Back in August, I received an email from The Atlantan‘s very lovely editor-in-chief, Lauren Finney Harden, asking if I’d like to contribute a holiday tablescape for an upcoming feature entitled Master of Ceremonies. Immediately, visions of clementine trees danced in my head and I excitedly accepted.
There are a few things that taste infinitely better when made from scratch like pie crust, chocolate chip cookies, and a divine salad dressing. A few years ago, I whipped together a salad bathed in shallot dressing that changed the trajectory of my cooking forever. My palate just could not go back to store-bought and so long went the days of cruising the condiment aisle for convenience in a bottle.
Oh what a treat I have for you, dear readers! If you find winter as dreadful as I do, join me in saying sayonara to the cold and hello to Palm Beach. To put us in an island state of mind, gracious hostess Carol Jankowsky is dishing her best entertaining, decorating, and lifestyle tips. We’ll also enjoy a look at Mrs. Jankowsky’s Palm Beach abode, designed by Leta Austin Foster and most recently featured in the December issue of House Beautiful.
Carol is no stranger to a beautifully orchestrated event—she is adept at throwing many a soirée at her homes in Virginia and Palm Beach. Her hostessing prowess was honed early on in her marriage to a DC lobbyist as she learned to navigate a large gathering, meeting each guest. These days, Carol upholds the tradition of gracious entertaining to delight the pair’s colleagues, friends, and family.
Muffy: Carol, what a pleasure to profile you on Stuffy Muffy! Please do share with us how you prefer to set your table.
Carol: I adore using lots of Leta’s plates, plus I have a massive collection of inherited china, antique show finds, and plenty of Herend from Bluck’s in Bermuda. I use linen from all over—lots from my mother, mother-in-law, Leta and I also adore India Amory.
Muffy: As for flowers?
Carol: I usually prefer doing my own flowers. I’m not snobby about where they come from. I like Publix, Trader Joe’s, and Christopher Cope—a wonderful florist in the Palm Beach area that often supplies me with his gorgeous stems and always decks out my mantel in Palm Beach with his pretty hydrangeas. He gets the cream of the crop!
Muffy: Does your entertaining style in Palm Beach differ from your usual Virginia set-up?
Carol: The dining area in Palm Beach is more casual than in the DC area. I always mix everything up, nothing is ever too matchy. I think of it almost as a painting, being a former art major.
Muffy: Speaking of, what is your taste in art?
Carol: I love Contemporary art but not too “way out.” More Washington Color School, Diebenkorn, Gene Davis. Plein Air, Impressionist, Wolf Kahn. Very lucky to have acquired a few of these.
Muffy: Back to entertaining—are you cooking for guests and what do your menus look like?
Carol: I love to cook, I adore anything from Alex Hitz and Cathy Graham, very inspiring. I do keep things rather simple, nothing is too ornate. Like Ina, I am not afraid of filling in the menu with dessert from elsewhere! I feel if we make part of the menu, it’s just fine.
Muffy: What are you wearing?
Carol: I try to wear something that I am very comfortable wearing in order to freely move around. Nothing too precious that I have to be too careful in. Comfort is key. I must admit that I have a very generous and kind husband who loves seeing me wear pretty jewelry. I was lucky enough to inherit lots of nice things.
Muffy: Do you have a sort of Palm Beach “uniform” that you stick to?
Carol: I love wearing pretty tunics for dinners at either house. I love black pants, silk pants, velvet jackets that I’ve had made, and a black cocktail suit for many occasions. I once thought I had to wear Oscar de la Renta, which I still love, but I’m more into accessorizing simple clothes now. I love pearls and all the pretty things my thoughtful husband has bought me over the years. I remember Mom telling me to stand back, look in the mirror and take one thing off! I detest seeing overly done, too-much-at-a-time jewelry. I also love estate jewelry. I try to edit before going out!
Muffy: How do you set the tone for the evening?
