As gracious as she is glamorous, Salonniere 100 honoree Brooke Davenport may well be Dallas’s hautest and most in-demand hostess. Most recently, the tastemaker, interior designer, and all-around style maven was tapped to host a soirée for Asprey that featured her signature entertaining trait: an attention to detail as sterling as the British luxury brand’s tableware and barware. Indeed, the candlelit parties that Brooke hosts in her Highland Park manse for friends like Tom Ford, Kathy Hilton, and fellow Salonniere 100 honoree Becca Cason Thrash, are polished masterpieces. Join us as Brooke RSVPs to our questions about her entertaining prowess, revealing everything from her party must-haves and pet peeves to the indispensable lesson designer Valentino taught her about entertaining.
Describe your entertaining style.
Detailed. Making sure your home feels cozy and the mood is right—with flowers, candles, great lighting, and drinks—is what makes people want to stay and enjoy the atmosphere. I also like to pay attention to how the conversation is flowing and make sure that people aren’t feeling left out.
Who inspired your love of entertaining?
My mother. She was constantly entertaining, and she was very detailed in how she entertained—I learned that skill from her. I’ve also learned a lot from friends. We have been guests of Valentino, and his attention to detail when entertaining is like nothing I’ve ever seen. He takes it to another level.
Brooke hosted an elegant barbecue to celebrate her husband Blake’s 50th birthday.
What’s the best party you’ve ever hosted?
The 50th birthday party I hosted last summer for my husband, Blake. I did the entire thing myself, and I spent a good month just planning it in my mind. Blake wanted a barbecue. But I wanted it to be formal, so we served fried chicken on big silver trays. It was exactly what he wanted but on my taste level, so we were both happy.
If you were to host the dinner party of your dreams, who would be your guest of honor?
Princess Diana. I think she’d be so welcoming and warm, and no matter what the situation, she’d embrace it.
Brooke at a party with friends Becca Cason Thrash and Cami Goff.
What always gets your party guests talking?
My collection of eclectic accessories. I have pieces all over my house that I’ve collected during my travels over the last 20 years. I have a bit of everything, from a collection of Buccellati treasures to Asian pieces. And guests notice. They’ll say, “Tell me about that,” and there’s always a little story to tell.
What do you consider to be your greatest party victory?
When it’s past the witching hour, and I still have a full house of guests.
What about your biggest party nightmare?
It happened at my husband’s 50th birthday party. I told the waiters to come in white shirts, khaki pants, and white tennis shoes. I had ordered blue-and-white check ties from J. Crew for them to wear so they’d all be dressed alike. Well, two of the waiters came in white shirts and khaki pants, but the other two came in all-black. I immediately sent them to Target to buy white shirts and khaki pants. It made me a wreck!
What is your party signature? What will people always see at your parties?
Beautiful flowers and an excessive number of candles.
What’s your most treasured entertaining item?
A massive vintage Hermès wicker tray. I’ve had it for a long time. It’s the one piece that always works, whether I’m entertaining informally or formally, outdoors or inside.
Brooke’s go-to china pattern is Royal Copenhagen’s Flora Danica.
Tell us about your favorite entertaining splurge?
Buying Flora Danica place settings. My mom collected it. I got her collection when she died, and I’ve been slowly adding to it. It’s old school—Betsy Bloomingdale also had Flora Danica. For many women of that generation, Flora Danica was the go-to china that made the big statement that everyone wanted. People really love when you serve dinner on Flora Danica. They’re like, “It’s so special.”
Who are the most fascinating people you’ve ever met at a dinner party?
Barbara Walters and Oscar de la Renta. It was at a dinner party that Betsy Bloomingdale hosted at her house in Los Angeles shortly before she died. Betsy was a very good friend of mine. I remember sitting at the table thinking, it’s amazing that I’m sitting at this intimate dinner party with Betsy, who’s a legend, and Nancy Reagan, who was across from me, and Barbara and Oscar. I remember Barbara saying something pretty funny to Betsy that night. Referring to the people around the table, she said, “Who’s the new ‘table jewelry’ that you’ve added to your collection?” That was so cute.
A candlelit dinner party hosted by Brooke. Photo via What Goes Around Comes Around.
What is your biggest party pet peeve?
Bad lighting. When you go to someone’s house and it’s lit for surgery, you know they just don’t do the details. No one wants to go to a dinner party where there’s harsh lighting and not enough candles. It also drives me crazy when people don’t turn on all the lights in their house—they just turn on the lights in the rooms where they’ll be entertaining. When you arrive at a house, the house should be fully lit to make a welcoming statement. [To read our story about party lighting, click here.]
Getting Tipsy with Brooke Davenport
What’s your best tip for…
Staying party ready?
Keep crisp flatbread crackers and Marcona almonds in the pantry and a selection of good cheeses and a bottle of Champagne in the fridge.
Dealing with guests who don’t RSVP?
I’ll send a polite but curt email or text asking if they received the invitation and if they are planning to attend. This is actually another of my big pet peeves, especially if I’m doing a seated dinner.
Making a home a great entertaining space?
Make sure you have big, oversized, comfy furniture and great lighting. [To read our story about how to create a home for entertaining, featuring tips from 10 of the nation’s best interior designers, click here.]
Creating a last-minute centerpiece?
For freshly cut flowers, I run to Avant Garden, which is my favorite florist, or out to my backyard, depending on the season. The floral department at Whole Foods also works if I’m in a pinch.
“Drawing out” a shy dinner guest?
Playing Favorites with Brooke Davenport
What’s your favorite…
Flora Danica by Royal Copenhagen
Christofle Perles for casual occasions; Francis 1st by Reed & Barton for formal dinners.
Brand of table linens?
D. Porthault and SFERRA
Candle for the powder room?
Manuel Canovas or Asprey
Hand soap for the powder room?
L’Atelier du Savon
Temperley London’s bohemian-glam designs are Brooke’s go-to party dresses.
Place to shop for party clothes?
MatchesFashion, and the designer I’m loving right now is Alice Temperley.
Classic BB Manolos.
Hostess gift to give?
White linen monogrammed napkins.
And here are our most recent stories and a few more that we think you’ll enjoy:
The 10 Best Hand Soaps for your Powder Room…Hands Down
The Best Holiday Punch Recipes
The Black and White Ball Hosted by Truman Capote
Hemmerle’s 125th Anniversary Party at the Temple of Dendur
An Interview with Salonniere 100 Honoree, Jane Scott Hodges
How to Prep Your Powder Room for a Party
The 10 Best Entertaining Books of All Time