At Home With…
Rebecca Gardner


The irreverent Southern event planner is known for hosting the most memorable parties. So, how is she getting her kicks in a socially-distanced world? From swiss chard topiaries to champagne in the sink and (un)dressing the part—she dishes her best secrets for small and large gatherings alike.
  
Interview by: Tatiana Hambro
Pictured: Rebecca Gardner wears Oscar de la Renta with her own hair and make-up. Photographed by Chia Chong at her home in Savannah, Georgia.
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At Home With…
Rebecca Gardner


The irreverent Southern event planner is known for hosting the most memorable parties. So, how is she getting her kicks in a socially-distanced world? From swiss chard topiaries to champagne in the sink and (un)dressing the part—she dishes her best secrets for small and large gatherings alike.
  
Interview by: Tatiana Hambro
Pictured: Rebecca Gardner wears Oscar de la Renta with her own hair and make-up. Photographed by Chia Chong at her home in Savannah, Georgia.
Editorial Image
At Home With…
Rebecca Gardner


The irreverent Southern event planner is known for hosting the most memorable parties. So, how does she plan on having fun this year? From giant swiss chard topiaries to champagne in the sink and the art of (un)dressing the part—she dishes her best secrets.
 
 

Interview by: Tatiana Hambro
Pictured: Rebecca Gardner wears Oscar de la Renta with her own hair and make-up.
Photographed by Chia Chong at her home in Savannah, Georgia.
At Home With…
Rebecca Gardner


The irreverent Southern event planner is known for hosting the most memorable parties. So, how does she plan on having fun this year? From giant swiss chard topiaries to champagne in the sink and the art of (un)dressing the part—she dishes her best secrets.
 
 

Interview by: Tatiana Hambro
Pictured: Rebecca Gardner wears Oscar de la Renta with her own hair and make-up.
Photographed by Chia Chong at her home in Savannah, Georgia.
On Southern Hospitality…

Southerners entertain often, and they entertain well. The south is quite spread out, and so, historically, if you had someone come for dinner, you really had to entertain them. In a contemporary sense, Southerners are certainly known for their gregarious enthusiasm, their comfort food, and their sense of welcoming—hopefully!
     
There’s no easier route to someone’s heart than to cook them dinner in your own home. I have a tiny shoebox apartment in Manhattan and am used to serving things out of a bathtub with ice. New Yorkers can be self-conscious about the size of their apartments, but there’s a real beauty in that sort of vulnerability. In my shoebox, I’d have about eight people, some of them fancy some of them less so, and I’d order fried chicken, haul my Grandmother's sterling flatware from my house in Savannah, and just do it. People got a real kick out of retrieving the third bottle of champagne from the kitchen sink. There’s a Holly Golightly ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ vibe which is really sweet. It does make it easier to have space, but sometimes being creative and self-deprecating can make for a better party. It’s all about making your guests feel at ease; you don’t want it to feel pretentious. With practice comes a confidence which allows you to throw your hair back and relax. And if all else fails, order takeout.
  
On The Holidays Down South…

I love to have a "come one, come all" house around the holidays, but this year will be much more intimate. We usually have Christmas in Houston with my parents and family and friends. It’s ideal vacation weather—we really don’t get cold until the end of January and February and even then it’s rarely very cold. Growing up in Texas, on Christmas morning, the ladies in my neighborhood would go for walks in their fur coats and velvet collars, even if it was 68 degrees outside.
 
On Southern Hospitality…

Southerners entertain often, and they entertain well. The south is quite spread out, and so, historically, if you had someone come for dinner, you really had to entertain them. In a contemporary sense, Southerners are certainly known for their gregarious enthusiasm, their comfort food, and their sense of welcoming—hopefully!
     
There’s no easier route to someone’s heart than to cook them dinner in your own home. I have a tiny shoebox apartment in Manhattan and am used to serving things out of a bathtub with ice. New Yorkers can be self-conscious about the size of their apartments, but there’s a real beauty in that sort of vulnerability. In my shoebox, I’d have about eight people, some of them fancy some of them less so, and I’d order fried chicken, haul my Grandmother's sterling flatware from my house in Savannah, and just do it. People got a real kick out of retrieving the third bottle of champagne from the kitchen sink. There’s a Holly Golightly ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ vibe which is really sweet. It does make it easier to have space, but sometimes being creative and self-deprecating can make for a better party. It’s all about making your guests feel at ease; you don’t want it to feel pretentious. With practice comes a confidence which allows you to throw your hair back and relax. And if all else fails, order takeout.
  
