There are people who are born with an innate sense of style. They’re natural born entertainers in the dinner party sense. They’re more than comfortable, you might even say at home, in the warm glow of the spotlight, or be it in Sam’s case, the curated ambient light. He’s dreamt up and produced one-of-a-kind events, shows, dinners and experiences for major fashion, lifestyle and entertaining brands and is perfectly adept and at ease hosting a dinner party for 20 as he is serving his favorite quiche for an impromptu supper for two. One thing is clear: Sam Masters was born with the entertaining gene. He has a knack for styling, a knack for conversation, and above all, a knack for making his guests feel at home, the moment they walk through his door.
As New Yorkers, and aspiring entertainers, we hopped into bed for a tȇte-a-tȇte with Sam on how to entertain (yes, even in a New York apartment) with comfort and ease, what makes a good dinner party exceptional, and how he manages to stay inspired in his own pursuits while also creating dream events for his day job (He’s Creative Brand Director at Lela Rose). Below he lets us in on a few secrets to his success, as well as the first thing he asks guests upon entering his home. Mix a cocktail and read ahead.
On how a 9-to-5 day isn’t really his thing:
“I totally fell into the job by twists of fate. I went to graduate school for urban planning but was working in interior design during school. I have always had a personal love for entertaining and I think the cross-pollination of my work experiences led me down that path (rather than urban planning) and eventually to work with so many incredible brands.
I thrive when I’m busy. I love having to challenge myself to reset my mind creatively depending on what I’m working on at any given moment. By day (and by night and weekend often) I’m the Creative Brand Director for fashion designer Lela Rose. In that role I lead concept, planning and production for all of our fashion shows which include ready-to-wear and bridal, and high-touch brand events (pop-ups, influencer dinners, marching band parades).
To keep my creative juices flowing, I do other side projects I find interesting. I’ve been fortunate to work with some amazing brands like Tasting Table, Whispering Angel, Taittinger, and recently did an event at the United Nations. And on the side-side I do interior projects for friends, colleagues and referrals. See what I mean about staying busy?”
What’s the most over-the-top experience you’ve created?
“I hosted a dinner party with George Venson of Voutsa at his pop up shop in Nolita. There wasn't a kitchen so we ordered all the food from my favorite restaurant in Chinatown and had the waiters running the food up the street from the restaurant to the shop. We had created a full chinoiserie red and black floral extravagant dinner table and had full family style Chinese dinner. It was literally the only way you could get soup dumplings from the best place in town.”
On living a curated life.
“My apartment is constantly being reworked. I believe the editing process is never fully over. Small changes can make a small space feel new again. I want my apartment to feel peaceful and orderly. NYC is so hectic and I want to come home to a place that is reliable and welcoming with all my beautiful things around me. My mom has a gift + home store in my hometown so I've always grown up around things (mostly) perfectly and put in their place like a display. I think this is one of the key things in my design ethos too - every tray/bowl, object has its spot. Buy the things you love and take care of them. Always be on the lookout for things or welcome them in to your life when you find them. My most meaningful item is a Chinese wall carving given to me by my grandmother - her parents gave it to her in the 60s from one of their travels.”
What are your tips for executing a dinner party for three or for 13?
- “Never run out of booze.”
- “Make the menu easy and don't try out new recipes for a large dinner.”
What are some of your go-to tricks or hacks?
“Don't be a hero - order chicken satay from Lovely Day (my favorite Thai spot in Nolita) or smoked whitefish salad from Russ & Daughters as an appetizer. You don't have to actually cook everything yourself - just plate it or reimagine it in a chic fun way. Also, SOS Chefs to the rescue for an obscure salt or spice to take delivery up a notch.”
What truly makes an evening memorable?
“Mix up your guest list and separate couples at the table to keep the conversation going.”
What’s the first thing you ask your guest when they walk into your door?
“Can I get you a cocktail?”
What should every great host or experience crafter have in their arsenal (bar or kitchen)?
“Plenty of ice. A bottle of champagne. Nice glassware.”
Do you have any daily rituals you hold?
“I make my bed every morning. A made bed is just more comfortable to sleep in.”
We define Allswell as striking the perfect balance of emotional and physical comfort, knowing all is right in the world and space. How do you find your Allswell?
“Jumping into my (made) bed, maybe a glass of bubbly nearby and audiobooked queued up; I’m feeling tired but satisfied. Just thinking about that feeling has me looking forward to bedtime.”