ELIZABETH BLOOM, Founder and Owner of Home Grown
I first met Elizabeth at a friend’s wedding. Right away, she had a warm and welcoming demeanor, and a special way of making anyone feel at home in her presence. But what I saw that day was just the tip of the iceberg. It wasn’t until I was invited to her home that I realized what she can do when she is in her element: hosting.
Elizabeth is creative and passionate when it comes to her work, and I was inspired by the way she approaches hosting as an art form. I wanted to capture the thoughtfulness that goes on during the process of selecting the right pieces for an event, setting the table and hosting, so I proposed a collaboration. She graciously agreed to host a 4th of July party with friends and family, so that I could get the whole picture.
Here’s to Elizabeth, a generous and artistic soul. A curator of experiences with a sophisticated aesthetic and a gift for creating emotional harmony around the table.
Where does your love for hosting and setting a table come from?
Growing up everyone cooked, and everyone set beautiful tables. Both sides of my family, everyone was into it. I vividly remember this one time, I was 5 years old and was having dinner at my grandparents. My grandmother had set a beautiful table, with nice china, sterling silver flatware, lace placemats, glass goblets and the whole nine yards. I was just a little girl, but I remember being really moved that she had set up such a beautiful table just for me and my brother. There were no other guests. It was all designed just for us and it made me feel very special.
When it was time for desert, she brought out a trio of Tastykake for me on a beautiful turquoise blue and white china plate. I said “Oh my gosh, are these Tastykake? This is the best dessert in the whole wide world!” I was so excited! I couldn’t wait to eat them. I had three dark chocolate cupcakes served to me like I was a princess. They treated me and my brother with such respect. I loved going to my grandparents’ home. It was beautiful. It was filled with love.
How does that memory connect with what you do today?
In retrospect, I think the power of that moment was in the fact that they took something so mundane as a store-bought, full-of-chemicals product and they transformed it by serving it on this beautiful plate. I remember thinking “I want to do this. I want to be the person that takes the pizza out of the pizza box and puts it on a platter.” And that’s what I do today, I help others create moments of beauty for the ones they love.
What is setting up a table really all about for you?
I cannot tell you how much I love and look forward to the ritual of preparing to host a dinner in my home. And I have to say, one of my favorite parts of hosting is that I love to cook with my husband, Andrew. This is not just something that’s deeply important to me personally. He’s the yin to my yang with entertaining. If it weren’t for him taking the reins on the cooking part, there’s no way I could concentrate on the table. I am typically in and out of the kitchen, helping with dinner and in and out of the dining room, creating my table. So, while I certainly help in the kitchen, he carries the heavy load, which enables me to concentrate on what I love most, setting the scene.
I enjoy the creative process and this gift I'm giving myself and my family and friends. I love the anticipation of that intimacy of the evening ahead.
Why spend all this time setting up an elaborate table when you can just focus on the food?
The over-the-top elegance of setting a beautiful table is like a set design. When I am setting a table, I am creating the backdrop of what's sure to be a beautiful, intimate night. I am creating an environment where you can have quality time with the people you love.
One of the problems with setting these gorgeous tables is that no one ever uses our living room. ;-) We go from the kitchen to the table. When we are entertaining, no one ever leaves the table.
What is it like to be able to offer your gift not only to friends and family, but to your Homegrown customers?
When you host anything, it requires a tremendous amount of effort. You are going food shopping. You are spending money. You are cleaning your home. You are cooking. You are stressed out. There are a lot of moving parts that require a lot of attention. And there's nothing better than seeing the payoff, and having that quality time as a result of all that hard work. So, when people shop in my store and they come in specifically because they're entertaining, I know they are putting in all that effort, and I want them to have that payoff. I want them to have the same experiences that I have been fortunate enough to have at my table.
Often, people come in on a Monday or Tuesday, after whatever event they hosted, and thank me, or send me pictures. They say things like “This was the best Saturday night dinner party ever! My table looked gorgeous and nobody wanted to leave. My husband stopped pouring wine to make people leave because it was midnight.” It’s like something clicks. People don’t realize that these wonderful, passionate nights with great conversation often go hand in hand with creating the environment people want to be in. Until you have that experience, I don’t know that you realize that’s what you are missing. I want all my customers to have these meaningful experiences around the diner table.
What makes a curated experience around the diner table so special? You could also show your love by, for example, taking them to see a play.
Sure, you could also show someone how special they are by getting tickets to a concert, but a dinner is much more intimate. There's no hiding from an intimate dinner. It’s special because it’s all about the people sitting around that table. There's nothing taking the attention away from one another. It’s intimate time spent with people you love. There are no distractions. It’s precious.
Hosting a dinner is the perfect marriage of my two passions, cooking and setting a table. It’s the perfect way to show love to the special people in my life. It’s always been part of who I am. I love entertaining and creating an emotional harmony around the table. There's no better way to spend time with your friends and family than enjoying a wonderful meal over a beautifully set table.
Elisabeth Bloom, Founder and Owner of Home Grown
Photography by Erinn Tillman and yours truly