The Hamptons have never seen a holiday season quite like this. With the who’s who riding out the pandemic from their tony oceanfront estates this winter, the usual warm-weather pallets, décor and table settings simply won’t do. Luckily, Hamptons veteran, philanthropist and super-hostess, Audrey Gruss, has tips for adapting to the new year-round lifestyle that’s emerged on the East End.
Harvest what you have
For her socially distanced dinners, Gruss — who is president of Hope Fragrances, which raises money for her Hope for Depression Research Foundation — said that it’s all about decorating with the autumnal ingredients you have on hand. She loves using fresh radishes, squash and bushy bundles of herbs.
“I put whatever I have left over from my potted herb garden on the table with little radishes around candles in hurricane lamps,” she said. “I mix in votive candles wrapped in raffia, which looks very natural and very ‘garden.’”
But, she said, that her signature table-top tip is to sweeten things up.
“I take almonds, walnuts and pecans glazed in caramel or orange and put them in ceramic leaves throughout the place setting,” she said. “I also love to get miniature Nantucket baskets and fill those with nuts or chocolates.”
Go country chic
The Hamptons may be expensive but that doesn’t mean you should decorate or entertain in an overly formal way. Gruss said that it’s a mistake to bring out finery when you’re in the country.
“Uses ceramic vases rather than glass,” Gruss recommended. “Keep your crystal in Manhattan and use terracotta, pitchers or crockery in the country.”
She also recommend filling your winter home with country flowers like helleborus and natural leaves that might in other contexts be called weeds.
“Make your own arrangement with those wild flowers,” she said. “That way it doesn’t look too formal like they belong in the city.”
Make it “palettable”
You may be on the beach, but when entertaining in the off-season, it’s important to use a seasonal palette. Gruss recommended that Hamptonites switch up the colors in their homes, focusing on greens, rusts and yellows.
“There is nothing more beautiful than what nature has created,” she said, noting that mosses and pumpkins are a great way to bring nature indoors.
One trick to add some glamor to a fall or winter dining room is to buy roses in unusual shades.
“I love to use roses, which you can buy year-round, and now come in some very unusual colors,” said Gruss, who also uses hydrangeas that are in the process of changing from white to rust. “I mix green roses with peachy orange roses. Or I do alternating round arrangements of all green or all terracotta. It’s very dramatic.”