On The Holidays Down South…

I love to have a "come one, come all" house around the holidays, but this year will be much more intimate. We usually have Christmas in Houston with my parents and family and friends. It’s ideal vacation weather—we really don’t get cold until the end of January and February and even then it’s rarely very cold. Growing up in Texas, on Christmas morning, the ladies in my neighborhood would go for walks in their fur coats and velvet collars, even if it was 68 degrees outside.
 
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On The Art Of The Cold Cocktail Buffet...

Every year, my parents would host a holiday open house and cocktail buffet which was so fun. It was always the same food, all these beautiful smoked meats. If you have a cocktail buffet laid with things that don't have to be a certain temperature, it means because people can come before church; or they can come after church and have one too many glasses of champagne; they can stop by before going to their own family meal; or come late night. A cold supper is a great format for spontaneity. There's nothing rigid or perfunctory about it. And it's easy for children because the kids can run circles around the house eating rolls.
  
The idea of a buffet is you want all those fabulous distractions: nothing is more unattractive than a ham on a silver tray, so I create giant topiaries out of green beans, Brussels sprouts, and swiss chard. I just string vegetables with a needle and thread, sort of making little hula skirts. I think garnishes are really embarrassing. A bed of battered lettuce under a beef tender is humiliating! I like French restaurants where everything comes on the plate; you see the grease and you know what you’re getting.
  
On The Little Details That Make A Big Difference…

I always bring lagniappe for the table. It’s a Creole word for little extras. In fashion lagniappe would be a little brooch or earring. If you were at a state fair in Louisiana and you had a bag of fried shrimp, then the lagniappe would be the little fried pieces at the bottom. I’ll bring cards with big tassels for the menu, or the amazing ceramic potatoes from Moda. It’s the little extras that make it special. A perfect example—in fact the finest example—of lagniappe are all those little ceramic vegetables from Moda Domus. The eggplant, tomatoes, corn...I love how you could put them on the table for a little trompe l'oeil surprise. And it would be so fun to put edibles inside the ceramic box for the adults. Hide them from the children.
   
On Drinks—Strong Ones…

My favorite champagne is Ruinart Blanc De Blancs. A sip on that on an empty stomach at the beginning of a party is better than a new haircut. You want to make your cocktails in batches: any cocktail you can make in a pitcher and then shake it and pour it on new ice is so easy. There’s a great recipe in Serving New York. A negroni is good, an old fashioned is great. You just need a really good looking pitcher, and Moda has tons of those.
 
On The Art Of The Cold Cocktail Buffet...

Every year, my parents would host a holiday open house and cocktail buffet which was so fun. It was always the same food, all these beautiful smoked meats. If you have a cocktail buffet laid with things that don't have to be a certain temperature, it means because people can come before church; or they can come after church and have one too many glasses of champagne; they can stop by before going to their own family meal; or come late night. A cold supper is a great format for spontaneity. There's nothing rigid or perfunctory about it. And it's easy for children because the kids can run circles around the house eating rolls.
  
The idea of a buffet is you want all those fabulous distractions: nothing is more unattractive than a ham on a silver tray, so I create giant topiaries out of green beans, Brussels sprouts, and swiss chard. I just string vegetables with a needle and thread, sort of making little hula skirts. I think garnishes are really embarrassing. A bed of battered lettuce under a beef tender is humiliating! I like French restaurants where everything comes on the plate; you see the grease and you know what you’re getting.
  
On The Little Details That Make A Big Difference…

I always bring lagniappe for the table. It’s a Creole word for little extras. In fashion lagniappe would be a little brooch or earring. If you were at a state fair in Louisiana and you had a bag of fried shrimp, then the lagniappe would be the little fried pieces at the bottom. I’ll bring cards with big tassels for the menu, or the amazing ceramic potatoes from Moda. It’s the little extras that make it special. A perfect example—in fact the finest example—of lagniappe are all those little ceramic vegetables from Moda Domus. The eggplant, tomatoes, corn...I love how you could put them on the table for a little trompe l'oeil surprise. And it would be so fun to put edibles inside the ceramic box for the adults. Hide them from the children.
   
On Drinks—Strong Ones…

My favorite champagne is Ruinart Blanc De Blancs. A sip on that on an empty stomach at the beginning of a party is better than a new haircut. You want to make your cocktails in batches: any cocktail you can make in a pitcher and then shake it and pour it on new ice is so easy. There’s a great recipe in Serving New York. A negroni is good, an old fashioned is great. You just need a really good looking pitcher, and Moda has tons of those.
 
