Part Four: I resolve to keep my friends close and my family closer.
I have a theory that a home is like a cast-iron frying pan: it needs to be seasoned to achieve its full potential. Just as a well-used pan has traces of all the meals cooked in it, so a home has a sense memory of every moment experienced within its walls. These days, I’m making sure my house is steeped in laughter, cooking and good conversation because at the end of the day, those are the delicious things that give life meaning.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and this charming bird doorknocker lets visitors know from the get-go that they’ve arrived at no ordinary abode. It’s almost identical to the brass one I picked up in rural India and now greets all who enter my house in Hollywood. Why choose a conventional knocker when you have a chance to make them smile before you even say hello? amazon.com
Napkins are one of the easiest ways to transform a dining table and these colorful block-printed ones from Roberta Roller Rabbit will add a lovely frisson of personality to any meal, whether you’re making bouillabaisse for ten or ordering take-out for two. Don’t feel compelled to buy ten of the same – I think it’s far more inspired to mix and match, don’t you? Roberta Roller Rabbit napkins, store01.prostores.com
I have a penchant for luxury picnic baskets, and this one has me conjuring up images of assorted Bright Young Things sprawled out on the grass in the middle of a massive country estate. Appropriately called the “Highlander”, its crafted from bamboo and rattan and contains everything you need for a posh alfresco meal for four. Whether you use it amid pastoral vistas or just relaxing in your back garden (as I’ll be doing), you’ll feel as if Cecil Beaton will be joining you at any moment. williamglen.com
I was given this tea chest from the renowned Harney & Sons recently and now I want to buy one for everyone I know. It’s the perfect hostess or housewarming gift and, when passed around the table during dessert, will send the meal’s “oooh” factor soaring. Each linen-covered box arrives wrapped in a ribbon and holds a variety of 32 individually wrapped tea sachets. Can you say fragrante delicto? harney.com
An authentic Brown Betty teapot is widely considered to be the best teapot ever created. Apparently, its tubby shape allows tea leaves to mingle more freely and the special red clay offers unparalleled heat retention. I admit I was skeptical…and then I bought one. Honestly, all I could think after my inaugural cup was, “So this is what tea is supposed to taste like.” ancientindustries.com
I call them “My Friends I Never Met”: passionate, like-minded souls who, but for a minor glitch in the time-space continuum, would have been intimates of mine (or so I like to think). Ottoline Morrell, Vanessa Bell, Lytton Strachey…now, thanks to the National Portrait Gallery, they can grace my home anyway. Over 160,000 of the NPG’s amazing archival photographs are now available as digital prints. I plan to frame this Bloomsbury-era scene in my kitchen to give my mundane nightly cleanup a bit of bohemian allure. npg.org.uk
This faux-bois cookbook stand is what I’m sure Valentino’s chef uses at his chalet in Gstaad and if he doesn’t, someone needs to send him one. It has such beautiful carved details that even though it isn’t solid wood— it’s cast-resin—I don’t mind. The stand adjusts to different angles and little weighted leaves dangle from chains to keep the pages securely open. Plus, who’s to say you can’t prop your favorite novel on it if you’re lunching alone? wisteria.com
Confession: I don’t own a dog, but after I spotting this incredible tapestry bed from Nathan Turner, I now want one. (The cat will just have to deal.) Fashioned from gorgeous vintage Turkish carpets, they come in two sizes—to accommodate both Malteses and Malamutes—and are all unique woven works of art. If this is a dog’s life, I want in. 1stdibs.com
Vintage horseshoes: an age-old symbol of protection and the kind of thing you don’t realize you need until you have one. Hang one over a doorway for prosperity, slip them around starched napkins as take-home talismans at your next dinner party, use them as paperweights or just keep one on your desk as a reminder to keep your feet solidly planted on the ground. If those aren’t reasons enough, they say “good luck” on them; who can argue with that? catbirdnyc.com
Part of the fun of entertaining is being adaptable to spur-of-the-moment surprises (like the time I invited six for dinner and ten showed up.) This six-legged Louis XVI style bench is perfect for impromptu extra seating and in the daytime, it can more than hold its own in a foyer or perched at the end of a bed. Made of sturdy oak, it’s upholstered in vintage handwoven linen that “shows the wear of the original owners.” Oh, if those wefts could talk. wisteria.com
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