Do you have any tabletop obsessions or entertaining quirks?
I love old Flemish glass, old Georgian-coin silver—I place my forks and spoons on the table facing down because the monogramming is on the back! I'm a bit obsessed with silver right now because Oscar de la Renta Home is introducing a flatware collection for Lunt Silversmiths next month (800-242-2774 or luntsilver.com). Instead of napkins, I use white tea towels with red stripes that I got in a French flea market. They're enormous, something like 36 square inches. If you're doing a large buffet dinner where you have to hold plates in your lap, those tea towels really cover you up.
What's your favorite party dish?
I like food to be seasonal. In summer, I make something I call Perfume Salad—baby Bibb lettuce, Boston lettuce, lots of basil, cilantro and mint. It's a pain because you have to wash all the leaves and pick them off the stems. Then I add the simplest dressing of olive oil, seasoned rice wine vinegar and Maille Dijon mustard. I'll serve the salad with cold Thai shrimp flavored with lots of lemongrass. In the winter, I love a potato and scallop dish I basically lifted from Aureole restaurant in New York City. You arrange a layer of homemade fried potatoes, then top it with a layer of creamy potatoes and then a layer of scallops. Then you start again with another set of layers.
Describe the entertaining space in your home.
My sister Sarah and I live in the same town house. She has the lower two floors and I have the upper two. Sarah wanted an orange-lacquered dining room, so I created one for her inspired by the Paris design house Jansen. Because her dining room doesn't have windows, we installed antique mirrors in the panels on the walls to add sparkle. Sarah's kitchen is made for a family—the café table and freestanding banquette is where she has breakfast with her kids. But we also added grown-up touches, like ebonized-wood cabinets and a wood floor that looks striped because it's stained two colors.
What's the best party gift you've ever received?
My friend Allison Sarofim, the arts patron, is a genius at this. About four years ago, when preppy chic had just hit again, she threw a Fourth of July party and gave everyone those rope bracelets that people used to get in Nantucket.
What makes a great party?
I like a casual affair with a long cocktail hour and a festive drink. If my sister and I throw a party together, usually we have drinks in my living room and dinner in her dining room, with coffee back up in my apartment. It's nice because it allows for different moods and it keeps the guests interested. Sometimes I'll throw dinner parties in my mirrored bathroom—the funny thing is, it's the biggest room in the house. I'll have Christmas Eve dinner and special occasions in there. David Adler [the late great Midwestern architect] designed it for a house outside Chicago in 1931. The house was gutted but the bathroom was preserved. So I bought it and had it installed in my house—I was just lucky it fit.
What books have inspired you? One book I often look at is Avedon: Photographs 19471977. I only hope my designs can live up to that style—the mood, the taste, the dash, the energy!
What are your favorite dining room chairs and table?
I love Frances Elkins's chairs with the little loopy backs, like two concentric figure eights on top of each other. I also love the Radial Expansion mahogany table we did for Oscar de la Renta Home for Century. The table is round, but expands by adding wedges like pieces of a pie ($28,500; 800-852-5552 or centuryfurniture.com).
What are your favorite haunts for home accessories?
I often go to John Rosselli in New York City. You never know what you'll find there—everything from an incredible Portuguese table to an Italian painted chest (523 E. 73rd St.; 212-772-2137 or johnrosselliantiques.com). I have a pair of Italian mirrors that are sort of rococo in flavor that John painted white himself. Alan Moss is fantastic for the glamour factor (436 Lafayette St.; 212-473-1310). I bought some René Gruau fashion illustrations there that I love so much.