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On Her Home—And Holiday Decor...

I live in a pink stucco 1940s international-style house in Savannah, Georgia. I chose it because it was freeing; the house was already so wild—especially in Savannah, which is quite classic and old fashioned—so I just went for it and had fun. The walls are pink. It’s a color called Setting Plaster by Farrow and Ball. It looks like a dirty Band-Aid, but it’s really flattering. I designed this house to be really flattering to everyone at night. It has lots of glittering and reflective surfaces, all of the furniture is upholstered and cozy and low to the ground. I wanted it to feel like a club.
  
On Her Home—And Holiday Decor...

I live in a pink stucco 1940s international-style house in Savannah, Georgia. I chose it because it was freeing; the house was already so wild—especially in Savannah, which is quite classic and old fashioned—so I just went for it and had fun. The walls are pink. It’s a color called Setting Plaster by Farrow and Ball. It looks like a dirty Band-Aid, but it’s really flattering. I designed this house to be really flattering to everyone at night. It has lots of glittering and reflective surfaces, all of the furniture is upholstered and cozy and low to the ground. I wanted it to feel like a club.
  
“I was planning on doing colored lights because my mother always thought they were tacky. I thought “Hell, I’m going to do them.” 
 

“I was planning on doing colored lights because my mother always thought they were tacky. I thought “Hell, I’m going to do them.” 
 

There’s no mantel on the fireplace in this modern house, so it’s all about the tree. I was planning on doing colored lights because my mother always thought they were tacky. I thought “Hell, I’m going to do them.” Then I got them home and they were sort of tacky... I always do lights outside. It’s a gift to your neighborhood to be festive. I have this amazing collection of ornaments (my family and friends and godmothers all gift ornaments to each other throughout the year). As an adult, it kind of makes me teary when I pull them out one by one because they’re like old friends that I only get to see once a year. Decorating the tree is a real process for me and very special.
  
Red is the color of the season—no matter what. I roll my eyes when people say avoid red and green at Christmas, because, to my mind, red is the color of Christmas. I also love patterned tablecloths! It looks special, like you made an extra effort; the more your table looks like you made an effort, the more you’re saying “I'm so glad you’re here. This little 24 by 24 inch space, with this flower twisted this way, and your napkin folded like this, and the fun person to right, and the interesting person to your left...I made this little experience just for you.” A patterned tablecloth doesn't do that on its own, but I think the more effort you make the more of a gift you’re gifting.
 
There’s no mantel on the fireplace in this modern house, so it’s all about the tree. I was planning on doing colored lights because my mother always thought they were tacky. I thought “Hell, I’m going to do them.” Then I got them home and they were sort of tacky... I always do lights outside. It’s a gift to your neighborhood to be festive. I have this amazing collection of ornaments (my family and friends and godmothers all gift ornaments to each other throughout the year). As an adult, it kind of makes me teary when I pull them out one by one because they’re like old friends that I only get to see once a year. Decorating the tree is a real process for me and very special.
  
Red is the color of the season—no matter what. I roll my eyes when people say avoid red and green at Christmas, because, to my mind, red is the color of Christmas. I also love patterned tablecloths! It looks special, like you made an extra effort; the more your table looks like you made an effort, the more you’re saying “I'm so glad you’re here. This little 24 by 24 inch space, with this flower twisted this way, and your napkin folded like this, and the fun person to right, and the interesting person to your left...I made this little experience just for you.” A patterned tablecloth doesn't do that on its own, but I think the more effort you make the more of a gift you’re gifting.
 
“I roll my eyes when people say avoid red and green at Christmas.” 
 

“I roll my eyes when people say avoid red and green at Christmas.” 
 

On Gift Wrapping And Finding The Perfect Perky Bow...

It’s so hard to find good wrapping paper. This year for Moda, we commissioned an Italian marbling paper artist to make sheets, and we accompanied it with my favorite grosgrain ribbon. It’s really crunchy and has this structure to it, like a matte crinoline. I don’t like floppy satin ribbons. A matte, perky, full bow with long lavish tails is heaven to me. And we had gift tags, which I find to be another illusive Christmas treasure, engraved with cute holiday song lyrics in gold. One says “Just leave a sable under the tree for me”, and other says, “snowin’ and blowin’ up bushels of fun.” It was really fun coming up with that.
  
