Entertaining with Eddie Ross

Colorful dining room designed by Eddie Ross for Ballard Designs Summer 2016 catalog

Eddie Ross is the East Coast Editor of Better Homes & Gardens. Recognized by design aficionados for his inventive, out-of-the-box approach to high-style decorating and entertaining on a budget, Eddie consistently re-imagines the aesthetic possibilities in secondhand finds, imbuing them with a chic and colorful sophistication. His first book, Modern Mix: Curating Personal Style with Chic & Accessible Finds, was published last fall.

If you’re a trained chef and you’ve worked for Martha (yes, that Martha), then chances are you know a thing or two about entertaining. We got a chance to ask Eddie, who also designed three beautiful rooms for our Summer catalog, for a few tips on the art of entertaining. See his answers below.

Entertaining with Eddie Ross in Ballard Designs Summer 2016 catalog

Ballard Designs: How often do you entertain?

Eddie Ross: If I’m in town, I’m entertaining. I could be on the road for days signing books or shooting stories, but as soon as I’m back, I’ll throw open my cupboards, pull together a mixmaybe Chinoiserie chic or bohemian glamourand start dreaming up menus. I let my moods and my stuff inspire the party.

BD: How does entertaining at your weekend place differ from entertaining in your apartment in New York?

ER: On weekends, I’ll take my time with sit-down dinners and larger parties. But in the city, I’m more spontaneous, so I’ll do cocktail parties with buy-and-assemble hors d’oeuvres and self-serve bars. You can cram a lot more people in a space for drinks than dinner.

Table setting designed by Eddie Ross for Ballard Designs catalog

BD: What kind of host are you? Do you plan weeks and days in advance or do you tend not to sweat the details?

ER: My entertaining style tends to be formal. I like using fancy things, like mother-of-pearl flatware and monogrammed napkins, to give a table history. Then I mix in secondhand finds and retail steals in unexpected combinations. For example, in the dining room I did for Ballard, I paired my antique English salad plates with Bunny’s blue-and-white dishes. The details are dressy, as are some of my guests, but as a host, I set a casual tone, throwing parties that are formal but friendly. Details lend a personal touch, so plan out a mix you love, and you’ll always be entertaining.

Table setting designed by Eddie Ross for Ballard Designs catalog

BD: What are your best tips for prepping ahead, so you can actually enjoy your own party?

ER: Cooking every dish from scratch can be a beautiful thing, and in culinary school I did. But by no means is it necessary to create a special experience for your guests.

Personally, I like the styling part of throwing parties—picking out all the pieces and pairing them with store-bought dishes I doctor up with gourmet touches. Think fine herbes sprinkled over Church’s chicken or pigs in a blank with a fancy-pants mustard. For impromptu parties especially, menus are freezer-to-oven with a self-serve bar. That way, guests help themselves and I can join the fun, too.

Crudite arrangement in a solarium designed by Eddie Ross

BD: What’s typically on the menu when you host and why?

ER: I’m inspired by the seasons. For cocktail parties in the spring and summer, I always serve chilled shrimp over ice. At the holidays, I’ll do a baked brie in a puff pastry shell with raspberry preserves. Cheeses, crackers and crisp vegetable crudités are staples all year long.

Large sunroom space designed by Eddie Ross for Ballard Designs catalog

BD: What’s the best way to make guests feel comfortable?

ER: Play it cool. Greet guests with a smile and a cocktail, introduce them if need be and excuse yourself. If a glass breaks or a dish burns, don’t panic. Address the issue swiftly and move on. Whatever you do, don’t ask guests to take their shoes off. Rent a steam cleaner for carpets or entertain outside.    

Large sunroom space designed by Eddie Ross for Ballard Designs catalog

BD: What’s the fastest way to add a little drama to any affair?

ER: Light the curtains on fire! That happened to me once, but luckily, someone put it out before the brigade arrived. Short of that, try big branches, a show-stopping tablecloth or a fabulous punch bowl.

BD: Music? What’s on your playlist?

ER: Jaithan’s in charge of that, starting with a cool, lounge-y station on Pandora (keyword: Hotel Costes) and picking up the pace when the party gets going (keyword: Deep House).     

Eddie Ross with crudités in a clam shell

BD: What are your go-to accessories and linens you love to pull out when you’re entertaining?

ER: Stylish glassware can make inexpensive wine taste like a fine Bordeaux—and for me, the more color, the better. Bunny’s swirling cobalt glasses are great for water paired with clear wine glasses. Multi-purpose pieces are another essential. The clamshell I used for crudités can easily be used for icing drinks.

Craft room with entertaining essentials, designed by Eddie Ross for Ballard Designs catalog

BD: For the catalog, you designed a multi-purpose storage and craft room. How is having a room like this helpful for entertaining purposes?

ER: If you want to entertain inventively, you’re going to need stuff—and stuff always needs a home when you’re not making magic with it. As you curate your arsenal of entertaining essentials, you have to find stylish storage solutions. But you don’t need an entire room to stay organized. Simply carve out a corner for storage in the kitchen, a garage or an attic. That way, your entertaining essentials are always close at hand.

Craft room with entertaining essentials, designed by Eddie Ross for Ballard Designs catalog

BD: How do you encourage guests to mingle and spread out?

ER: Self-serve stations keep guests circulating, but skip the entryway. You want to create flow, not a traffic jam.

BD: What are your guidelines for setting up a bar? Do you let folks help themselves or do you do a signature drink?

ER: Liquor can get pricey, so pick one or two and pair them with mixers for specialty drinks. Serve wine, champagne if you’d like and sparkling water. Lemons and limes are a must. Bar snacks are a nice touch. You can find vintage and new barware in a variety of styles, so play around and have fun!

