When we are fortunate enough to get away to the mountains of Colorado to ski, it’s the winter version of going to the country: Everything is cozy, relaxed, centered on family and friends, being outdoors, and being together. My husband, Eric, is an excellent skier, and our sons have grown up loving to ski and snowboard.
About 10 years ago, we bought a modern house in Aspen that has a completely different feel from the classical architecture of our 1920s city apartment or our Greek Revival country house. This contemporary ski lodge, with large expanses of windows looking out on the mountains, is furnished in all white, with lots of natural wood, Danish furniture and modern ceramics. We feel surrounded by the majesty of nature from every vista.
Winter entertaining calls for heartier comfort foods like chili and hot chocolate, a richer color palette of browns and greens, and seasonal branches and blooms, like evergreens, red berries and winter white flowers. Pinecones and even river rocks may become part of my centerpiece. My dinners tend to be smaller, more casual, and more likely to include just close friends and family. We might invite friends over for an après-ski drink by the fire or cocoa outdoors on the deck, cuddled up in throws.
We occasionally spend Christmas in Aspen, and there is no place more wondrous to be — you are guaranteed a white Christmas! I like to decorate a tree outdoors as well as in, so that from the dining table we can look out and see a glowing, snow-frosted tree trimmed in pinecones and touches of red and gold.
Over one holiday vacation, we invited family friends to join us for a cozy dinner of chicken pot pie. I often include the children and different generations when we entertain, whether it’s grandparents or visiting houseguests. It’s taught our sons to be both good hosts and guests, and the conversation is lively and interesting with different ages joining in.
In Aspen, we have a long rectangular table I like to dress in a patterned fabric tablecloth. Green glassware and a modern version of brown spatterware pair with woven straw placemats, natural linen napkins and wood-handled silverware for a table that mixes rustic with refined. In the mountains, I don’t have access to as many kinds of flowers, but small bouquets of some of my favorite white blooms such as anemones echo the snowy landscape outside. After dinner, we gather by the fire for a nightcap or sometimes bundle up and sit out on the deck to marvel at the stars. One can’t help but be moved by the close connection to the outdoors and the stunning natural beauty. The more time outdoors here, the better, whether it’s spent skiing or sipping hot toddies on the deck.
A large, vintage wooden tray can create an impromptu bar wherever it’s placed. I will confess to sometimes choosing liquor bottles for their beautiful designs, like this bottle of Dalmore whisky with a silver stag’s head (thankfully it’s a fine whisky as well). Rustic dishes of nuts, a compact bouquet of berries, black-and-white gingham cocktail napkins, and a shagreen match striker add layers that feel warm and inviting.
Spatterware plates and green cut-glass goblets from March in San Francisco are layered with natural textures like chunky woven straw mats and rustic wood-handled flatware. A pot pie with a heart-embellished crust is the perfect winter supper. The naturally decorated Christmas tree, visible from the table, carries the holiday spirit outdoors.
In our large open living room, the dining table sits opposite the fireplace and seating area, which is a cozy spot to have cocktails or after-dinner coffee. The white sofa, Hans Wegner hoop chairs that recall snowshoes, and a George Nakashima table are serene, natural pieces that complement the showstopping views.
Reprinted from © Aerin Lauder Entertaining Beautifully, Rizzoli, 2020. Photography by © Simon Upton, © François Halard and © Björn Wallander/OTTO