Lifestyle expert Colin Cowie

As the author of five style and entertaining books, lifestyle expert Colin Cowie has made a name for himself as a premier party planner.

Hollywood's biggest names—John Travolta, Tom Cruise, Jennifer Aniston, Demi Moore and many more—have called upon Colin to plan unforgettable fetes.

What most people don't know is that Colin doesn't just throw a fabulous party…he lives fabulously. Whether he's planning dinner for one or 100, Colin orchestrates every moment from the first sip of champagne to the last bite of dessert. "Love is in the details," he says.

Oprah thinks everyone could learn a lesson from Colin. "Use your good stuff, wear your good things," she says. "Don't wait until you're dead for somebody else to use your good stuff."
Colin Cowie inside his New York City kitchen.

 Colin invites The Oprah Show into his New York City apartment to share his secrets to living luxuriously.

Watch Colin's home tour.  Watch

First stop is the heart of his home: the kitchen. Even the most mundane items are exotic in this kitchen. Colin's love of making cocktails inspired him to create couture ice cubes with popsicle molds, which he found at Wal-Mart. "I have all different types of shapes of ice cubes for different drinks," he says.

You won't find any junk drawers in Colin's kitchen. Every cupboard and drawer is meticulously organized. "I can find anything I'm looking for at a moment's notice," he says. "It allows me to be able to entertain whenever I need. I get really turned on by keeping everything in the right place."

Colin jokes that his obsession with order might be caused by undiagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder, but he says it doesn't cost a cent to keep your kitchen clean.

Most days, Colin uses his white china collection, but he keeps colored dishes and stemware on hand for special occasions. "I am to tabletop what Imelda Marcos was to shoes," he says. "My business is dish."
Colin Cowie's elegant table setting

Even when Colin's eating alone, he believes the key to living well is to pamper yourself. "I'm not the type of person who would ever lean over a kitchen sink and eat tuna out of a can," he says. "That's not my movie."

Colin sets a beautiful table—complete with cloth napkins and coordinated dinnerware—for his intimate dinner for one. "It's a form of my meditation," he says. "I get to spend a bit of time on my own recharging my batteries. But of course, the more the merrier."

When it comes to drinks, Colin also has a special system. Whenever he gets a bottle of wine from someone, he writes their name on the bottle. Then, when he drinks the wine, he either sends them a thank you note the next day, or at minimum, raises a toast to them.
Colin Cowie's bedroom

The kitchen may be the heart of Colin's home, but the bedroom is his sanctuary. He says you can't live well if you don't sleep well.

"I think the bedroom and the bathroom are the two most important areas," he says. "It's the last thing you see [at night, and] the first thing you see in the morning."

To create a peaceful place of your own, Colin suggests investing in a good bed and quality linens. For him, it's a Tempur-Pedic mattress covered with sheets that have at least 800 thread count.

Colin takes one extra step to ensure a good night's sleep. "I must say, one of life's greatest luxuries is sleeping between freshly ironed sheets, something I do at least twice a week," he says.
Colin's meticulously organized closet.

Colin's attention to detail carries over to his walk-in closet. If your closet is a disaster zone, Colin says to start organizing with some ruthless editing.

"If I buy two suits, I get rid of two suits," he says. "If I haven't worn it in a year, I give it to somebody who needs it more than I do."

To find items easily, Colin keeps his clothes color coordinated. He also folds his sweaters with the same plastic template they use in department stores. Although, he says a large envelope works just as well.

With everything folded just so, Colin says your clothes start to look like merchandise!
Colin Cowie's gifting area

If Colin has to dash out to a dinner party, he relies on his "gifting area" for a last-minute hostess gift. This is where he keeps wrapping paper, note cards and pre-wrapped boxes containing bottles of wine, champagne and fragrant candles.

When Colin gets two of the same type of gift, he stores the duplicate on a designated shelf. "[Then,] I'm able to pass it along to someone who really needs it," he says.

You heard it from the expert—everyone regifts!
Japanese Quince Candle by Seda France

At the end of every wedding that Colin plans, he sends guests home with extravagant parting gifts. So what's his favorite gift to give the people in his life?

"I love to give a fragrant candle," he says. "I light one the moment I walk into my office in the morning."

Colin says his favorite is the Japanese Quince Candle by Seda France. He also loves travel candles. "You get to take it with you so you have the fragrance of home with you when you're in a hotel room," he says.

Oprah has received a candle or two from Colin over the years, and she says he knows how to pick them. "I like the candles you give because they're not so overpowering," she says. "Some can knock you out of the room."
Colin Cowie's personal stationery

When you receive a gift from someone, Colin says the proper protocol is to send a written thank you note within 48 hours. "[That's] 10 points," he says. "[A phone call is] 9 out of 10. An e-mail, 8 out of 10. A fax, 7 out of 10. The most important thing is just to acknowledge it. … It's never too late—you can do it in two weeks' time as long as you remember."

In fact, Colin says the first thing he does every morning is write last night's thank you card on his personal stationery.

You'll also find Colin's stationery at his favorite chocolatier, liquor store and florist. That way, when he sends someone a box of chocolate, a bottle of wine or a bouquet of roses, he can dictate a note on his stationery instead of a generic gift card. "I think those details are important," he says.
Colin Cowie checks his refrigerator for beverages.

No matter how big the party, Colin says entertaining well is about what happens the second your guests step inside the front door.

Colin likes to greet his guests with the signature drink of the evening—like Oprah's favorite, tequila on the rocks. "Tequila's like the new vodka," he says. "You serve it in the champagne flute with those lovely icicles inside and a wedge of lime. It's very elegant."

Thanks to a huge stock of dinnerware and supplies in the back, Colin says he can throw together a dinner for 100 with an hour's notice. He keeps 24 chickens, a dozen racks of lamb, duck breasts, frozen soups, chicken stocks and veal stocks in the freezer…just in case.

In the refrigerator, a variety of chilled beverages await thirsty guests.
Colin Cowie raises a toast to his guests.

Colin believes that there's no better way to share in life than to invite people into your home. "Bring people into your sanctuary to break bread," he says. "I think you will agree that some of the most memorable moments in life are spent around the dinner table."

In this day and age, Colin says people don't entertain as often as they used to because they think it's too time-consuming. Not so, he says. "We're all holding down two, three jobs, working 18 hours a day," he says. "The savvy entertainer today is the resourceful entertainer."

Don't spend all day cooking—Colin urges hosts to head to the corner store for pre-packaged salads and other time savers. "You get no medals for chopping, slicing, dicing, peeling and doing it from scratch," he says.

The rewards are well worth the effort. "There are few things that make a life worth celebrating," he says. "Good food, good wine, good people."
FROM: This Is the Year to Live Well with Colin Cowie
Published on February 19, 2007


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