In an excerpt from his new book, I Love California—an ode to his home state, out April 10—interior designer Nathan Turner shares decorating tips and recipes from one of his favorite local gems.
Looking back on my life in California, it’s easy to see how design and entertaining became so central to my work. My fondest memories revolve around the kitchen and dining table. When I opened my eponymous Los Angeles antiques store in 2002, the ﬁrst thing I did was install a kitchen. It was tiny and had no high-tech equipment, but it worked!
I started small, hosting dinners with friends (I knew they wouldn’t judge if it was a little awkward eating in a shop). For my ﬁrst get-together, I set an 18th-century Spanish rectory table with china I brought from home and strewed the table with garden roses from Rose Story Farm, a few miles southeast of Santa Barbara.
We had a blast, eating and drinking, and ﬁnished the night on the sidewalk in front of my store, enjoying cheese drizzled with local honey. That night I went to sleep feeling blissful. I had done it. From cooking by myself out of that closet of a kitchen, I ended up hosting events for clients and friends all over town.
I still return to Rose Story Farm, an oasis where, in addition to 25,000 rosebushes (more than 120 varieties are cultivated), there is an amazing 19th-century Victorian house, as well as trellis-covered cottages around the property. Whenever I take someone there, I say, “This is the ultimate California dream.”
Rose Story had a big impact on the style of table I call “boho garden”—super-colorful and full of patterns. I love to keep the plates and linens for this kind of gathering really rustic and natural. You don’t need a deﬁned set of china, glasses, or ﬂatware. Break sets up and mix the old with some new pieces.
I use rose-colored glass goblets for a citrus punch, stemless globes for water, and blue cotton napkins fringed in hot pink to add a festive touch. Rattan chargers have great texture and make a table seem special while reading casual.
Likewise, there’s no rule that says the buffet has to be next to the table. I actually like it in another place to give a party energy. Add a bold backdrop—such as wallpaper, a fence covered in ﬂowers, or an old painted wall. Just make sure the table is long enough to ﬁt the food and shallow enough so people don’t have to bend over to reach what they want. This West Coast version of relaxed chic is not only super-approachable but translatable anywhere.
Asparagus & Leek Quiche
Serves 8 to 10
Quiche is a nostalgic dish for me. It’s so ’80s but still such a great crowd-pleaser. I’ve been known to buy roll-out piecrust dough—a huge time-saver that allows you to make this recipe in minutes.
- 1 store-bought piecrust, at room temperature
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 leeks, cleaned and sliced
- 2 cups asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 cups half-and-half
- 4 large eggs, beaten
- 1 tbsp freshly grated lemon zest
- 1 tsp salt ½ tsp ground black pepper
- 1½ cups shredded Gruyère
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Unroll piecrust to ﬁt in a 9-inch round tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the crust into the sides. Line with parchment and pie weights, and bake for 12 minutes. Let cool completely and remove parchment and weights.
3. In a large sauté pan, heat oil. Sauté leeks for 5 minutes over medium-high heat, until they begin to soften. Add asparagus and sauté for 5 minutes more. Set aside.
4. In a large bowl, whisk together half-and-half, eggs, zest, salt, and pepper.
5. To assemble the quiche, layer the bottom of the cooled crust with 1 cup of the cheese and then the vegetable mixture. Pour the cream mixture over the vegetables and sprinkle with remaining cheese.
6. Bake for 30 minutes or until set in the center. Let cool and serve warm or at room temperature.
Yogurt Herb Dip & Crudités
I like crudité platters to look rustic, so I often leave the tops of radishes, carrots, and cherry tomatoes. No matter what you are serving, remember to vary height, color, and texture, and you’ll always end up with a lovely display worthy of a still life.
Ingredients for yogurt dip:
- 1 clove garlic
- ¼ cup fresh mint leaves, packed
- ¼ cup fresh ﬂat-leaf parsley leaves, packed
- 1 green onion, chopped
- 1 anchovy
- 2 cups plain Greek yogurt
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- ½ tsp salt, plus more for salted water
- ½ tsp hot pepper sauce
1. In a food processor, combine garlic, mint, parsley, green onion, and anchovy, then pulse to chop. Add yogurt, lemon juice, salt, and hot pepper sauce, and puree the dip until smooth. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.
2. Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl and set aside. Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil. Blanch and shock green beans and asparagus. Serve dip with chilled vegetables—such as radishes, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, celery heart, and endive—on a large platter.
Flower Power: Simple ways to spruce up your space for guests.
Broaden Your Scope
Arrangements don’t have to mean ﬂowers. I love and often use greens, grasses, herbs, fruits, vegetables, branches, leaves, and nuts.
Less Is Often Plenty
Opt for one ﬂower, one arrangement—or use several varieties of ﬂowers in one color palette, such as blush pink to deep raspberry. A line of bud vases arranged down a table has the same punch as a big arrangement, and it’s economical, too.
Keep a Low Profile
There’s nothing more annoying than trying to talk to someone across the table behind a massive arrangement. Place things below eye level so guests can comfortably chat and interact.
Look for unexpected ways to bring ﬂowers into a room. Try intertwining pretty ivy around a chandelier, or use longer greenery like palms or bougainvillea on the mantel. I love the way it gives the space a beachy, tropical look.
Vary Your Vessels
Any vessel is fair game for me. I will put ﬂowers in anything, and I love to mix it up—like simple juice glasses with a pitcher or a shallow porcelain bowl. It’s one more interesting element on your table and adds to the atmosphere you are trying to create.
Just Add Water
Flowers will last so much longer if you change the water daily. And remember to recut the stems when you bring them home before you arrange.
This story originally appeared in the spring 2018 issue with the headline “The Wild and Windsome West.”
See more colorful entertaining tips: