More than a dozen large, blue, spherical Chinese lanterns hang from a pergola above an outdoor party scene from the pages of Entertaining at Home by Ronda Carman. The scene also features a table with a white tablecloth and an arrangement of white hydrangeas. There are two rattan armchairs at the table. A bench sits to one side, and a stocked bar cart to the other. The background is lush with a thick wall of greenery.

“An enjoyable outdoor dinner party does not demand great planning or anything elaborate—just simple food, good company, and a welcoming location,” writes Ronda Carman of a table she set for a simple dinner of oyster stew.

In her new book, Entertaining at Home (Rizzoli New York, 2019), hostess Ronda Carman offers a veritable cocktail buffet of entertaining inspiration. Recruiting a lively mix of fashionable friends, designers, architects, shop owners, and chefs to throw parties in their own homes using their own pieces and recipes, she has compiled a trove of ideas that feel road-tested and ready to use.

Bettie Bearden Pardee captures old-school elegance with a clam chowder meal in her Newport orangerie. Suzanne Kasler throws a French-inspired lunch on her Atlanta patio. Julia Reed, a name synonymous with Southern hospitality, hosts a spring fling in New Orleans. And iconic hostess Lynn Wyatt (looking fabulous in a striped caftan and statement necklace) throws a lively margarita lunch on her South Texas ranch.

A china closet with four levels of shelves of three sides holds stacks of china, elegant gilt candelabras, and silver serving pieces. Bright teal walls and matching shelves feature a pattern that resembles marbling.

“Historically, a butler’s pantry was a space dedicated to counting, polishing, and storing silver. Such spaces have experienced a resurgence in popularity in recent years,” writes Carman in ‘Entertaining at Home.’ Interior designer Grace Kaynor’s home “proves that a small, perfectly proportioned pantry can be both functional as well as visually exciting.”

Aside from the beautifully set tables and lists of recipes, hosts offer tidbits of advice that will send many a reader running for a notepad. Houston shop owner Ruth Davis explains how to “stay stocked” for impromptu gatherings; Kimberly Schlegel Whitman breaks down the anatomy of a proper cheese plate; and Amy Beth Cupp makes a convincing case for using good china every day. Ultimately the real reward in these pages is the inspiration to pick up the phone (or text) and invite folks over. Life is short. Entertain.


Book cover for Entertaining at Home by Ronda CarmanBy Kirk Reed Forrester | Photography © Matthew Mead from Entertaining at Home: Inspirations from Celebrated Hosts by Ronda Carman (Rizzoli New York, 2019)

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