How I Host: Lauren Ledbetter
There are few people whose design and hosting instincts I relate to more than Lauren Ledbetter. Lauren is a dear friend — she created the branding for 12th Table (as well as a few of my other ventures) and has the remarkable ability to approach a space and make it equally simple and remarkable. I can come to her with a jumbled vision and fragments of ideas, and she'll instinctively know just what I need. What I love most about Lauren though is that she's thoughtful and intentional about every inch of a design — not only how it looks, but more importantly how it will make people feel. What will their experience be like from taste to touch to sight?
I adore the vision she brought together for this How I Host shoot at local favorite, Epice. It's calming and delightful and every inch a Lauren Ledbetter masterpiece. Enjoy.
How would you describe your hosting style -- 5 words or less!
Comfortable, Approachable, Vibey, Gracious, Real
Environment is key. What is your favorite space to host a party?
I grew up in Seattle, so my knee jerk reaction to that question is, of course, OUTSIDE! Excuse me while I conjure up a cool summer breezy evening under the trees on the bay, with the fire ready to go post-dinner. But, let’s be real, we are in the South - and - bugs. So I have to succumb to the elements and say my “dining room” (in exaggerated air quotes). I host a lot, and my 1930’s teeny dining room just wasn't cutting it. So, I moved all my living room furniture into the “dining room” and made a cozy 21st century sitting room. The dining room table now has plenty of room to breathe in what was meant to be the living room. I’ve adapted the whole home around entertaining, moving the bar cart and record player into the main area. Who says you have to follow the “rules.”
Do you have a signature dish or drink you like to serve?
My signature dish is always changing. I’m the girl in Whole Foods pulling together a grocery cart with artisan breads, aged balsamic, porcini mushrooms, cheeses, and vanilla beans making it up as I go. Often times I just like to play in the kitchen.
I do, however, value the importance of a great cocktail to hand to your guests when they arrive. My friends over at WithCo. Cocktails helped me develop this recipe for a Blood Orange Sidecar, which is perfect for fall.
Blood Orange Sidecar
2oz Cognac (or bourbon)
1oz lemon juice
.5oz triple sec
.5oz blood orange sage infusion (recipe below)
garnish with dried blood orange fresh sage*
Pour all ingredients into a shaker with ice
Shake 15 seconds
Strain into a coupe
Garnish with dried blood orange (recipe below) and fresh sage
Blood Orange + Sage Infusion
5 blood oranges
30 sage leaves
Peel oranges and place in sugar (don’t discard peeled oranges)
Place sage in sugar
Using a muddler or big wooden spoon smash and mix the sage and orange peels into the sugar until you see clumping (this means the sage and orange are releasing their oil flavor onto the sugar)
Squeeze peeled oranges into sugar, mix
Leave for 4+ hours (you can leave it for 24 hrs if you want no stress)
Add warm water and mix until sugar is entirely dissolved
Strain out peel and sage
Put in a container and put in fridge until use
Preheat oven at 200f
Cut 5 blood oranges very thinly and place on a non stick baking sheet
Bake for 2 hours
What's your go-to color palette for design?
Short answer: earth tones.
Long answer: I work with color for a living, so my wardrobe and home are fairly neutral, as to give my mind a bit ofa break. That being said, I gravitate toward neutral vibrant earth tones for hosting. I am inspired by places that have left a thumbprint on me. As I stated before, I grew up in Seattle, and spent time in the desert as well. Those deep dark blues and rich rust earth colors may not seem like neutrals, but they’re woven into me and represent some of the corners of this earth I've grown to adore.
With events, it's important to touch all the senses. The perfect playlist includes...?
Well, well, well - that just happens to be my absolute most favorite question ever. And boy, do I have a playlist for every mood. You're going to want to steal these. Trust me.
Who are your dream dinner guests?
Ina Garten - because I could listen to her ramble on about cooking for Jefferey for HOURS.
Mary Kate and Ashley - because apparently I’m 9 years old still. But seriously, they’re my style icons.
Krista Tippet - who runs the Podcast OnBeing, because you know the conversation will be insightful and kind.
What inspired you design for "How I Host?"
Georgia Okeefe, New Mexico, Portugal, raw ceramics, sage.
What pieces did you choose and why?
Almond Havelock Chairs & Gold Flatware
What's your best "hosting" tip for beginners?
Stay flexible and gracious. Your soufflé falls? One friend arrives with an unexpected guest? It’s not the picture perfect evening you’d imagined? Remind yourself that open doors and full bellies are the priorities above all else. Don’t let the little things get in the way of your bigger, sweeter intentions for hosting in the first place.
Photography by Cassidy Carson Photography