Designing Women :: Carla McDonald, entrepreneur, philanthropist, Founder of The Salonierre

 Carla McDonald with Michael Barnes, Social Columnist

Carla McDonald with Michael Barnes, Social Columnist

Carla McDonald is the founder and creative genius behind The Salonniere a website that is playful and delightfully informative, The Salonniere (pronounced salon-yair) is the first and only dedicated source of entertaining inspiration and tips from party experts. Unlike other entertaining sites that offer the perspectives of one person, The Salonniere provides access to the best of the best across the full spectrum of the party space, from fashion and flowers to food and wine.

Prior to founding The Salonniere, Carla had a successful career in marketing,with two of the world's largest PR firms in New York City, then she relocated to Texas where she became chief marketing officer of an Internet start-up,. From there she went on to become chief executive officer of her own award-winning marketing company. Carla has also served as a monthly magazine columnist and currently hosts a weekly television segment about arts and entertainment.

Long inspired by the power of social gatherings to connect people, advance ideas and effect change, Carla founded The Salonniere where she shares her passion for parties - from years of planning, hosting and attending some of the world’s most exclusive events, including major awards ceremonies, fundraising galas, parties at The White House, and dinners honoring luminaries that include such personalities as Luciano Pavarotti, George Clooney, Martha Stewart, Susan Sontag and Catherine Deneuve.

Carla has been featured in numerous media outlets including Town & Country, Veranda, Women’s Wear Daily, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, New York Magazine, New York Social Diary, CNN and Entertainment Tonight.

Carla enjoys entertaining at her homes in Austin, Texas, and on Nantucket, Massachusetts, and is known to say “I feel a party coming on” when a party idea strikes.

Carla shares with me her inspirations, some of her more memorable parties and some tips to throwing a successful party without the stress. Why don't you pour yourself a little cocktail and join us?

 Carla and Jack McDonald and Lulu Powers at a party she hosted for Lulu

Carla and Jack McDonald and Lulu Powers at a party she hosted for Lulu

What’s the inspiration behind your website?

I have always loved parties. I love everything about them from the creativity that goes into planning them to the joy that comes from hosting or attending them. After years of people encouraging me to start an entertaining blog, I decided to go in different direction because there was a major gap in the entertaining space:  despite all the money that is spent every year on entertaining, there was no single information source that was dedicated exclusively - and entirely - to providing party tips from party experts like you!  The Salonniere is now that source and I’m having a ball. Each of our stories is written to reflect the frolicsome tone of a party conversation: fun, breezy and maybe even a little bit tipsy. Every day’s a party at The Salonniere.

Biggest fashion pet peeve?

Visible panty lines. It can distract from an otherwise gorgeous look and, with all the great undergarments out there, there’s really no reason for them.  

Who was your very first style icon? How old were you?

It was a mannequin at Harrod’s in London. It was the early 70s and I was about seven. “She” was wearing a fabulous red crinkled patent leather coat with black fur collar and cuffs and matching boots. That was the moment when I fell madly in love with fashion!

Define luxury. 

To me, luxury is anything that is special and rare, from the most delicious piece of chocolate to an afternoon nap.

 Carla McDonald and Cameron Silver at a party she hosted for him

Carla McDonald and Cameron Silver at a party she hosted for him

You’ve accidentally burnt (dropped) the main course and your house is filled w 12 hungry guests. What do you do?

Curse, giggle, order pizza and then serve it on fine china with a great bottle of Barbera. If you have a good attitude about the inevitable glitches that happen during a party, your guests will too.

What 10 things should we always have in our pantry? 

1.       Trader Joe’s roasted and salted marcona almonds with rosemary
2.       Jarred olives
3.       Roots and Branches crackers
4.       Honey
5.       Extra virgin olive oil
6.       Balsamic vinegar
7.       Pasta (regular and gluten free)
8.       Chicken stock
9.       Sea salt
10.   Dark chocolate

What’s in your purse right now?

Money, keys, sunglasses, Purrell, Buxom lip gloss in Dominique (an obsession!), my iPad and my iPhone

 Carla McDonald and George Clooney

Carla McDonald and George Clooney

Share with us 3 entertaining tips for the novice.

1.     Turn off all overhead lighting. Use lamps on dimmers and light lots of candles. When people feel gorgeous, they have more fun. 

2.     Play music. Music is critical to setting the right mood and creating a party atmosphere. And play it at just the right level:  loud enough to add some excitement to the party but not so loud that people can’t converse comfortably.

3.     Have fun. When you’re relaxed and happy, your guests will be, too.

 The Clambake Carla hosted for her husband Jack's 50th Birthday on Nantucket

The Clambake Carla hosted for her husband Jack's 50th Birthday on Nantucket

What was the most memorable party you hosted?

A sunset clambake on a Nantucket beach to celebrate my husband’s 50th birthday. There was such beauty in the simplicity of everything, from the sand dunes and ocean breeze to the full moon hanging over the water. But most of all, it filled me with so much joy to see my husband so happy and surrounded by all the people who have meant so much to him throughout his life. 

 A table at the McDonald house set up for a brunch party

A table at the McDonald house set up for a brunch party

What was the first party you hosted? (Describe the scene) 

Probably a tea party for my Barbies.

 Carla's favorite room, the library

Carla's favorite room, the library

What’s your favorite room in your home?

Our library. It’s romantic and cozy and the place where Jack and I always enjoy a nightcap after all our party guests have gone home. We kick off our shoes, curl up on the sofa and talk into the wee hours about the party. If I’m lucky, and I grumble enough about my shoes, he might even rub my feet.

I’m lost without my...