You could say that Northern Virginia designer Lauren Liess entertains for a crowd every day. She and her husband, David Liess, have four children, ages 7 months to 8 years. Founder of the blog Pure Style Home, Liess takes the time to set a beautiful, simple table, whether it’s for a home-cooked family meal, a quick takeout dinner or a party with lots of appetizers.
Her style of entertaining reflects the natural, relaxed vibe of her decorating, which is chronicled in her first book, “Habitat: The Field Guide to Decorating,” published in October.
The look is grounded in the large white china dinner plates that she sets out either on the rustic oak table in the kitchen or the zinc table in the dining room. For centerpieces, she likes to use fresh-cut greens and flowers and whatever is in season outside her back door. Liess’s favorite table decoration is a grouping of all kinds of candlesticks: brass, lucite, glass, silver and wood, usually outfitted with ivory candles. Or she might put out a large bowl of shells, leaves, vintage finds and maybe an antler.
Local Living is launching a new series in which we ask top designers for their favorite picks in their favorite stores. For the first installment, we asked Liess to go shopping with us and select five great entertaining essentials. She chose Pottery Barn as one of her go-to shops, and we met at the Tysons Corner Center location a few weeks ago. Here are the things she picked out, and the ways she would use them.
Liess was immediately drawn to the Belgian flax linen hemstitch napkins ($36 for a set of four), because they look like the ones she uses daily at home. “I like the look of these napkins and the natural linen color. They are not pure white, so they are more forgiving of stains,” Liess says. She says they work as a daily staple because they are more environmentally friendly than using, say, paper towels, are machine-washable and don’t have to be ironed. “My 5-year-old brings them to the laundry room when they need washing,” she says.
These chunky 14-inch-round chargers ($24 each) are made of hand-carved acacia wood. Liess says she is “not a big placemat person,” and the raw-wood chargers she uses at home are textural elements that set off her plates. “The wood adds an organic element to the table. It’s raw and rustic. If you pair it with classic white plates and silverware, it adds in texture,” Liess says. She also likes the look of them with more formal china, including a vintage pattern featuring wild clover owned by her grandmother.
Liess is a big fan of mixing metals, and likes the shape and look of these copper-plated brass mugs ($44.50, set of two). “I don’t do a lot of color on my table, but these would add a nice shine,” she says. She can envision them holding signature cocktails for a party, but says they would work just as well for everyday cold beverages.
This silver-plated pitcher ($79), made of stainless steel, has a finish that mimics the look of a vintage restaurant water pitcher. It is available in three shapes, and Liess’s favorite is the Pour model, center. Liess says she likes its “classic, festive look,” and is considering adding one to her collection. Over the years, she has put many of her water pitchers to work as flowers vases.
Glazed white porcelain stands, such as this Great White Cake Stand ($45), are a favorite of Liess’s. She has several that she sometimes stacks, and often uses a glass dome she found at a thrift shop as a cover to keep foods fresh. (Pottery Barn has a similar dome for $29.) Her favorite use for a cake stand is displaying breakfast foods. “Whether for my family or for houseguests, I like to put bagels and muffins in them the night before and put a glass dome over them. Then it’s cozy and cheery for guests to wake up to a beautifully displayed breakfast, and they can help themselves.”
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