Ease of Entertaining

Sharon Fihrer is one of South Africa’s leading interior designers. She heads the renowned interior design consultancy, Head Interiors, whose showroom in Hyde Park along Jan Smuts Avenue, is a sophisticated, contemporary space filled with gorgeous, covetable finds from all over the world. In between sips of tea at Head Interiors’ sleek, modern coffee corner, Sharon muses about how the way we live today is reflected in the way we entertain...   "Lifestyles have changed. Everything today is more casual. I notice it most when it comes to entertaining. What’s important is that when you do entertain casually, that you make sure you have dishes that flow with one another, in the same way that you would have fabrics in your home that work for you from one room to another. So your dishes, in effect, represent your lifestyle.  You could be a blue-and-white kind of person, or maybe more casual than that. Square-shaped plates might be more you than round, even. How easy it is if you’ve collected over what feels like a lifetime, to incorporate them into your table setting.  It makes entertaining easier and more personalised. Imagine serving the simplest salad in the most beautiful John Stefanidis bowl that you purchased in London on your honeymoon, for instance. Immediately, the salad looks like a million dollars! There are so many avenues for creative expression when it comes to entertaining. You could have lots of plates that are the same, but you can play around with the salad servers. In fact, those are great things to bring back from travel abroad – they’re easy to carry, relatively inexpensive and can be as classic or as quirky as you want. You could do the same with serviettes. It changes the mood of the table so completely, and makes it interesting. The dining room itself has undergone a change. I think the basic formal dining room has fallen away. People nowadays are incorporating the dining room into their kitchens, into their family rooms. For the most part, formal dining rooms have become less common for us, unless we’re involved in a huge project, say a house with so many rooms, that a formal dining room becomes a necessary addition to make use of the enormous space. But I’ve yet to meet the person who still entertains formally. I think that on the whole lifestyles have changed, and people like to spill out from the kitchen into a family room with a fire going. More that kind of entertaining – with a good red wine, perhaps, and a nice wine glass… I think the things you eat with are terribly important, and they simplify your life so enormously. It was conventional wisdom that people had one formal set of dishes and silver, and one casual. But I don’t even know if people have formal sets anymore. They might have more than one set, but it’s more for mood. One might be more colourful, one might be more a day set, or the other a night set. A lot of people just use white. It’s easier, and also more versatile. The crockery doesn’t change but then they change the tablecloths or they change the placemats. Placemats have become a big thing, as have underplates. It’s about layering – as you layer your scarves and clothes, you layer the table. You have candles in lovely containers that are simple, as well as small vases that can line the length of the table but with flowers and leaves you pick from your garden. It’s all about ease of entertaining, but with the right things, things that are expressive of who you are. The eating area has become the nucleus of the home. You know, the woman left in the kitchen to do all the cooking, coming out only later when the food is ready - those days are over. Often she waits for the guests to arrive and they all help in the kitchen… With the world being in the state that it is, in such upheaval, homes have become far more nurturing places to live in."   Head Interiors 12 Hyde Square, Jan Smuts Avenue, Joburg 011-325-2700   Text and images: Bambina Olivares Wise