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updated 11/2/2012 4:38:07 PM ET 2012-11-02T20:38:07

Renowned interior designer and entertaining expert Nathan Tuner illustrates tips and shares his passions for classic design in "Nathan Turner's American Style." Here's an excerpt.


As a born-and-bred California boy, I have lived on the coast, in the city, and in the mountains. All were completely different experiences and have impacted me in profound, distinct ways since childhood. California is such a varied place: A Northern California beach experience, for example, has little in common with what goes on at a Southern California beach. Ditto for the city and country locales. But despite all of these differences, I do see a common thread: California is, after all, the birthplace of “casual design.” Seventy-five years ago, architects from all over the world came here and discovered new ways of living. The division between indoor and outdoor space became blurred. Formal rooms gave way to stunning, open areas for entertaining, relaxing, and living, and the whole notion of “relaxed style” came to be. I love that this is the one place in the world that really celebrates a barefoot, fuss-free, and high-style approach to living. Where else can you get that?

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It’s such a unique mix, and my approach to decorating and entertaining is all about finding new ways to live and celebrate with low effort and high style-whether you live near the beach, in the city, or in the country. Now more than ever, with so many of us leading hectic lives, I feel that stuffy, high-maintenance living is simply a thing of the past. Who wants to slave over a meal all day when there are one hundred other items on their to-do list? Or create a living room that’s over decorated to the point of needing a “Keep Out” sign? It might have made sense a few generations ago, but it doesn’t now that everyone seems to have less time and more to do. That said, living well is still an absolute necessity. My goal is to create a new era of laid-back, highly stylish design and entertaining ideas that can be implemented without huge amounts of effort or expense. Whether you’re looking to redesign just a small room or the entire house, or whether you want to throw an intimate dinner party or a major blowout, I’m convinced that it can be done without going into debt, and while having a great time!


Country entertaining is all about creating cozy environments and hearty comfort food. People tend to think that country entertaining is only about colder weather and warm fires (which it can be), but I think it’s great all year. This is about rustic and casual gatherings that celebrate the outdoors and make nature the star of your décor, whether you’re dining inside or out. It’s the ultimate no-fuss kind of entertaining where you just go outside and bring the environment to the table. It’s about going to the garden and putting herbs in mismatched vases or simply scattering apples around the tablescape. County entertaining requires so little effort to create so much beauty.

Miguel Flores-Vianna  /  Abrams
Turner's canned apple pie filling

In September, we pull down all the apples at my mom’s place in Nevada, and then we spend the weekend making apple butter, apple pie filling, and apple chutney-anything to do with apples. I’ll inevitably end up organizing a casual dinner to celebrate the harvest during the weekend. And for me, it’s the essence of low-key entertaining. When I’m doing the table, nothing matches. Really, nothing. Not the plates, not the pillow cushions, not the glasses or the silverware or the chairs. I just put it all together based on what’s available, and it ends up feeling like a great old-fashioned American table. This is all about really embracing the non-set. I don’t even mess with flowers, place cards, or any of that for this kind of table. Instead, I just take some apples from the trees and play around with them. Then I’ll grab some herbs from the garden, just little sprays of them, and put them in different types of vessels: a vintage milk glass or a granite cup that was used for gold mining. The great thing about doing this kind of dinner is that this stuff is all available at thrift stores everything. I’m talking Salvation Army here. When you take the “matching set” pressure off yourself, you can really go into any thrift store and create a stunning table for six or eight people for under thirty dollars. Trust me, the mismatched charm of it all will create dinner party magic.

Miguel Flores-Vianna  /  Abrams
A Dutch-oven cookout

My harvest dinner menu is as simple and effortless as the table décor. It’s just Roasted Game Hens with Apples and Sage that I do in a Dutch oven (translation: Put it all together, and you’re done), roasted potatoes, and a green salad. That’s it. It all goes on the table at the same time so I get to enjoy the meal as much as the guests. Nothing more is required. For dessert, I serve both apple pie and my family’s Spiced Apple Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting. We’ve been making it for generations, and what I love about it is that it requires no precision. The messier and more homemade it looks, the better.

Excerpted from NATHAN TURNER's AMERICAN STYLE by Nathan Turner. Copyright (c) 2012 by Nathan Turner. Reprinted by arrangement with Abrams.

© 2012 MSNBC Interactive


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