Dining by Design with Courtney Price

Courtney Price is a Dallas designer and artist. Active in social media, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Courtney through twitter chats and conversations. Most recently, she was an invited guest host on my #customwrkrmchat, where she shared her much-more-exciting honor, as one of only a handfull of interior designers – 19 to be exact – invited by Brizo to enjoy 3-days of networking and front-row attendance at the Jason Wu showing during New York Fashion Week! 
Courtney Price with Judd Lord, Brizo
via Jayme Thornton Photography 
There are a few things about Courtney that struck me immediately: elegance, calm and wisdom. It was no surprise then, when I learned that Courtney infuses a wholistic approach in both her personal life and her design work. Courtney’s business tagline, “fine living expresses itself with subtlety and intuition,” represents this approach perfectly. Her personal commitment to wellness and nutrition fuel her days and are inevitably integrated into all she does. An accomplished artist and painter, with a background and passion for culinary arts, she infuses a sense of style and beauty to interior spaces that is truly unique and, particularly when it comes to dining and kitchen spaces, has a keen sense of how to marry aesthetics and function to allow for both, work and entertaining.

Sarah Sarna, a residential interior designer based in Manhattan, spent some time with Courtney at the Brizo event said to me,
Courtney understands that the art of hosting is making guests feel comfortable. As an interior designer she has gorgeous taste, beauty, and a killer eye. In addition to these wonderful gifts, what makes her a standout in interior design and as a hostess in her home is her effortless focus on those she's with rather than on herself.”
That is exactly the type of person worth listening to when thinking about dining by design! So let me share some of Courtney's thoughts, as she shared with me:

Tell me about your experience as a cook and your passion for culinary arts?
I can hold my own in the kitchen. I helped teach the French-menu class at a culinary school, and attended classes at another culinary school more recently. My husband and I are always trying something new. We like to make nutritious food gourmet and beautiful, but of course we also have our comfort-food moments and our splurges. Whenever we have an exceptional meal out of town or at a great restaurant, I try to recreate it at home.
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What Courtney is pinning in her culinary delights [aka Yum] board is definitely worth a visit, as it illustrates her desire to create foods far more beautiful than the I'm-of-Irish-descent style of cooking that comes out of my kitchen. It really leaves me wishing I was a lot closer to Texas!

Do you have any “rules” for entertaining and meal planning that will help readers?
It doesn't matter how many courses you serve but what does matter is that guests don't get overfed. Thanksgiving-day misery is never forgotten, and no matter how good your food was, it will not be remembered over a belly ache. It is always best to leave the guests craving just one more bite.
Remember that how you start the evening, is as important as the main course. Great bite size starters with drinks set the tone for the rest of the evening and working with fresh seasonal foods is critical.
hors d'oeuvre prepared by Courtney
Share the planning & hosting responsibility! My husband is in charge of all drinks and wine choices. Thank goodness; he is great at it and allows us both to give to and serve our guests as host and hostess. 
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And finally, something someone suggested to me years ago – that I use religiously – is to maintain an entertaining book. I use it to log in guests and menus, which is useful to prevent serving the same meal twice and to keep notes about food allergies and aversions friends might have.

What makes a great dinner party?
Planning. Planning. Planning. It's all in the details from the drinks you serve, the cocktail food, the timing of the meal, the table setting and carefully chosen guests who will blend well. 
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Can you share with us one of the most memorable dinner affairs you’ve been to?
The element of surprise can be powerful in setting the tone of the evening. I have a friend who is THE most creative entertainer. Her invitation told guests to wear all black, which they did. Just inside the front door of her house were two baskets with many same-size items rolled up, tied in orange ribbons for females and green for males. Upon arrival, each guest was to take one and put it on. Want to know what they were? ........ His/her naked aprons, all different! People laughed all night long at each other. The memories from the evening are absolutely hilarious. This friend always has something fun up her sleeve like that, she is brilliant.

What type of entertaining do you prefer?
If I am doing the entertaining, small is my preference, 6-8 people is a good size group. I am all about comfort. Guests should be relaxed and have fun. It doesn’t need to be elaborate; all that is needed is a group that brings a love of food, a positive attitude and a great sense of humor.
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Conversation among guests is just as important as what you serve. You want to consider couples who enjoy each other and singles that are fun and upbeat. Guests don't all have to know each other in advance but I like to mix people who enjoy life, are positive and have a sense of humor.