On Dressing Up (And Down) For The Holidays…

I think everything during the holidays should have either velvet or sparkles. We have an elegant family dinner and everyone dresses up out of respect to the effort made, but we also drink a lot of champagne and are silly and kick off our shoes. I always wear a full skirt because I have a big bottom; I’m so pleased that both full skirts and big bottoms are back in style. I like clothes that are tailored and beautifully-made. I love color. Because I’m 5’2”, I want to be a column of color...I don’t want people to stop at my shoes.
 
On Gift Wrapping And Finding The Perfect Perky Bow...

It’s so hard to find good wrapping paper. This year for Moda, we commissioned an Italian marbling paper artist to make sheets, and we accompanied it with my favorite grosgrain ribbon. It’s really crunchy and has this structure to it, like a matte crinoline. I don’t like floppy satin ribbons. A matte, perky, full bow with long lavish tails is heaven to me. And we had gift tags, which I find to be another illusive Christmas treasure, engraved with cute holiday song lyrics in gold. One says “Just leave a sable under the tree for me”, and other says, “snowin’ and blowin’ up bushels of fun.” It was really fun coming up with that.
  
On Dressing Up (And Down) For The Holidays…

I think everything during the holidays should have either velvet or sparkles. We have an elegant family dinner and everyone dresses up out of respect to the effort made, but we also drink a lot of champagne and are silly and kick off our shoes. I always wear a full skirt because I have a big bottom; I’m so pleased that both full skirts and big bottoms are back in style. I like clothes that are tailored and beautifully-made. I love color. Because I’m 5’2”, I want to be a column of color...I don’t want people to stop at my shoes.
 
“My philosophy is you dress to the nines and then kick off your shoes.” 
 

“My philosophy is you dress to the nines and then kick off your shoes.” 
 

On The Three Simple Steps To Being A Fabulous Host…

Lauren [Santo Domingo] and I decided a while back that if you were a cool host, you dressed up top to bottom and then took off your shoes, you passed around canapés and compliments with equal abandon, and at least three times in the evening, you should perch on the edge of a sofa and chair in your bare feet, so everyone else feels comfortable to let their hair down. My philosophy is you dress to the nines and then kick off your shoes. Nothing is a sign of a better party than a pair of Spanx left in the powder room cabinet. That’s when you know it was a good night.
  
On The Three Simple Steps To Being A Fabulous Host…

Lauren [Santo Domingo] and I decided a while back that if you were a cool host, you dressed up top to bottom and then took off your shoes, you passed around canapés and compliments with equal abandon, and at least three times in the evening, you should perch on the edge of a sofa and chair in your bare feet, so everyone else feels comfortable to let their hair down. My philosophy is you dress to the nines and then kick off your shoes. Nothing is a sign of a better party than a pair of Spanx left in the powder room cabinet. That’s when you know it was a good night.
  

How To: The Sumptuous Cocktail Buffet According to Rebecca Gardner

For those of us able to entertain safely outside this year or, later on, for when your guest list outgrows your dining room, shake it up with a cocktail buffet. This is a casual supper. Guests serve themselves and eat on their laps, perched around the house.
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How To: The Sumptuous Cocktail Buffet According to Rebecca Gardner

For those of us able to entertain safely outside this year or, later on, for when your guest list outgrows your dining room, shake it up with a cocktail buffet. This is a casual supper. Guests serve themselves and eat on their laps, perched around the house.
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How To: The Sumptuous Cocktail Buffet According to Rebecca Gardner 
 
For those of us able to entertain safely outside this year or, later on, for when your guest list outgrows your dining room, shake it up with a cocktail buffet. This is a casual supper. Guests serve themselves and eat on their laps, perched around the house.   







How To: The Sumptuous Cocktail Buffet According to Rebecca Gardner 
 
For those of us able to entertain safely outside this year or, later on, for when your guest list outgrows your dining room, shake it up with a cocktail buffet. This is a casual supper. Guests serve themselves and eat on their laps, perched around the house.   




Do’s & Don'ts

Do hold true to cocktail hour. Serve cocktails for an hour, then dinner and dessert. Utilize different rooms for each movement. It will keep the night lively
 
Don’t serve wine in long stemware. Short tumblers are less likely to tip over when guests are balancing plates. If you are precious with rugs and upholstery, do not serve red wine.
 
Do create a dazzling focal point in the middle of the table with dramatic scale and twinkling candlelight. Set the table in this order: dinner plates, main dish, side dishes, bread, large dinner napkins, fork.
 
Don’t serve food that has to be piping hot. The menu should be easily eaten with (only) a fork. One dish meals work well for cocktail buffets; shrimp curry & rice, grits & grillades, or shepherd’s pie.
 
