Not long ago, summer entertaining entailed setting the table and giving your guests something good to eat, full stop. As a host, all you had to do was create a convivial atmosphere, but that was before Pinterest and Instagram changed the rules of the game. These days rising to the occasion takes longer than you would think, unless you happen to have a resident laundress, a personal shopper, and a prop stylist on the payroll. All manner of bright colored bits and bobs are required, to say nothing of table linens and multiple sets of dishes.
How, then, is an ambitious host to shine? One reliable solution is to throw money at the problem. Unfortunately, unless you’re hosting a large gathering, most traditional party-rental companies won’t deal with you. More, their inventories tend to be fairly standard. The entrepreneurs Amy Griffin and Jessica Latham took it upon themselves to rectify this state of affairs. The two friends (whose combined talents include events planning and film production) founded Social Studies, a tableware rental service for the Pinterest generation.
“We realized that every other area of our lives had been simplified,” says Griffin. “No one had attempted to do what we try to do.” Latham chimes in, “A lot of the images you see on social media platforms are over-the-top and hard to pull off.” Before the advent of Social Studies, she explains, there was no one place from where you could acquire all the components of a top-drawer tablescape. When a customer orders one of their rental kits, all the time-consuming work of hunting and foraging has been done for them.
Celebrity tastemakers like Gwyneth Paltrow, Reese Witherspoon, Whitney Wolfe Herd (founder and CEO of the dating app Bumble), and Katy Lee were quick to see the potential of the idea and were among the start-up’s first backers. Griffin says that most of its investors are women because, let’s face it, the burden of preparing for a party most often falls to women.
Dubbed the “Rent the Runway of Tablescaping” by the Wall Street Journal, the service is levelling the playing field for hosts with busy lives. You choose a tablescape, and in short order, a series of blue boxes appear on your doorstep. Inside those boxes is everything needed to entertain with style and flair, including a place setting for each guest and a set of very precise, non-crazy-making instructions. Custom options include fresh flowers, place cards, printed menus, and party favors.
One particularly elegant package is the Doppio, which features Art Deco-inspired salad plates, cloth napkins, and a table runner by the luxe Italian designer La Double J, along with gold-tipped flatware, brass candlesticks, and a gold julep vase. This summer, the service plans to roll out a series of beach-y “looks,” beach blanket included. And if in the course of the evening, a guest spills red wine on the table runner or stains a napkins with olive oil, it’s not your problem. For along with the plates and the flatware and the candlesticks, you’ll be sending every last item back to Social Studies in the morning.