Muriel Brandolini’s Rules of Engagement

The Iconic interior designer, hailed for her bold use of color, launches a new line of fabrics to get you dinner party-ready.
Muriel Brandolini, clad in one of her trademark djellabas, at home in Hampton Bays. Photo: Ngoc Minh Ngo

By Ray Rogers

Ray Rogers: In what ways is your new online limited-edition collection of tablecloths and djellabas an extension of your brand and your personality?

Muriel Brandolini: First of all, I made my first djellabas in 1995 in Jaipur when I was doing my first collection of fabric. I thought, My fabric is so beautiful, why not wear it? I created four djellabas, showed them to Barneys New York, and The New York Times picked it up—I was on the front page. I’d been doing my collection for quite some time when one of my assistants said that I should do e-commerce. So I made some djellabas, along with a few tablecloths for the summer. When I post a table setting, people love it so much. It is something I really do enjoy doing, creating beautiful tables and wearing my djellaba. 

RR: What is it that you love about djellabas as attire for social gatherings? 

MB: A djellaba is very simple, it’s very cool and it’s super-elegant. You don’t have a button, you don’t have a zipper or belt. It’s all on your shoulder. The fabric, the print, are very simple and extremely stylish.

RR: What’s the best way to set a table for an engaging dinner or luncheon?

MB: It comes down to the tablecloth as the backdrop. You put your plates, add flowers that are appropriate for the season. For me, a table is a base. 

RR: Any rules about what not to put out on the table? 

MB: You don’t want flowers so high that you don’t see the people across from you. I don’t like ring sets for napkins; I find that they are very ugly. It’s not elegant.

RR: What flowers do you prefer?

MB: All kinds, depending on my tablecloths. And I love just greens. 

A festive tabletop curated by Brandolini. Photo: Ngoc Minh Ngo

RR: What are your top tips for late spring, early summer entertaining?

MB: Food-wise, I like a beautiful green salad served with scallops sauteed in butter and a bit of garlic, or with a little bit of cream and curry. And a cold gazpacho with a leaf of basil for decoration.

RR: How do you ensure that your guests have a fabulous time?

MB: I make sure that the table is beautiful. We can break the ice, beginning with the table as a topic of conversation, warming up with a bit of good wine, white or red. And then, you know, people let go and share thoughts.

RR: Tell us about the new tablecloths. Do you have a favorite pattern?

MB: Both the blue one with the birds and the dressy geometric one are for evening entertaining. The floral ones work best for lunch. And the new yellow one looks like daffodils in the garden and makes the whole atmosphere so happy.

RR: If you could invite any five people in the world, past or present, who would your dream dinner guests be?

MB: Jeff Bezos and his fiancee, Lauren Sánchez, look quite fun; smart, outgoing people. Jodie Foster, as I love all her movies. I find her an extremely intelligent actress. Dennis Hopper is the best actor out there. I don’t need five. If I could have those four, I’d be very happy.