Do use dinner size napkins, large enough to cover your lap.
 
Don’t allow for an embarrassing line of guests with plates as if at the trough. To avoid this, discreetly announce dinner to the guest of honor and those nearby. Everyone can eat at their own pace. Make sure guests have eaten dinner before clearing the food. I don’t like food to sit out for more than an hour and a half.
 
Do check the house to ensure you have plenty of stools and side chairs to easily move around. Guests will take their plates and perch around the house. Move the dining chairs into the largest room and group around upholstery.
 
Don’t underestimate the value of investing in helpful staff. They will circulate with water and wine, keeping glasses full.
 
Do make dessert an entertaining event. Pass something silly like ice cream sandwiches on silver trays or offer ladies a chocolate jeweled necklace with strawberries (dessert served on the neck… oh la la!)
 
Don’t ever appear disgruntled if something breaks or spills. Pretend you don’t care and start a game of Would You Rather?
  
Do’s & Don'ts

Do hold true to cocktail hour. Serve cocktails for an hour, then dinner and dessert. Utilize different rooms for each movement. It will keep the night lively
 
Don’t serve wine in long stemware. Short tumblers are less likely to tip over when guests are balancing plates. If you are precious with rugs and upholstery, do not serve red wine.
 
Do create a dazzling focal point in the middle of the table with dramatic scale and twinkling candlelight. Set the table in this order: dinner plates, main dish, side dishes, bread, large dinner napkins, fork.
 
Don’t serve food that has to be piping hot. The menu should be easily eaten with (only) a fork. One dish meals work well for cocktail buffets; shrimp curry & rice, grits & grillades, or shepherd’s pie.
 
Do use dinner size napkins, large enough to cover your lap.
 
Don’t allow for an embarrassing line of guests with plates as if at the trough. To avoid this, discreetly announce dinner to the guest of honor and those nearby. Everyone can eat at their own pace. Make sure guests have eaten dinner before clearing the food. I don’t like food to sit out for more than an hour and a half.
 
Do check the house to ensure you have plenty of stools and side chairs to easily move around. Guests will take their plates and perch around the house. Move the dining chairs into the largest room and group around upholstery.
 
Don’t underestimate the value of investing in helpful staff. They will circulate with water and wine, keeping glasses full.
 
Do make dessert an entertaining event. Pass something silly like ice cream sandwiches on silver trays or offer ladies a chocolate jeweled necklace with strawberries (dessert served on the neck… oh la la!)
 
Don’t ever appear disgruntled if something breaks or spills. Pretend you don’t care and start a game of Would You Rather?
  
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What To Serve: “Every menu needs a sinful starch”

Ideal for larger and smaller groups alike, this menu was inspired by Serving New York, a cookbook by Kristin Tice Studeman which benefits restaurant workers facing unprecedented economic hardship as a result of COVID-19. It’s a joy to cook these recipes, and don’t we all need more of that?


- Outlook Good Cocktail from Hunky Dory (Mix these in a batch and serve in a beautiful pitcher. Pour over new ice.)
- Bacon Cheddar Biscuits from Gramercy Tavern (Make these smaller for cocktails, the size of a gougère.)
- Crudites with Beet Tahini from Samesa (These will look great on the table, if not as popular as biscuits)
- Gem Salad from June
- Sauteed Beets and Farro from Smile to Go
- Roasted Market Fish from Nom Wah NoLita
- Butternut Squash Bread Pudding from Quality Eats (Every menu needs a sinful starch.)
- Salted Caramel Pudding from Joseph Leonard 
What To Serve: “Every menu needs a sinful starch”

Ideal for larger and smaller groups alike, this menu was inspired by Serving New York, a cookbook by Kristin Tice Studeman which benefits restaurant workers facing unprecedented economic hardship as a result of COVID-19. It’s a joy to cook these recipes, and don’t we all need more of that?


- Outlook Good Cocktail from Hunky Dory (Mix these in a batch and serve in a beautiful pitcher. Pour over new ice.)
- Bacon Cheddar Biscuits from Gramercy Tavern (Make these smaller for cocktails, the size of a gougère.)
- Crudites with Beet Tahini from Samesa (These will look great on the table, if not as popular as biscuits)
- Gem Salad from June
- Sauteed Beets and Farro from Smile to Go
- Roasted Market Fish from Nom Wah NoLita
- Butternut Squash Bread Pudding from Quality Eats (Every menu needs a sinful starch.)
- Salted Caramel Pudding from Joseph Leonard 
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