Lunch with the Inimitable Marian McEvoy

Springtime arrangements of found greens mixed with
roses flanked the place settings.
On the banks of the Hudson River there is an enchanting house that is home to one of the design worlds greatest legends, Marian McEvoy. The formidable McEvoy, was a fashion editor at WWD and W in Paris at Fairchild Publications before becoming editor in chief of Elle Decor in the ’90’s. She left Elle Decor and took the helm of House Beautiful magazine in 2000. Today the former editor in chief and noted style maven has long since traded the editor's hat for a garden hat and embraced country life with her typical zeal. Her legendary style is well documented as is her passion for sea shells, pine cones, glue guns (she wrote a craft book about them) and she is also an accomplished and gracious hostess. 
I have always been fascinated by her quick wit and brilliant conversation. I first met Marian when I was an editor at HFN magazine while she was at House Beautiful. It was during her tenure at House Beautiful that she launched my line of hand printed fabrics by being the first to publish it. I am delighted that over a delicious roast chicken lunch she cooked herself at her magical house, Marian shared her insights into stylish entertaining.  

The one and only Marian McEvoy.
What is your entertaining philosophy?
I really don’t do much fancy cooking she explained. Simpler fare is the way to go. Our lunch was roast chicken, potatoes and  brussel sprouts for a main course followed by an arugula salad and cheese with a simple dessert of pineapple with local organic cardamon ice cream followed by coffee. When I was a fashion editor living in Paris I would go to Italy and have these big dinners with the Missonis and Gianfranco Ferre. "They would always serve pineapple as dessert. It helps break down the fat,” she said.   
She always sets the table the night before and turns the glasses upside down, it's one less thing to think about the day of the dinner. She also is adamant that there is never any type of packaging on the table, use bowls for condiments. 

The dining room overlooking the Hudson. She frequently changes
the wall panel colors. It is easy and she can do it herself.
What influences your menu choices when you entertain?
“I cook alone,” she said matter of factly. You need to make the dishes that you can do well. Marian recommends making everything before the guests arrive and keep the meal warm on platters and in bowls so there is no fuss when you serve. I will spend a lot of time making soup and I love chili. I put out about ten condiments for guests to choose from-they love it. You get to see adults behave like children!
“Don’t be afraid to serve meatloaf to a fancy crowd! Guests love it and it can be made in advance,” she said with the assurance of someone in the know. I sometimes make a simple Apple Brown Betty for dessert - just butter, lots of apples and walnuts, never cinnamon. Cinnamon definitely is not on Marian’s favorite spice list, “Cinnamon is overrated," she said with disdain, "people use it where it doesn’t belong.” 
A basket of Easter eggs, some of which were made by the
hostess in a simple silver basket.
Who or what has most inspired your entertaining style?
It was her mother’s sense of drama that played an important role is shaping her entertaining style. “One Easter she had a trough of baby chicks down the center of the table,” she recalled. There was a real sense of occasion for every meal in the McEvoy house. Her life in Paris was a critical influence. Everything was beautiful and studied. Plates weren’t loaded down with huge portions. She clearly prefers sit down meals. 
“Never buffet!!!” she exclaimed as if it were a fate worse than death. “I don’t want a plate on my knees.”
Additional seating with colorful chair pads line the wall of the dining room.
Has anyone been a strong influence in teaching you the l'art de recevoir? 
“There were so many moments in Paris that influenced my style. My friends Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge did everything impeccably, down to the last detail. Even a glass of champagne was perfection. I had many aha moments with them,” she explained with a vague note of wistfulness in her voice. Asked about the couple’s collection of houses she especially loved the Moroccan house.
“White walls and chintz, very daring at the time.” she proclaimed referring to her friend Yves Saint Laurent's house.

On the lower level of the house a river facing room with a stone fireplace is a winter retreat.
Marian's Tips:
Home grown flowers last longer than store bought ones. There are some beautiful weeds, don't be afraid to use them in arrangements. The dining table is sacred. Make an effort to dress and wear shoes at the table. 
Being the crafter that Marian is, her dedicated craft room reflects her assured style and passion for nature. 

Do you have a favorite china or tabletop item that you collect?
She explained she has thirteen sets of dinnerware. Everything from simple to over the top: Charles Mason, lots of Frenchie Limoges, German sets, some Gumps, and blue and white Spode.
“I like to dress the table for the season, so I use different sets at different times of the year. In winter it’s Spode India Tree and lighter colors for summer,” she said. 

Coffee is served on a tray with typical attention to detail. 

You may also like:
Unknown said...

What a fun and gracious report! I will probably not use the portrait as my Christmas card shot, but like you, it's fun and focused! Thank you for such a seamless, charming afternoon and the gardening tips! Marian

Unknown said...

Michael! What a gorgeous surprise-- your new book and a new candle -- both beautiful and beautifully wrapped . And that silk French ribbon! Thank you a zillion times for your thoughtful surprise package. Xxxxxxmarian

Anonymous said...

I follow @gustthepoodle on IG but never knew the true identity of the genius behind the lens! I once even thought it could be MM. Loved her at the helm of HB. Those were the days... Thank you Michael for this wonderful post.
Dana @danamahnke_indigohomeshop

Karena said...

Dear Michael, another wonderful portrait of an entertaining diva!
Marian is so down to earth, eve when entertaining on a grand scale!
Have a wonderful holiday weekend!

Featuring Artist Scott McBee

Anonymous said...

awesome- what an interesting home of an interesting and accomplished woman

© The Devine Life . Design by MangoBlogs.