Entertaining

How Charlotte Moss Sets an Unforgettable Table

The Virginia-raised interior designer’s secret: Pull out your best linen and dishes every day

photo: Brittany Ambridge

A selection of Moss's table linens.

“Just send the invitations,” says Charlotte Moss, the renowned interior designer who was raised in Richmond, Virginia. It’s that straightforward have-fun-no-matter what attitude that defines the stellar hostess’s new book, Charlotte Moss Entertains. Filled with photographs, tips, and menu ideas, the book is a helpful and beautiful guide to throwing unforgettable dinner parties and casual get-togethers. Here, we asked the designer for a few words of wisdom on setting a festive table (Bonus: she shares her go-to napkin folding tricks).

photo: © Charlotte Moss Entertains by Charlotte Moss, Rizzoli New York, 2018; Francisco Lagnese

From left: The book’s cover; Charlotte Moss.

Give us your most important party-prep pointers: What should a host keep in mind?

A host should plan every last detail, and be totally prepared and relaxed, so when the doorbell rings, the party begins. Keep an eagle eye on everything—who is talking, who is not, are wine glasses being refilled? A host is an emcee. And the more you do it, the easier it gets.

 

What sort of linen trends are popular right now, and what styles are timeless?

I don’t believe in trends. New things come on the market and I integrate them with what I already have to change up the table setting—but I never buy the whole outfit, so to speak. Timeless is crisp, large white linen napkins beautifully ironed. No matter what you have or how much, white is classic and elegant, and you can find white linen napkins anywhere.

photo: Brittany Ambridge

A selection of crisp monogrammed napkins.

Can you share a few tips for pairing linens and table settings?

Combining linens, china, and glassware is decorating. In fact, the theme of the book is just that—setting the table is everyday decorating. Take some time and put combinations of things together before setting the table for a dinner. See what works, have fun, photograph your setup, and keep a record of what you like together. When the time comes for the next party, it’s that much easier. There are no rules, just what works to your own eye.

Courtesy Charlotte Moss

When is a good time to use your most beautiful heirloom linen? Does it have to be saved for a formal occasion?

Beautiful linen should be used as much as you want—save for what? Life is passing by. Every day is precious.

 

How do you know when to do certain napkin folds? Is there a protocol for what sort of folding you do when?

Napkin folds can be tricky, but they shouldn’t be. A rule of thumb: Simple is best, particularly the more formal the dinner. I selected a few folds for the book because I thought they were easy and could be used anytime. These are easy ways to make your same napkins look different from dinner to dinner.

 

Moss shares a few examples for easy napkin folds:

photo: Beth Scanlon

An Algonquin fold.

photo: Beth Scanlon

The Astoria fold.

photo: Beth Scanlon

An Elegante fold.

photo: Beth Scanlon

Buffet Server napkin fold.


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