Shari Lebowitz’s Tips for Spring & Summer Entertaining

A childhood gift for interior design blossoms into the prosperous Bespoke Designs atelier.
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The creative visionary behind Bespoke Designs, Shari Lebowitz, knows how to entertain in style—from selecting the appropriate invitation to setting the perfect table. Photo by Vidler Photography.

Shari Lebowitz was an interior designer in New York City who moved to Westport, got engaged, and when she couldn’t find a place locally to make her wedding invitations, opened Bespoke Designs in Sconset Square. “It was a natural transition as interiors and entertaining are inextricably tied together,” says Lebowitz. Her love of stationery came long before the discovery of the joys of entertaining. “When I was 12 or 13, my mother gave me beautiful personal stationery from Crane. It had my name engraved in all lowercase letters in bright green and was engraved with a small butterfly in two colors. I was obsessed with it.” In 2020, Bespoke expanded from stationery into everything for entertaining at home. “When designing an interior, I specify substantial products that are timeless: furniture, wallpaper, and window treatments that you will have and love for years. When entertaining, you have the opportunity to create a different experience that will surprise and delight for your guests.”

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Photograph by Vidler Photography

What was your vision for your shop?

I want to give people the confidence to entertain at home. It’s not at all about perfection; it’s about being authentically yourself. I might serve prepared food that I pick up, but the table will be really fun. I might mix my grandmother’s china with vintage hotel silver and bamboo flatware with kitschy figurines that I picked up at a flea market. At Bespoke, we have china and crystal and flatware and linens that are really intended for everyday use. And we stock candles in unexpected shapes and colors; hand-crafted ceramics; and perfect hostess gifts. Of course, we also have lots of stationery so you can send an invitation as well as a thank-you note.

Describe your typical client and the services they are looking to use.

Weddings remain a solid core of our business. Couples work with us to be a part of creating a fully-branded, multi-day event. We are just launching our registry; it’s a gift registry, not just specifically for weddings. People are interested in the highly-curated selection that’s offered and really stepping into color and pattern and texture. Yes, we do offer fine china plates that are white, but you can custom color the edges to bring an extra pop to your table. The ability to create is also a large part of what we do. Not just paper, but linens and ceramics, and packaging and gifts.

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Photography by Julia D’Agostino and Kate Jordan

SPRING AND SUMMER ENTERTAINING TRENDS

  • Smaller events, usually sit-down dinners, will continue for some time.
  • Handwoven Iraca palm continues to be strong with interesting mixes of colors, new forms and weave patterns. I love our large leaf-shaped placement for a dramatic effect.
  • Color is everywhere: in crystal glasses and vases; lacquered serving pieces; flatware; mouth- blown glass candleholders, even candles.
  • Vintage silver adds a bit of sparkle and some European flair.
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Photography by Julia D’Agostino and Kate Jordan

TIPS FOR SETTING A TABLE

  • Plan: plan, plan, plan. Entertaining with ease, appearing effortless, takes a lot of planning.
  • Casual or formal, I never put the fork on the napkin. Your primary wine glass sits at the tip of your dinner knife and knife blade always facing the dinner plate. Dessert fork and spoon at the top of the plate.
  • Use linens: tablecloth for formal entertaining and placemats for casual entertaining and always cloth napkins!
  • Use Place Cards: I always use them and put the guests’ names on both sides of the card.
  • Use seasonal décor: In my dreams I would have peonies all year long, but I use seasonal greens and flowers. If I need a tropical splash in the middle of winter, I’ll set the table with ferns that I brought in for the winter.
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Photography by Julia D’Agostino and Kate Jordan

5 TIPS FOR A BRIDE IN TERMS OF WHAT IS KEY TO CREATING A BEAUTIFUL SUITE OF PRODUCTS

  1. Have confidence in the design team you select.
  2. Be open to design ideas and suggestions. We’re pros and really understand if a color will print well or font style will be legible and which papers to specify for which print process.
  3. Understanding your budget and how to use it.
  4. Set a separate budget for your guest experience: programs, napkins, menus, bar signs and seating charts.
  5. Understanding your own style and vibe is important. Being a “romantic minimalist with a bohemian industrial edge” is not really a thing.

The print version of this article appears with the headline: Modern Etiquette.