by Dustin Jayroe // Photos Provided by Shayla Copas
The adage “write a book about it” is often made in jest for or by people who have so much knowledge about a given subject that they quip about, well, writing a book. Most move on, never actually devoting the time and energy into putting their money where their mouth is. Shayla Copas is not one of these people. She literally wrote the book.
Copas, a nationally renowned interior designer, speaker, author and philanthropist, published Four Seasons of Entertaining earlier this year, a 250-page deep dive into seasonal event hosting. This quasi-encyclopedia on entertaining encompasses everything from floral design, place settings, decorations and mouth-watering recipes. Coming into the holiday season, there are few more qualified to accept holiday hosting advice from than Copas. (In fact, she designed the Thanksgiving event at the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion last year.)
“My journey toward entertaining began with my mother-in-law, Sarah Lay Copas,” Shayla says. “She invested her heart and soul into family gatherings, and the enduring energy of the parties she planned has guided me down a long path of hosting events. She instilled in me her love of china, flatware, crystal and stemware. I vividly remember the tears in her eyes when she bestowed upon me her beloved china before she passed.”
Shayla’s mother-in-law made such a profound impact that Shayla dedicated Four Seasons of Entertaining to her late inspiration, right next to her husband, Scott, and God.
“I treasure the intimacy of Thanksgiving, along with the opportunity to host close friends and family members with savory food and an air of gratitude.” — Shayla Copas
For the Thanksgiving event at the Governor’s Mansion, Copas served, recipes courtesy of chefs Daniel Darrah and Don Bingham, duck confit crepes with apple cardamom creme fraiche and blackberry port reduction, an artisan wedge salad with bacon balsamic dressing and tomato relish, a sweet potato souffle, pecan pie, deviled eggs and southern sweet iced tea (each aptly dubbed the “first lady’s”), turkey with dried fruit stuffing and a “heavenly” cranberry sauce.
Easy Ways to Elevate
Copas: Thanksgiving presents a fantastic occasion to utilize cherished china and silver. I always recommend incorporating floral and personalized name cards to add an elegant touch to holiday gatherings.
Diversify your typical Thanksgiving menu with a signature drink! I love coming up with new drink recipes to serve at each event that I host. All you need is a little bit of creativity and an array of components to work with. I tend to start with a type of juice and pair it with a carbonated beverage, fruit and a garnish. I find that getting creative with these ingredients and champagne makes for a delightful fall mimosa.
One of Copas’ favorite Christmas Eve and Christmas recipes is a holiday sangria, courtesy of her friends Shay and Brian Geyer. The Geyers also provided Copas recipes for baked figs with goat cheese, Dungeness crab-stuffed mushrooms, green salad with gorgonzola and raspberry vinaigrette, honey-roasted carrots, Boursin cheese mashed potatoes and creamy mushroom soup.
An Elegant Affair
Copas: While traditional Christmas color palettes evoke a familiar holiday cheer, incorporating a more unconventional color scheme can add a key element that elevates a gathering to a paramount level of elegance. Emerald and blue table settings were striking against pink and red florals with holiday greenery at the Christmas Eve dinner and fellowship event in Four Seasons of Entertaining.
Extending your holiday design to a buffet is more of an opportunity than a challenge! I love any excuse to add design elements to a gathering. Embellish your buffet with floral, elegant silver and candles. A buffet can take the pressure out of entertaining and allows a host to mingle with the guests and enjoy the moment.
New Year’s Eve
Before ringing in the new year, Copas served a top tier cast of guests at Jim Norton and Robert Walden’s Oakmont Estate in Jackson, Tennesee. The dishes, courtesy of Norton of The Norton Recipe, included roasted cauliflower bisque with golden raisins and white truffle oil, pan-seared sea scallops with sweet corn puree and tomato, pan-seared pepper-crusted filet mignon with beurre rouge and a decadent chocolate truffle with sweet raspberry creme.
Copas: Silver and gold will always be timeless additions that complement almost any color palette. I incorporated them with traditional black, silver and cream, while unexpected linen patterns added interest. Thibaut fabric in Laos Beige and Waterford patterns harmonized with the traditional elements in the room.
Personalizing each place setting is my favorite design element to an event because there is so much room for creativity. A significant part of interior design is overcoming obstacles to reach an objective. In this case, the goal was to personalize each guest’s “New Year’s Count-Down” experience and my solution was to incorporate pocket watches and clocks into the design.