egendary interior designer, tastemaker and Southern-belle-turned-New-Yorker Charlotte Moss knows how to play the impeccable hostess, a skill she credits to her Virginia roots. She grew up surrounded by women who taught her their secrets to throwing an elegant gathering, be it a small garden party or a tremendous gala. In her 10th book, Charlotte Moss Entertains: Celebrations and Everyday Occasions (Rizzoli), she reveals these lifelong lessons. Here, she discusses how she entertains in her East Hampton home.
What Southern traditions have you incorporated into your East Hampton gatherings?
In the South, people entertain more at home. It’s the highest compliment to have people in your home; it immediately says you have extended yourself for them. The food and wine are always plentiful. Southern food buffets are a household favorite–Virginia ham with chutneys, crab cakes, barbecue and more.
How do Hamptons fetes differ from those in the city?
People who go to the Hamptons from the city are looking for an escape, the outdoors, the beach–they are looking for comfort in a relaxed atmosphere or where they can dress in chic comfort and do all things alfresco: picnics, oyster roasts on the beach and lunch by the pool.
Tell us your secret for overcoming the pressure of hosting.
A practiced hostess is a relaxed hostess, and that also means relaxed guests. One of the biggest compliments I have received was from someone who said, “You made dinner really feel like a party.” That made my day!
What is the key to hosting weekend guests?
Sleep in the guest room–it’s always an eye-opener to what will make it really work. I give my guests the gift of time: time to sleep, time to swim, time to read. I don’t schedule them with “gotta go here” and “gotta go there.” Breakfasts are at your leisure and often taken in the bedroom; lunches and dinner are a set time. We dress for dinner.
How do you make events memorable for your guests?
Lesley Blanch–author, intrepid traveler, style maven–said if she could not return to a country, she could make a dish that would allow her to “recapture the rapture.” That quote always echoes when I am planning an event. As an example: setting the table with a patterned Turkish fabric, serving a spicy dish in a ceramic tagine, the use of Iznik platters and the centerpieces reflecting flowers in Turkish tiles–tulips and carnations. This tells your guests you have created something special for them. I can only hope this is memorable.
How has travel influenced your events?
The custom and culture of foreign countries is inspiring and informative on many levels. The setting of the table and organizing a party is just one place where that influence surfaces. The brilliant colors and aromatic spices of India, the simplicity of a French picnic, the patterns and pottery of Istanbul and the civilized manner in which the Brits do everything have found their way into meals and parties at my home.
Whom do you consider the most legendary hostesses?
There are many who have inspired me in various ways: the tablescapes of Pauline de Rothschild, the generosity and graciousness of Marjorie Merriweather Post and Betsy Bloomingdale, the exotic dishes of Lesley Blanch, the outrageousness of Elsa Maxwell and the exquisitely appointed tables of Bunny Mellon. Each possessed the creativity, spontaneity and joy of a real hostess.