I have observed that depending on the group, guests want to be involved. I had a fun group like this once, so I themed the evening as a summertime "white elephant" type party, where everyone brought a summer entertaining themed gift (capped off at a certain price point). The guests came with the cleverest gifts, all ready for a fun evening, and the gloves came off when everybody duked it out for the best gifts. People loved it. That concept can be done with any theme and can help break the ice if people do not all know each other.

If you could pick three people – however unlikely – you would love to have dinner with, who would they be?
Not that they need to be at the same table, but Ralph Lauren for his design inspiration, Barbara Barry for the same reason, Don Draper (the character) and maybe Sasha Baron Cohen, though he’d probably be better for a large group because who knows what character he would show up as. He would liven the party, for sure! 

Yeah, Courtney, I'm not sure how Sasha would work out considering he says of himself, "he would prefer to turn up to events as one of his characters, because he's an embarrassment when he arrives as himself." Hard to believe that arriving as Bruno could be better than his IRL persona! Could you imagine Bruno arriving for dinner in this sophisticated Barbara Barry space?
Barbara Barry

What do you consider the 3 “must-haves” a good host(ess) should never forget?
First, the root of all great party planning is considering each stage of the evening and each guest individually. Everyone should feel like the guest of honor. Second, careful organization and planning. It is important to have every detail possible ready in advance so you actually have time to spend enjoying your guests company. Finally, creativity for theme, food and table setting.
Larry Laslo
When you arrive at a dinner party, what is the first thing that you take note of?
The first thing I notice when I arrive for a party or dinner is the smell of a delicious dinner being cooked for me. What an honor that somebody has gone to the trouble to plan, shop, prepare and serve another. 

Growing up, dinner was a nightly formal affair for the entire family. We had formal food, formal table and had to dress for dinner, dog at MY feet. :) 
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Dinner in today's world is more casual. Everything is. Times have changed and home trends have changed, phasing out the formal living rooms and formal dining rooms to create mixed use spaces such as library/dining rooms and open kitchens. These changes create different ways of eating together and entertaining that are refreshingly casual. I enjoy seeing how my friends incorporate this change in dining when invited to their homes.
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Can you share some tips for table-setting, from your perspective as designer, guest and hostess? As for the table setting, it depends on the theme or the dinner menu, and I have no rules, it just depends on what you have. A table set in advance tells the guests that they matter, guests always notice. If you have nice silver, china or crystal, for goodness sake, USE IT! That "special day" may never come, every day is special. Use what you have and enjoy making it inviting.
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A table does not have to be set expensively to be welcoming. If you don't have formal settings, no sweat, a thoughtfully planned table is the key. The energy one puts into it will always be felt.
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Flowers should be low enough [or high enough in some cases] that guests can converse across the table and in my opinion, I don't care whether seating alternates boy/girl - I want seating to promote best conversation.
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“People, Place or Palate”: which is required to make a great dinner party?
All of the above! Choose your guests carefully and plan it well enough to be able to spend time with them! Food should have the balance of being equally beautiful and delicious. Those who you share a meal with should positively fuel you as well.

I could not agree more, Courtney! Thank you for your insight and inspiration. I have always considered myself a good cook, however, you have just put me in my place! I think I just may have to take my culinary skills up a notch or two. We will continue to keep an eye on your website and Pinterest albums for ongoing inspiration. It is quickly noted that the dining room and entertaining ideas pinned as inspiration on your boards mirror all you shared with us today.
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In a nutshell, what works well for current-day dining areas, according to Courtney Price Design? Dining spaces with round tables -great for intimate dinners with friends, areas where drama is created through strong contrast of  color, such as black and white, and/or the merging of masculine and feminine details; and casual spaces with elegance created from an eclectic mix of furniture, art and accessories.

How does your dining space rate when you look at it after reading this? Is it time to step out a bit in style and create some more interest? As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments!

Thanks for sharing a seat at the table!

Bon Appetit! ~ Sarah

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