While many of us try hard to achieve work-life balance with a single job and a relatively small social circle, Liz Curtis is juggling two careers—one start-up gig, and one pro bono—and still finding plenty of time to party.
Table + Teaspoon's luxe cream-and-black Stella setting.(Courtesy of T+T)
During her first career as a full-time lawyer, Curtis nurtured her love for entertaining and design by throwing elaborate dinner parties. It began with culinary posts on Facebook and morphed into a food blog; by 2013, she was hosting regular dinner parties, meticulously decorated with custom table settings, in her studio apartment in San Francisco. Soon she began to offer her services at cost, with the idea of getting her hands dirty in the industry; and soon after, Table + Teaspoon was born.
Like Rent the Runway for dinner parties, Table + Teaspoon is an online platform offering beautiful table settings for rent for special occasions. You simply choose from one of seven styles—are you a black-and-white Parker or a lushly green Monroe?—order for your party's date, set the table and impress your friends. When the dinner's over, pack it all up (no washing required!) and shoot it back FedEx.
The concept is a no-brainer for consummate entertainers who either lack the funds to purchase china or just like to shake things up; and yet, the idea seemed all new. It was in the summer of 2015 when Curtis says it hit her, "while picking up my zillionth order from an enormous and very unglamorous party rental warehouse in South San Francisco. I thought to myself, in a city where you can order literally anything on-demand—flowers, dresses, tuxes, meals, chefs, groceries, cocktails, servers, and sommeliers—why can't you similarly order your tablescape?"
So, she launched T+T with six table settings, including an elegant neutral design (The Hadley), a patriotic nautical design (The Cabot); a holiday motif (The Jane) and more. All of these, as well as the most recently launched Stella, can been seen at the company's Market Street HQ, a former art gallery decked out with crystal chandeliers and a living wall.
While Curtis still practices law, doing strictly pro-bono legal work and mentoring foster youth, she's never regretted the decision to swap her chosen career path for her hobby. "I found an outlet for my legal skills by becoming a volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate for abused and neglected foster youth, which has allowed me to focus on building Table + Teaspoon without hesitation," says Curtis, who also serves as vice president of the board of San Francisco Fine Arts Museums' ArtPoint.
She recently partnered with Elizabeth Wellborn, founder of the equestrian luxury goods company, Stick & Ball, to host a dinner for 70 guests on a polo field in Aspen, and she's also collaborating with a private jet company for a party inside an airplane hanger.
"No regrets, and I feel incredibly lucky to be able to pursue both passions."
The Lauren table setting.(Courtesy of T+T)
7x7: Describe your personal style.
Liz Curtis: Bold, consistent, and unapologetically confident.
7x7: What's your #1 hostess hack?
LC: I could tell you to set the table the night before, or how to turn basic store-bought dishes into a fine dining experience, but that's not the key to being the hostess with the mostess. What makes a dinner party go from average to amazing? I promise you, it's not the finest caviar and best French bubbles, or Hermes china and your great grandmother's freshly polished silver. When you entertain, you are opening your home to people. You want to make sure that your guests feel welcome the instant they walk through the front door. Give them the feeling that you care about them being in your home and that you've put a great deal of thought into their evening. That's the feeling they will remember. Entertaining is about the thought, not the execution.
7x7: Who's your design idol?
LC: Kelly Wearstler built a brand around her fearless taste, and people continue to covet everything she does, from furniture to Paperless Post invites. It's easy to spot a KW design because all of her work speaks to her branding. Basically, she's both a business and creative genius. Talk about life goals!
7x7: A typical dinner party at the Curtis house looks like...
LC: Back when I first started hosting dinner parties in 2009, I had a rule that anyone who dared to come into the kitchen before I was finished cooking would be cut by my paring knife. Just kidding. Fortunately, a dinner party in my home has come a long way since then. I soon realized that no matter how perfect my dishes turned out, if I just threatened my guest's life for coming to say hello while I'm popping souffles in the oven, it's simply not going to taste quite as good. So that rule quickly went out the window.
The over-the-top attention to detail, however, hasn't changed. I often loosely employ a theme (like The Secret Garden or a monochromatic tone) and base my florals, linens, and textiles around that concept. The thing that always remains the same is a decadent multi-course meal, a silly icebreaker so that guests feel comfortable (or deliciously uncomfortable depending on the evening), and a ridiculous number of candles on the table for intimacy.
7x7: Household essentials?
LC: Wim frozen yogurt maker (the new Nespresso for froyo), Shun knives, copper cookware, Assouline coffee table books, lots of living plants, and Dyptique Feu de Bois candles for every room.
7x7: What are your favorite party venues in SF?
LC: My top three are the Music Concourse in Golden Gate Park (if I ever settle down and get married), Marianne's at the Cavalier for private dinners, and the Rodin Galleries at the Legion of Honor for everything else.
7x7: Give us your shopping spree for entertainers.
LC: My policy for home decor is to always go high-low. This means that I incorporate stuff from Gump's, Jay Jeffers The Store, and March with things from Home Goods, Target, and flea markets. My current obsessions are vintage brass candleholders that I found for $1 each at a thrift store in Colorado paired with hand-rolled Perin-Mowen beeswax tapers. The trick is to make your space neither too sterile nor too opulent. The easiest way to achieve this is by combining luxe elements with unusual lower-priced pieces.
// Table + Teaspoon, 1639 Market St. (Mid-Market), tableandteaspoon.com