Celebrations are undoubtedly looking far different this year, but that doesn’t mean that our favorite tastemakers are compromising doing things in style. We checked in with Deborah Pagani, who’s putting a proverbial bow on a successful year after Rihanna wore her famous Pill necklace in the latest Fenty Beauty campaign released this week. Here’s how the fun-loving mom-of-three is entertaining this year: infused tequila and all. Ps. She’s a hoot on Instagram should you want to tag along; even Chrissy Teigen follows her!
What are your plans for the holidays this year?
We will be at home in NYC; keeping it casual and cozy!
How does it look different than your usual celebrations?
I’m not sure how this happened, but I’ve been hosting my family and in-laws for 14 years now. Back in the day, didn’t we go to grandma’s house?! I’ve always done flower arrangements, full-on formal place settings, and we would start with a cocktail hour followed by dinner and dessert. I’ll be hosting again this year but keeping the head count much tighter and a little more laid back. The one thing that won’t change is prepping a week before by infusing the tequila—not to worry about that!
Even though things might look different, how are you putting a positive spin on this year’s celebrations?
We are still celebrating—we have one life, and we need to keep our spirits up! Decorations have gone up, and everyone has submitted their favorite dish to the chef (me.) I’m definitely behind on gifts, but this weekend will be the final shopping weekend!
How are you decorating the home this year? Do you pick a theme, or do you use tried-and-true decorations you already have?
I love a theme! I change the table decor every year and play with different color palettes, but gold accents are almost always in the mix. We have started decorating earlier, and after watching Holiday Home Makeovers with Mr. Christmas, my kids insisted on adding some decorations to each of their rooms, too.
What about a tablescape, what are your non-negotiables?
I usually head down to the Flower District really early in the morning and make my own flower arrangements to go down the center of the table. That sets the tone. I also love layering dishes, napkin ring, and crystal glassware—it’s like jewelry for the table! This year, I lined up mini trees, graduating in size, along the middle of the table that will last all month! I call it “killing two birds with one stone”—maximizing the holiday spirit in one fell swoop.
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Do you cook? If so, what’s your specialty dish that you can let us in on?
We usually do all the cooking at home and I make Martha Stewart’s mac & cheese every year. Anything Martha says; I do! My dream is to go to her house for a holiday. Martha if you hear this, I would be such a great guest. I’m very creative in selecting hostess gifts and I will always send you a handwritten thank you note. (I say this because I saw on her show that she was once upset with a guest for not thanking her appropriately). I’ll also be making a new holiday cocktail, called the ‘cherry bomb.’ I love coming up with fresh seasonal cocktails—they fill the apartment with the most intoxicating scent!
Any tips for setting the ambiance?
Lighting and scent are most important! I have pre-lit garlands on all of the windowsills, so there is less overhead light. Also, a note for hostesses: the brighter the light, the more your guests can see what’s in their dish—just in case you’re trying to just serve frozen hors d’oeuvres! I won’t be doing that this year, but I can’t say that I never have! Scent is everything. Apples and cloves boiling in water gives the home a really nice and festive aroma with no artificial chemicals.
Any tricks for keeping kids/little ones happy and quiet?
Before guests come, the kids need to get outside. I bribe them with a treat (and some screen time if I really need them to chill chill) to race in the park, so they aren’t stir-crazy. Even a quick run around the block to get them out for a bit helps tremendously.
What’s a failsafe party pleaser, even for small groups?
Everyone loves this baked brie I make wrapped in phyllo dough with nuts and cherries. It’s easy and smells divine.
Do you know what you’re planning on wearing this year? What’s your go-to ‘look’ when hosting?
If it were a normal year and I was going to dress up, I would have worn this Khaite hunter green dress I have—it’s comfortable and sexy. This year might just be a Wolford bodysuit and my favorite Sporty & Rich sweats. Oh, and a lot of gold jewelry.
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Heels or flats?
Pre-covid: heels, absolutely. I just ordered a pair of Gucci houndstooth shearling booties; they will definitely be my holiday footwear of choice this year.
What’s the best gift for a hostess or host?
If she wears her hair in a bun, my Large Sleek Hair Pin, or if she’s a bow girl, then the new vegan leather Bow Scrunchie. Both come in the chicest reusable packaging (if I do say so myself,) and after all…isn’t gifting all about the packaging?
[*Deborah wears green dress by Khaite, styled by Adi Heyman.]