soufflé for dessert, or a small gift as a parting gesture.”
A gift for the holidays. “In October I usually start thinking about a parting gift for my guests.”