Jennifer Boles has a knack for showing how classic style can be thoroughly modern, as readers of her blog, The Peak of Chic, discover daily. “Things become tried-and-true for a reason. We just have to tweak here and there to keep things relevant,” she says. The design history aficionado is particularly drawn to the period between the World Wars: “I love the way chic hostesses in New York and London entertained in the ’30s, when cocktails really became popular, and there was such a ritual about it.” It’s no surprise that Boles carries on that tradition when she entertains at home.
The hostess looks to a few of her style icons for entertaining inspiration.
ALBERT HADLEY was a modernist who was firmly rooted in tradition—I love his style. Friends who were fortunate to be invited for drinks at his apartment say he would have a tray in the kitchen, you’d fix your own cocktail, and he might put out a bowl of chips or Triscuits. That’s basic, but everyone would have a wonderful time in a beautiful setting, with interesting people and great conversation. I always think about that—not to make things too elaborate just for the sake of doing so.
DOROTHY DRAPER believed, “A delighted hostess is a delightful hostess.” The way I can be a delightful hostess is to have people for cocktails rather than dinner, because it’s less stressful for me. Draper’s book Entertaining is Fun! instills so much confidence
ELSIE DE WOLFE wrote, “Simplicity is the mark of a master-hand” in her cookbook Recipes for Successful Dining. That’s so spot-on and reminds me to keep it simple, but keep it elegant. The book is an interesting peek into her entertaining perspective. I don’t often cook from it, however, as our palates have changed since then—I’m not sure if I could convince guests to try Boiled Tongue a la Ritz or Creamed Haddock.
CONSTANCE SPRY loosened things up with her floral designs, and encouraged people to feel comfortable using humble materials. A natural and sculptural arrangement can be a very dramatic moment on the table.