Guests gather around a pot of white chocolate fondue and fruit in the living room. Surratt purchased the eye-popping hand-loomed shag rug from a now-closed thrift store for $120. “I had to have it cleaned three times, but it was worth it,” she says. Photo Gallery »
Combine two nonstop creative types with a knack for digging up forgotten treasure and a house built for revelry, and what do you get? Never a dull party, that’s for sure. The annual bashes that husband-and-wife advertising executives Tereasa Surratt and David Hernandez throw at their architectural stunner of a West Town home are kitschy, cool, and endlessly stay-till-dawn fun.
There’s always a theme. This year’s invitation set the tone with a clear headline: Vintage Chic Holiday Soiree. Guests were requested to wear at least one piece of clothing or an accessory from the 1950s or ’60s. “It was subtle, not like a costume party, but just enough to make things interesting,” Surratt says. “Some people wore brooches, one guy did a vintage fedora, and another friend had the most beautiful little gloves.”
Surratt teamed up with her friend and frequent party collaborator Christine Busby of Busby Bakes to conceptualize the rest of the night. “She always has fun ideas about how to do things in unique ways,” Surratt says. “I’ll pull out my huge collection of vintage serving pieces—trays, cocktail glasses, caddies, and tiered platters—and Christine decides what to put in them.”
Mixed nuts fill cones made from stiff holiday wrapping paper and perched in a vintage cocktail caddy. Photo Gallery »
Conversation-starting tablescapes were created using things Surratt had unearthed at flea markets, thrift stores, yard sales, and vintage shops in and around Chicago and in Wisconsin, where she and Hernandez have a weekend getaway. “Fifties housewives used to walk out of their kitchens in their holiday aprons and serve cocktails from caddies”—specialized trays with cup holders—Surratt explains. “People just don’t entertain that way anymore, so the caddies have become forgotten items. You can pick them up for under ten dollars and find new ways to use them.”
Officially dubbed the Brick Weave House by its superstar architect, Jeanne Gang, of Studio Gang, the home began life as a humble horse stable in the 1880s. Using the original footprint and as many of the existing materials as possible, Gang rebuilt the house around the couple’s request that it be ideal for entertaining.
“Getting people to move throughout the house is easy,” says Surratt, who set up food and drink stations around every corner to encourage flow. “The kitchen looks like a sleek little gallery lined with cocktails. The garage [where the couple’s vintage motorcycles and cars are on display] is like a gallery, too, and in warm weather we can open the doors to create circular motion through the gardens. It’s another place for people to spill into.”
Surratt, a champion labeler and stationery shopper, provided printed menus to guests upon arrival, tempting them with descriptions of the wine and desserts on offer. A separate card suggested dessert and wine pairings. “Our friends who know Christine were so excited when they heard she was doing the pairings,” Surratt says. (Busby worked with Wicker Park wine shop Cellar Rat.) “The food was so pretty you almost didn’t want to eat it, but if you give people enough cocktails, eventually it goes.”
With Hernandez’s nephew, Michael (a Brooklyn-based DJ and band rep who flew in for the occasion), cranking old-school holiday tunes by Elvis and Frank Sinatra, the party was still in full swing, with most guests’ shoes off, at 1 a.m. “It’s always best when you can get people to explore and discover,” says Surratt. “Park a motorcycle in the living room, and they’ll interact in a different way than they would have otherwise.”
The couple’s circle of friends is full of “people who make things,” Surratt says—from musicians and photographers to architects and graphic designers who sell chocolates on the side—so the parties she and Hernandez throw often have the heady feel of an artists’ free-for-all. Will the vibe undergo a shift this November, when the couple’s first child, a daughter, makes her grand entrance into their lives? Maybe, Surratt concedes, but her entertaining philosophy will remain the same.
“When it comes down to it, it’s not about the stuff,” she says. “The key is to get people to play.” Of course, great stuff never hurts—to set the mood, vintage or otherwise, and show guests you care.
Photography: Bob Coscarelli