Last week, Houston-based landscape architect Cedar Baldridge treated us to a chat about everything from her sources of inspiration to her love of open water swimming. Here, the woman behind some of the most exquisite scenery in Houston offers a look inside her home, and shares hosting tips that are as colorful and personality-filled as she is. Above are photos of Baldridge’s house, which she spent 13 months remodeling with architect Dillon Kyle, and which was shot by photographer Casey Dunn and originally featured in PaperCity Magazine. Scroll through for a taste of her travels and collections, and read on to learn how to throw a dinner party that’s sure to end in dancing—and get the inside scoop on some of Baldridge’s favorite Houston haunts.
CEDAR BALDRIDGE’S DINNER PARTY PLAYBOOK
The guests. “Choosing the guest list is my favorite part. It is always good to mix it up and bring people together who do not already know each other—it makes for lively conversation. I also love a multi-generational party. My favorite dinner parties include all ages, kids, and dogs.”
The décor. “I like to set up a long skinny table poolside with candles (everybody looks prettier by candlelight) and low pretty silver cups of flowers—roses in mixed colors and, when I can, flowers from my garden. And I love vintage tablecloths from the 40s.
Place cards are a nice way to make people feel special. It’s fun to use unexpected things like shells, stones, or a little party favor as the place card. At my last dinner, I used little wind-up toys, ladybugs and inchworms.”
The libations. “I lay my bar out so people can help themselves. You can always count on two things when you come to my house: a salty dog (fresh grapefruit juice, vodka, ice, and a salt-rimmed glass) and pink champagne. I keep bottles of water and wine on the table so people can serve themselves.”
The mood. “For music, I still use a six-CD player that I set to party mode. I usually match my music to the meal—curry parties get soft Indian music; Mexican food is all about Luis Miguel, Ricky Martin, and Vicente Fernandez. There will always be some Chaka Kahn, Marvin Gaye, and Prince thrown in for good measure. It seems like all of my dinner parties turn into dance parties in the end.”
The menu. “When we have time to cook, Mexican food is typically served [Baldridge grew up on a ranch in Mexico], but if there is no time, dinner is takeout all the way. There is no shame in takeout; the fun is in being together.”
How to throw a dinner party
in three easy steps
“I think entertaining can be intimidating for some people, and it shouldn’t be. Entertaining is all about opening up your house and bringing people together for a good visit. Here are my three steps to putting on a manageable dinner party—pronto. All you need to do is add some guests and have big fun!
— 1 —
Set a pretty—yet simple—table. All it takes is some candles and flowers in low containers, which you can gather from the garden or grab at the grocery store (all grocery stores sell such wonderful flowers these days). For vessels, use your silver baby cups or mint julep cups. You can even use clear low water glasses.
— 2 —
Don’t even think about food prep. Order in some tasty food instead.
— 3 —
Set up self-serve bar area so people can help themselves. All you need is white and red wine and some beer. Liquor and mixers are optional.”
Cedar Baldridge (second from left) at a party at her home.
CEDAR BALDRIDGE’S HOUSTON CHEAT SHEET
Baldridge’s affection for her hometown runs deep. “Houston has been very good to me,” she says. “My business has thrived here, and I have a wonderful group of friends and colleagues.” Among her favorite aspects of the city are the food scene, the increasingly good shopping, its international and welcoming residents, and…the airport. “One of my biggest criteria for a good place to live is that it’s a ‘one-airplane town,’ and you can usually fly directly from Houston to anywhere,” she says. Here are a few of her favorite Houston hidden gems that she enjoys while in town:
— EAT —
El Rey Taqueria. “One of my favorite taco stands. They have the best tortilla soup and Cuban coffee. In the winter, I sit and drink coffee at the counter and do paperwork. It is filled with blue-collar workers and lawyers alike. It also helps that the owner looks like Andy Garcia, and when he makes the coffee I usually stay for two cups.”
State of Grace. “I love it here—especially the front bar. It’s a great place to pop in for oysters and a light supper late night. It used to be the River Oaks dry cleaners.”
Tiny Boxwoods. “This restaurant [located in a River Oaks nursery] has a nice garden setting, and is a typical morning pit stop for me when I’m plant shopping or doing site visits and need a coffee break.”
El Tiempo Cantina. “My very favorite Mexican food. The fajitas are perfection.”
— SEE —
“Memorial Park is a great city park. The Rice University Campus is a must-see, with a stop for coffee and breakfast or lunch at the Brochstein Pavilion. This is literally in my backyard, and I ride my bike over there almost every day.”
— SHOP —
À Bientôt. “My pal Betty Netwon’s fun shop on River Oaks Boulevard. Accessories galore!”
Chateau Domingue. “I buy lots of garden antiques here.”
Thompson + Hanson. “Buy plants and gifts here, and then have lunch at Tiny Boxwoods.”