Annette Tatum’s Rules

The recent Joss & Main curator shares advice on creating party-friendly spaces.


Annette Tatum
believes any home, big or small, can be a space where people love to gather and get lost in conversation.

A consummate entertainer, the Santa Monica-based bedding, textiles, and home furnishings designer–and author of The Well-Dressed Home–has mastered the art of creating welcoming environments that easily transition from personal space to cocktail-party spot. We asked Tatum, whose Curator’s Collection appeared December 14 on Joss & Main, to lay out some basics for designing rooms that invite everyone to sit and stay awhile.

Let neutrals set the stage for playful decor.
“If you ground yourself in neutrals, then you have more wiggle room for color,” Tatum says. “Make your first layer the grays, taupes, and khakis,” she suggests, and then you can accent with brighter and deeper tones as the season and occasion dictate.

Rethink pink.
“Pink is neutral to me,” explains the designer, who doesn’t consider it an overtly feminine hue. “The problem is when you become a confectioner,” she laughs. “If the pinks are pared down and sophisticated, and you add deeper tones like blues and olives, it can add gorgeous warmth to a room.”

Focus on rich fabrics.
“I use a lot of velvet on uphosltered chairs, benches, sofas, pillows, and even as a little decorative trim,” Tatum reveals. “Velvet has a reflective quality, and adds a depth and richness,” she says. For rooms where you entertain in the evenings, fabrics that change with the light can set an alluring scene.

Bring in some sparkle.
“I love to make a sparkly mirror collection on the walls. You can combine mirrors of all shapes and sizes, mix silver and gold, and maybe throw in your old favorites,” Tatum says. “It’s more eye catching than a wall of frames.” She also likes adding flickering votives and candles to a social space: “The light creates a magical feeling.”


Sprinkle the space with conversation starters. Whether on your mantel, bookshelves, or an accent table, Tatum recommends thoughtfully placing decorative items, mementos, and intriguing coffee table books designed to spark a discussion. “A room has to have different focal points of interest,” she says. “A good still life on the table, photos, or other interesting items can encourage people to experience the whole room, and it’s a chance to tell a story. Maybe you have a Moroccan theme, so you set out persimmons in beautiful bowls near a few books about Moroccan decor. If you pick a theme and carry it through the room, appealing to all the senses, people can experience it completely.” Another bonus: Instead of sticking to one corner, your guests will be more likely to wander and mingle.


Choose furniture that encourages flow. 

“Some structure is nice,” says Tatum, “but in the middle of an entertaining space you generally want something more inviting. I love a round table that you can move around. You don’t want to be so aware of edges and corners.” She’s also a fan of outfitting rooms with sofas and chairs that can be rearranged for social gatherings, and small end tables that can be used to set a drink. “You want people to be able to lean over and converse in one way, and then have another conversation on the other side.”

Three’s company.

Not sure how many votives or vases to set out on your communal table? “Whether you’re talking about candlesticks, vases, sets of platters, or items to stack on a coffee table, everything looks better set out in groups of three,” she reveals. “It’s one of those rules of design that just holds true. There’s just something about an even number that doesn’t feel comfortable. Three, on the other hand, always feels right.”