Carol: Once the doorbell rings, I am a guest at my own party. All my worrying takes place earlier! I also have a little cocktail! Not too early!
Muffy: And your cocktail of choice?
Carol: I enjoy vodka on the rocks with a zillion olives or occasionally with a splash of grapefruit juice! I like a little wine at dinner when out. In the summer, vodka tonic, a rosé, and Bloody Mary’s at brunches! Always in moderation.
Muffy: What kind of ambience music do you have playing?
Carol: I love music from the 50s, Sinatra, Elton John, and my husband loves Jazz!
Muffy: Where do you like to have guests gather in your home?
Carol: We have a pretty loggia inspired by my idol, Billy Baldwin. We enter you there whenever the evening permits. I never want my guests to be uncomfortable so I always have a plan B. I put too much time and thought into all the details to have anyone be uncomfortable.
Muffy: A hostess has to have a night off once in awhile! What are your favorite Palm Beach restaurants?
Carol: I love Imoto, Chez Jean Pierre, Renato’s, and Cafe Flora for a fun, casual dining out evening. Pamela and Henry are a darling young couple who have built a very nice outdoor dining experience. I Love the Honor Bar and enjoy Sant Ambroeus for a festive night. I will try Todd English soon and I’m happy to see a new Chinese place, Hai House, in the Esplanade. The Peking Duck was yummy! Pizza al Fresco is another favorite restaurant—the best pizza in town and really fun for families and large groups.
Muffy: For your shopping fix, where do you wander to?
Carol: I love Peggy Daven and Seaman Schepps for jewelry. For decor, the treasure hunt down Dixie! Such fun and the house is filled with its treasures! Then there is Leta Austin Foster’s beautiful shop. Someone from Palm Beach years ago called it “the most beautiful shop in the world.” It is jam packed with everything you would possibly wish for! The most beautiful linens, embroidered in Europe, china, vintage cocktail napkins, and children’s clothes from Paris and London. Don’t forget the potpourri, lamps, and painted furniture. Everything for you and your home. Her workplace—the studio upstairs—is where all the magic happens! She has a great staff who are always there to help you and on call!
Muffy: I’m always on the hunt for lovely hostess gift ideas, what are some of your mainstays?
Carol: I will often take an orchid in Palm Beach—the gift that keeps on giving. Everyone hangs them on their trees later. I love to take the scented oils with the little sticks, not candles. Cocktails napkins if the hostess is a really close friend and wine if I don’t know them too well.
Muffy: I know we are honing in on your Palm Beach tastes, but I’d love to know more about your Virginia home too!
Carol: My wonderful decorator in DC, Lavinia Lemon, really got me started. I met her many years ago and she was considered the finest. She’s still busier than ever and I owe my beautiful home in Virginia to her! She taught me so much and she is a great friend. She also found some wonderful paintings for us!
Carol: Everyone loves the library, cobalt blue with a zig zag floor! She found Robert Jackson to do our painted floors and walls many years ago. They’re more beautiful after 30 years! Patina! Robert Jackson was the best. Mark Hampton, Mario Buatta, and probably Bunny Mellon used him.
Muffy: Any special interests in Virginia that you are involved in?
Carol: My husband sits on many nonprofit boards while my love is the National Children’s Hospital in Washington. I also love my ladies club downtown. We still dress for lunch and dinner, not easily found these days. Sadly, the dress code has seemingly disappeared, unless in a private club!
For more of Carol’s enchanting tastes, please do follow her on Instagram here. Details of her delightful Palm Beach home can be found in the December 2018 issue of House Beautiful.
P.S. I will be in Florida later this month to deliver a sneak peek of the spectacular Kips Bay Decorator Show House in Palm Beach. I can’t wait to share the goodness with you all! For show house information, admission, and tickets to the opening night preview party (hope to see you there!), please visit here.
House Beautiful images photographed by Francesco Lagnese and produced by Doretta Sperduto.