Cocktails with Reem Acra

Reem Acra

I’ve been invited to several parties hosted by designer Reem Acra over the years, but was never able to attend until last week. And holy crow, had I been missing out! Reem, who was raised in Lebanon and studied fashion design at FIT in New York and the ESMOD Ecole de Mode in Paris, is the consummate hostess with the mostest.

This became immediately apparent as my husband and I entered her Chelsea apartment – which was lit with twinkling votives and glowing purple trees for the occasion – and were offered glasses of champagne and red wine by handsome young waiters. The glass-topped tables were lit from below and adorned with small vases of roses and tall silver bowls overflowing with tasty snacks, while other waiters passed tuna tartare and foie gras hors d’oeuvres.

“Eclectic,” Reem said when asked to describe her décor. “I think it has my whole personality. I love coming home at night and enjoying the atmosphere I’ve created. It has a little bit of all my trips; wherever I travel I’ve collected things since I was a little girl. Things I love and adore – from the dishes to the candles. Everything I have, I have to love!”

Although my own style hews more toward mid-century modern/Design Within Reach, I also love the moody, evocative atmosphere Reem has created in her spacious abode, which she bought 10 years ago to house her showroom and “slowly, slowly” transformed into her personal living space.

“In the beginning it was my showroom and house at the same time,” she told me as legendary stylist Freddie Leiba and editors from InStyle mixed and mingled. “It was so easy. I would be in my bedroom and get dressed, then pick up my handbag and walk into the office in my living room.’”

“It’s always a work in progress,” she added as her adorable white Maltese, Lulu, snuggled at her feet. “Every time you come here, things change. The tables get moved or have been changed completely. I change it whenever I’m in the mood. But what I enjoy the most is when I’m having breakfast all alone every day in my living room on my settee with sterling silver and fine dishes – it’s like breakfast for a king and I do it all the time with the best dishes I have. With everything I have, I never skimp. So I’m living life to the fullest. Growing up I remember my mother saying, ‘This is for guests. This is for a special time.’ And I decided when I grew up I would live. So I am my own guest and I am living the best life ever.”

That much was clear from glancing around the beautifully appointed living room, with its plush velvet couches, low-slung glass coffee tables and elaborately carved wooden panels (and don’t even get me started on the private changing room that houses Reem’s incredible vintage clothing archive).

The designer — who is famous for her intricately embroidered ready-to-wear and bridal collections — also owns homes in Beirut and Nashville and lives to entertain. She even co-owns an event planning business, called Dreemcom, in her native Lebanon. She entertains at least once a week – freewheeling cocktail parties or formal dinner parties – and takes ballroom dance lessons in the kitchen.

“I entertain myself every single day,” Reem said with a laugh before excusing herself to greet arriving guests. It’s a great life lesson, and one I plan to adopt myself. And you can bet I’ll never miss another party hosted by the gracious Ms. Acra.

Lauren David Peden writes for Rue La La as a Contributing Editor.

June 29, 2011