Craft room with entertaining essentials, designed by Eddie Ross for Ballard Designs catalog

BD: What are your easiest centerpiece ideas?

ER: Try a cluster of candlesticks with colorful tapers or floating peonies in a bowl flanked by hurricanes.

Craft room with entertaining essentials, designed by Eddie Ross for Ballard Designs catalog

BD: Do you prefer to dictate the seating or do you let guests sit wherever?

ER: I say skip the last-minute scramble. Using place cards puts everyone at the table—and you—more at ease and it takes the guesswork out of seating your guests.  

Craft room with entertaining essentials, designed by Eddie Ross for Ballard Designs catalog

BD: What is your number one tip for hosting a gathering?

ER: Plan your menu, bar and modern mix of serveware as far in advance as you can, keeping in mind the time and money you have to spend. And don’t cook coq au vin for the first time on party night: now is no time to channel your inner Julia, Julie.

Thanks Eddie for sharing all your stylish tips!

Find more decorating and entertaining ideas from Eddie Ross, watch How-To videos creating a living arrangement and edible centerpiece, or browse the products he used in his spaces.

Did you like this post and find it helpful? Rate it below and share your thoughts in the comments.

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Patricia Palermo

Patricia Palermo

Patricia Palermo has been writing about home décor and design since 1999, which is when she first learned the term faux bois. She's passionate about helping others find their design style, because she believes with a little know-how and inspiration, anyone can decorate with confidence. Patricia has a degree in Journalism and lives in Atlanta with her husband and four-year-old twins.

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  1. Reply

    Delia Gibbs

    September 17, 2016

    This is so beautiful! Nice mix of patterns and colors. Can you please tell me the name of the chair fabric? Thank you.

  2. Reply

    Mary

    August 30, 2016

    I am trying to duplicate much of this is a new house. There are two colors of pillows in the solarium….one is the peony, what is the other?

    • Caroline McDonald
      Reply

      How to Decorate

      September 1, 2016

      Mary,
      The other pink pillow is in our Garrison Linen Magenta. Glad you liked these rooms so much!
      Happy Decorating!

  3. Reply

    Nancy Robertson

    July 2, 2016

    Three summer rooms just isn’t enough. We want more Eddie! Eddie should have a page in every catalog.

    • Lydia Merz
      Reply

      Lydia Merz

      July 5, 2016

      Hi Nancy,
      We agree- we love Eddie and his work!

  4. Reply

    Angie

    June 27, 2016

    I love Eddie’s use of color. I just bought a new house and told my decorator I would like to incorporate some pink into my living room/dining room. I already have some lime green pieces. This article, along with your BD catalog I just received in the mail, will help me show her exactly what I love! I am definitely going to need the curtain panels and trim. I even want to do the dining chairs. I am surprised how Eddie put the red fabric in the chairs with the pink panels and the two colors blended so well. I love everything about this room. Thanks for sharing!

    • How to Decorate Team
      Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      June 27, 2016

      Angie,
      We’re so happy to hear that you love this space! The color palette he used was fantastic, so we have no doubt it’ll look great in your home too.
      Best of luck with your new house!
      The How to Decorate Team

  5. Reply

    Donna

    June 11, 2016

    Love Eddie’s designs and all his wonderful ideas! He is fabulous!

  6. Reply

    Anne

    June 11, 2016

    Eddie is brilliant! Love his style!

  7. Reply

    Carol

    June 10, 2016

    I love EVERYTHING about Eddie’s rooms! What is the paint color for the dining room walls?

    • How to Decorate Team
      Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      June 13, 2016

      Carol,
      It’s White Dove by Benjamin Moore.

  8. Reply

    Anita Kurz

    June 9, 2016

    Is like to talk to a decorator. Can someone call me. 847-528-8416

    • How to Decorate Team
      Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      June 13, 2016

      Anita,
      If you’re near any of our stores, we have interior designers that can help you with your space, and if you’re not near a store, submit your room with tool, and one of our trained designers will help you with a design concept.
      Happy Decorating!

  9. Reply

    Valerie

    June 2, 2016

    Loved these rooms designed by Eddie, especially the dining room. I hope you will have him do more rooms for future catalogs.

    • How to Decorate Team
      Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      June 3, 2016

      Thanks for your comment, Valerie. Eddie really did a fantastic job. Glad you liked our summer catalog 🙂

  10. Reply

    M.e.burke

    May 27, 2016

    Love his Style. Very Chinoisere !

  11. Reply

    Dianne

    May 27, 2016

    What about that awesome chandelier? Love the color

  12. Reply

    Gigi

    May 17, 2016

    Can we purchase the coral pink pillows and throw shown on the cover?

  13. Reply

    Cynthia

    May 15, 2016

    Absolutely stunning.. Refreshing.. The new catalog definitely made me stop, sit down a look..loved it!

    • How to Decorate Team
      Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      May 16, 2016

      Thank you so much, Cynthia! We love hearing that 🙂

  14. Reply

    Bjw

    May 8, 2016

    Love this room!!! It matches without being “matchy matchy”

  15. Reply

    Karen Ryan

    May 8, 2016

    The dining room that Eddie designed for the Summer catalog is the most amazing room that I have seen in some time. So often, we see beautifully designed rooms with furniture and fabrics that are out of the price range for most humans. His creations are exciting yet affordable. He is my new favorite designer. Love you Eddie!!!!!

    • How to Decorate Team
      Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      May 9, 2016

      We love hearing this, Karen. So glad you liked his dining room. We’re really crazy about it too!

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