Like many Americans, my husband Andrew and I felt the pandemic was a good time to weigh our life decisions and make some moves. Unlike many Americans, we moved not one but three times from May 2020 to April 2021. By the time spring flowers were blooming in the West Village, my ever-patient husband had reached the end of his rope.

“We are done with dinnerware,” he declared dramatically over the 90th box marked kitchen. “We are becoming a one-bowl family. Choose your favorite, and that’s the only thing we will have in the cupboard.”

It’s so rare that I have the chance to be the sane one, the one that smiles and says, “Yes dear” while my partner throws a fully hissy. Usually I’m the one with an intense relationship with ceramic. How the world turns. I really leaned into it. If there was an Academy Award for Best Long-Suffering wife, give me that statuette.

“Oh, of course, sure, just one bowl, what a wonderful solution,” I replied beatifically. “How wonderfully Spartan.”

It’s so easy to be beneficent in a 10-year marriage when you have nothing on the line and so much opportunity for humor down the road. 

Reader, we were back to the full assortment in a matter of weeks. My husband is nothing if not a lover of lovely plating for his unbelievably good food, and his creativity could not be contained in a single basin. We’re now a multi-bowl household again, and I open the cupboards dramatically at every occasion, gasping, “HOW did all these BOWLS get in here? We’re a ONE bowl family!”

Despite his bowl-induced hysteria (in his defense, we do have a lot of serveware), there is something wonderfully freeing about his idea. This platonic ideal of a life in which you have only one perfect object that serves so many of your needs. Time and time again for hosting at home, we reach into our cabinets for the same basic essentials.

That’s the inspiration behind our essentials scenes. So much of my entertaining is done with these few items, and I love to use them all in a variety of ways.

A great cutting board? Use it for charcuterie now or for a cupcake tray for a birthday next week. I even love it as a centerpiece on a small table, layered with tapers and petite bud vases. Don’t be afraid to mix it up. Style it next to your bedside table with some candles and a catch-all bowl when guests are gone.

A champagne bucket? Great for the obvious solution of chilling your champers, but we like it on our bar cart full of limes for a margarita party. During a brunch soiree, I love to use it as an ice bucket or an impromptu vase. Picture it full of dahlias—gorgeous. Feeling bold? Toss a handful of long taper candles in there and use it as a makeshift candelabra. Everyone looks great under candlelight.

Votive holders? Not just for candles. I like them as tiny snack bowls on your bar—nuts, olives, you name it. They’re also perfectly sized for small bud vases. A couple blooms from your bodega, and you’re ready to party. When the party is over, I love to use them to corral cosmetics or jewelry on our vanity.

There is no harder worker than the humble snack bowl. Perfect for your buffet, sized just right for late night affogato, we reach into our closet for them again and again. My favorite hack? Turn them upside down and use them as risers under a vintage cutting board when setting a tablescape.

Inundated by summer gifting? Wedding season sapping your creativity? Did all your friends move and are now hosting housewarming events? May we recommend our essentials. We love them for so many people on your list.

  • Great for new entertainers: Just get a new place? Finally pull the trigger and move in with that girlfriend of yours? May we recommend our essentials as a great way to start your collection.
  • Great for stocking up: In the course of great parties, accidents happen. Sometimes you open your closet and all your favorites are gone. Our essentials are a great way to stock up quickly on everything you need to get the party started.
  • Great for seasoned hosts: Sometimes even the most seasoned host gets stuck in a rut. We love our essential scenes for its versatility.
  • Great for gifts: Priced just right as a gift this summer season.
  • Great for all of your summer shindigs: Upcoming events on the books? Not sure where to start? Check out our favorite ways to use scenes this summer.

Always a hostess, never a guest? We love our scenes for events too! Party in a pinch this summer with our favorites: 

Rooftop Movie Night

Invite your closest friends over for a cozy summer movie night. Transform your roof into an upscale theater using our No Bar Like Home Scene. Mix the cocktails, pop the popcorn and roll the tape.

Birthday Party in the Park

Add some good vibes to your next birthday bash using our Scene Edit: Big Disco Energy, complete with holographic disposables, a festive banner and confetti. You bring the cake; we’ll bring the pink glitter candles.

Backyard Dinner Party

Turn your backyard into a private oasis and throw the dinner party of your dreams. Just add our Feste Essentials: Best of Feste, Large to cart. Accent with your favorite florals, champers and bites.

Traveling Oceanside

Heading oceanside this weekend? Embrace your inner “coastal grandmother” aesthetic with our aptly named Mini Scene: Coastal Mother. Everything you need to put together a chic yet simple gathering that even Nancy Meyers would approve of.

June 22, 2022 — Shelby Barnes