I was just reading about a celebration of small businesses in New York, "Small Business Saturday," this past weekend. I want to celebrate the independent book stores and other small quality businesses that exist in my neck of the woods here in Los Angeles. One of my favorites is Stephanie Grace in Santa Monica.
I walked into her store recently and had a chance to talk with the lovely Stephanie Grace herself. Stephanie is a party planner, floral designer and owner of one of the prettiest stores in West Los Angeles. As we talked about her shop and all the entertaining and floral services she provides, I was happily surrounded by beautiful items for the home, fragrant fresh flowers and festive holiday decor.
I had a chance to chat with Stephanie and ask her some questions about the store, her event planning business, and her floral design firm. With the holidays upon us, I wanted to get her tips for the best holiday parties.
Sunday Taylor: Tell me about your store and the items you carry.
Stephanie Grace: Stephanie Grace is an event production and floral design firm, with a boutique on Montana Avenue that specializes in florals and luxury home decor accessories. We focus on creating your entire tabletop decor, from your centerpiece all the way to your flatware. Our designers work with you to create the ultimate dining experience by coordinating your table linens with your centerpiece and your serving pieces. We carry an extensive collection of designers: L'Object, Michael Aram, Juliska, Simon Pierce, Deborah Rhodes, etc.
ST: You are also a party planner. Tell me about your process in planning parties.
SG: My process in planning parties is to carefully listen to the vision of my clients and then create what they have imagined to the fullest potential. Ultimately, designing a party is all about what the client wants when they walk in the door. It is my job to listen, and then take their ideas and transform them into an exquisite event.
ST: What are the secrets to a great party?
SG: First and foremost, you have to cover your basics: good food, good music and wonderful cocktails. Second, you need to create the "environment." Our goal is to create an event that unites the visual with the experience of the party, so that guest feels entirely transformed when they are there. This type of event creates the most authentic "fun" and that is the essence of a great party.
ST: You are also a talented florist. What kinds of floral arrangements are popular for the holidays?
SG: Each holiday carries with it a unique design aesthetic. For Christmas, I find people gravitating towards two predominate looks. The first would be to use fir and pine, mixed with more organic materials such as berries and pine cones. The second would be to use predominantly florals, i.e., all reds and burgundies, to create a more lush feel. I love the holidays because you can create a centerpiece simply by clustering ornaments together on a table or you can go all out and create a masterful arrangement of florals.
ST: What are the five tips you can give us for setting a beautiful holiday table?
1. Pick a centerpiece or arrangement that works for your table. Don't let the centerpiece overpower the table. It should be a nice compliment to the table, but not spilling onto the plates.
2. Try going monochromatic...whether that is all silver's, or all red's or all gold's...your table will look stunning.
3. If you want to dress up your arrangement, go ahead and place a few silver ornament balls in your centerpiece. It will make it "festive" in no time!
4. Instead of buying napkin rings, have your local florist create fresh ones using fir/pine or even hydrangeas (for an example of this check out SGD on HGTV Celebrity Holiday Homes).
5. Make sure your candles are dripless; nothing spoils a beautiful table more than wax.
ST: Regarding the issue of hand-written vs paperless invitations, which do you prefer? Do you still send hand-written invitations?
SG: If money allows, I personally love mailing invitations the traditional way. However, if you are hosting for a super large group, sometimes the electronic form can be much easier. Ultimately, know your guests and assess which they would prefer.
ST: What are the most popular hostess gifts?
SG: Candles are one of the most popular. Everyone loves a beautiful candle and you can't go wrong! A beautiful fresh bouquet is also a top seller. At SGD we make the most amazing bouquets, so we often have our clients preferring to bring something unique like a bouquet instead of a more traditional gift. A beautiful set of napkin rings is also a great choice. These are often items we never think of getting for ourselves, so it is always such a special treat to receive a set of four as a gift!
ST: How do you feel about assigned seating at a dinner party?
SG: I have one opinion on this: I love assigned seating at a dinner party, as long as I get to sit next to the person I came with (i.e., my spouse). I love the idea that everyone knows where they are going, so it takes the stress out of "who is sitting where." However, when a host splits up couples for the sake of creating conversation, I feel it actually impedes a fun night. Great idea, just be thoughtful to your guests when placing them at the table.
ST: Tell me about the importance of your store in promoting the other aspects of your business, as event planner and florist?
SG: Fundamentally, all the businesses of SGD are integrally related. The tools I use for designing someone's holiday table or designing their daughter's wedding are the same. All the love and passion I have for design goes into every arrangement I create, or any table I help design, no matter what the scale. The store has had the unique ability to unite these different aspects of design into a beautiful experience for our clients. When someone walks into Stephanie Grace, their senses are exposed to everything we do: from seeing the amazing arrangements we might be working on to hearing the team at SGD hard at work on someone's event. I have tried to make the store a unique experience where customers and clients alike can share in the beauty of what we love to do!