Byline: Alison Oneacre

NEW YORK — A knack for entertaining is a lot like sex appeal: Either you have it or you don’t. For those who fall into the latter category, “At Home With Carolyne Roehm,” Roehm’s sixth book, is an instructional guide to the art of throwing a great party. Even a born hostess may find celebrating this post-Sept. 11 holiday season a struggle, but Roehm believes that the experience can be a therapeutic one.
“Certainly, it’s not the time to go over the top and do lavish things,” she says. “But to be able to entertain and help people who’ve lost someone they love or gone through a divorce, I think it can be an opportunity to celebrate being together.”
Roehm herself has a lot to celebrate come the holidays. She and her eight dogs are moving back into Weatherstone, her Connecticut country home, after an extensive rebuilding following the fire that destroyed it in 1999.
“I’ll be sleeping on a cot if I have to,” she jokes, since the home, which she describes as “extremely classical with a modern approach,” is not entirely finished. But on Christmas Eve, she plans to break out her fine china (don’t ask which of her limitless patterns) for the new Weatherstone’s first soiree, a black-tie dinner for 14.
“I decided this house deserved it, even if I have plaster dust in the food,” she says. “It’s the most important design project of my life. I’ve done everything myself — even the nuts and the bolts to hang the waste-paper baskets.”
One thing Roehm imparts among the glossy pages of her book is the importance, as the hostess, of having fun — a lesson Roehm learned too late. Back in the Eighties, she spent all her time obsessing over flawless presentation. “Once it was party time, I just wanted to go upstairs, be alone and have a baked potato by myself,” she says. “When the souffle falls, or someone is highly allergic to your food — I always keep chicken breasts in the fridge in case that happens — you just have to laugh.”
Roehm’s book tailors parties to the season and offers a how-to for everything from the centerpieces and china to the recipes. Despite her status as a sort of jet-set Martha Stewart, Roehm places a premium on time and nixes any preparations that are too complicated. “I aim for the greatest effect with the least amount of effort,” she says. “Martha’s a lot more crafty.”
Roehm is already planning her next book, which will focus on interiors and her first big party at Weatherstone, a blowout next June when the peonies are in bloom.
“I used to feel that what I did was very superficial,” says Roehm, who found herself reassessing her life after Sept. 11. “I’m not solving the problems of bioterrorism or airport security. Then I got to thinking that the only thing I can do is control my environment.” Beautifying her world, says Roehm, is a crucial source of pride.
“After all, I didn’t just stay at home and bake cookies,” she says. “I worked all my life and baked cookies.”

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