Kathryn Greeley unveils new book

Blue Ridge Books to host signing for 'The Collected Tabletop'
By Stina Sieg | Sep 09, 2011
Photo by: J. Weiland Kathryn Greeley, owner of Kathryn Greeley Designs, Inc., is the author of "The Collected Tabletop." The new book on entertaining will be celebrated at Blue Ridge Books Sunday, Sept. 11. Greeley has signings planned across the region.

This year, as interior designer Kathryn Crisp Greeley celebrates three decades of business in Waynesville, she is going far beyond the typical anniversary party. She is unveiling a nationally released book that is inspirational — but not in the typical self-help sense.

“The Collected Tabletop” is meant to inspire people to find their own style.

At first blush, the hefty, beautifully photographed book looks like just a guide to entertaining, but it’s more than that. It is 287 pages of party ideas, menus and artfully designed tabletops, all meant to help people figure out who they are, both as home designers and entertainers.

“People don’t realize what unique, personal styles they possess,” said Greeley, the strikingly stylish owner of Kathryn Greeley Designs, Inc.

With this book, as with her business, Greeley hopes to demystify the idea of style and to help people unlock their own aesthetics. While entertaining and interior design might seem like two entirely different things, she explained that’s not the case at all.

“Entertaining just incorporates all the things I love, food and flowers and music and design — creativity,” she said.

Greeley has been seen as an expert on entertaining around here for decades. While “event planner” has never been her job title, many people have come to her for help with parties and special occasions, and she has thrown many a soiree herself. While each of these events has been different, she has always brought to them the same basic idea, which is at the heart of her book. In her opinion, people don’t have to go out and buy decorations and cute centerpieces to be stylish. They can use the special objects they already own, those things that say who they are. She wants people to feel comfortable using their own unique collections. The idea is to have a collected — not decorated — tabletop.

“The whole premise of the book is to use what you already have,” she said.

She has been cultivating this sense of style for as long as she can remember. Greeley, who calls herself an “incurable collector” grew up in Bryson City, where she got her first taste of entertaining from her mother and her mother’s friends. Greeley remembers being fascinated by those very put-together ladies and the dedication they brought to creating events. Regardless of whether they were planning a bridge club party or some other festivity, everything had a sense of “occasion and graciousness,” Greeley said. These women weren’t able to spend gobs of money on their parties, but they always threw themselves into the task wholeheartedly.

“They would be horrified by the thought of using paper napkins or not using the best they had,” Greeley reminisced.

She likes to bring this same dedication and attention to all the parties she throws and helps organize — of which there has been a countless number. At her Waynesville home, a quaint dwelling she calls “Chestnut Cottage,” she has had people over for all sorts of affairs, from birthday parties to anniversary celebrations. She has also helped people find unique ways to celebrate everything from football season to wedding showers to even the construction of new houses. Greeley, it seems, has an idea for any kind of party, many of which are detailed in her book.

Punctuated by elegant photos, “The Collected Tabletop” reads like a travelogue of parties past. Each chapter focuses on a different kind of party and the food, libations and table designs that could go along with it. The featured events, which run the gamut from “A Grandmother’s Book Shower” to a “Scottish Gamekeeper's Dinner,” are show stoppers, with every aspect planned out lovingly. Each chapter opens with a description of what Greeley went through to put together such a party, and many of these openers are personal asides penned by Greeley herself. This intimate touch is all part of her plan to show people that creating a special event is not rocket science. It’s all about putting the time and energy into something.

“People can do flowers like I do. People can cook like I do,” Greeley said. “It just takes practice. It just takes the desire to do it.”

With a heavy heart, she admits that entertaining has gone by the wayside a bit in recent years. She feels that many people, with their hectic schedules and busy lives, don’t believe they have the time and expertise for extensive party planning.

“That saddens me because I think that memorable events are really the greatest gifts you can give people,” she said.

She hopes to prove this to her readers. Yes, she knows that creating an event takes a lot of time and love, but it has its rewards, from being a creative outlet to simply giving friends a memorable night out. A good party takes passion — but doesn’t everything that matters?

The book “hopefully inspires people to have that passion,” Greeley said. “And I have that passion.”

And it shines through on every page.

Greeley will be at Blue Ridge Books, 152 S. Main St. in Waynesville, from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11, to discuss and sign copies of “The Collected Tabletop.” The book includes work from such local businesses as Hazelwood Soap Company, Mud Dabbers Pottery and Asheville’s The Chocolate Fetish. J. Weiland did the photography, and Heather A. Anderson helped co-write. For more information, call Blue Ridge at 456-6000 or visit www.thecollectedtabletop.com.