Entertaining in Style

By Michelle Payer

With Vogue magazine’s Anna Wintour hailing Ceci Johnson “a favorite designer” for her couture invitation designs and the Ceci New York brand that offers everything from place cards to cozy blankets and colorful chargers for home-entertaining pizzazz, we couldn’t wait to get the artist’s thoughts about throwing a memorable fete at Acqualina or one’s own private villa. Yes, artist. Johnson hand-paints every piece in her vast collection– from the bold Tropical Fiji print to the statement-making Crimson Harley design – and believes her mission is to “elevate people’s worlds in new and unexpected ways.” Whether at Acqualina or at home, she says, “above all, you’re reflecting your own style and personality, what drives your inspiration and what makes your heart happy” when entertaining.  And that, she says, is your starting point. From there, she says, whether it’s oceanfront dining or in one’s living room, you’re creating special moments that deviate from the norm, using beautiful linen napkins, fanciful chargers, fresh flowers and candles.

At home, she says, use the classic interior design “grouping technique” – perhaps clustering three votive candles and three vases together down a long table to feel “connected, balanced and anchored,” which could be said for our need to entertain and feel close. Use place cards to communicate to guests you’ve given thought to whom they’re sitting with and meeting, print menus to elevate the entire experience, and place a special surprise at every place setting. “I like writing a personal note, or giving my guests a gift so they’re immediately spoiled when they sit down,” she says. Whether it’s a box of beautiful notecards, a journal or a gratitude jar guests fill throughout the year, Johnson says it’s all about tailoring the gift to your group. Whether entertaining at Acqualina, with its impeccable detail, intuitive service and elevated cuisine, or at home, Johnson advises to always hire an event planner so you can savor every moment with your guests.  “By creating an atmosphere that’s different from the norm, it shows emotion, passion and care, and distills everything down to what matters most – your closest circle of confidantes,” says Johnson. “It’s not everyday you sit at a beautiful, fully dressed table,” she says. “When you invite your guests to come do that, it touches your heart in a new way.”