Welcome to "Hosts at Home", a fresh and fun new column here on The Social that's all about modern entertaining and the people who've turned gathering into an art form. Join us as we get to know the hosts (and their tips 'n tricks) who love a good party and beautifully set table as much as we do.
We're kicking things off with Tanya and Temidra Willock, the sister and boss duo behind Southampton's home decor and lifestyle shop, Hidden Gem.
The self-proclaimed lovers of entertaining recently hosted an intimate backyard dinner party where they set the table with Secret Garden and accented the look with some of their favorite Hidden Gem pieces for a truly unique and personalized affair. Read on to learn about Tanya and Temidra's journey and why entertaining is firmly embedded in their DNA...
Q: What inspired the two of you to create Hidden Gem?
Hidden Gem came about because of our passion for creating. We wanted to create a space that incorporated both of our styles and our aesthetic, and that highlighted our heritage.
We also wanted to create a space for artists and artisans to be able to showcase their own work. When we both came out of college, we didn’t feel like that there was a space where we had the opportunity to showcase what we can do and so we took matters into our own hands and created Hidden Gem.
Q: When did your love for entertaining begin?
Temidra: It definitely began in childhood for me. We grew up watching our mom and extended family host parties. It was always centered around food and dancing. Back then it definitely wasn’t as glamorous as it is now for us, but we’ve definitely held onto the most important part of entertaining and that is good food, good people, and good music.
Tanya: One summer, Temidra and I started helping our mom throw dinner parties for family and friends. We always wanted to make the next one better than the last — always going the extra mile to create a memorable experience for everyone.
Q: What gathering traditions from your childhood have you carried over into adulthood?
Temidra: I love Thanksgiving! Even to this day our parents have a rule that everyone is invited — and that was always extends to anyone — but everyone has to make a dish.
So from a young age I was cooking up a dish for Thanksgiving dinner. Over the years its turned into a friendly competition on who makes the best dish! Tanya and I would always try to come up with ways to make the table extra special and different. We have taken up napkin folding for special holidays. We took a class a few years ago when we were on vacation and we’ve been obsessed ever since.
Q: What about the ritual of setting the table is most special to you?
Temidra: It’s a great creative outlet for me. I love making everything look beautiful and cohesive (in a Hidden Gem way) and especially love putting together flower bouquets! That to me is like meditation. Although we are not always setting a table together I have a great time creating tablescapes with Tanya. We don’t really speak when we are putting it together. We just start layering and adding pieces we think work. It’s like that acting exercise where you just have to go with it but, for design. We never really know what the end result is going to be but it’s usually pretty magical.
Tanya: I love putting everything together to make a complete vibe. Being able to take an environment you see everyday and turn it into something completely different makes it extremely special.
Q: What qualities make for a great host?
Temidra: Someone who is there for their guest! In my opinion If you’re hosting your guest are your priority. I want everyone to enjoy the event and have a good time.
Tanya: I agree with Temidra 100%. It’s easy to get sidetracked with all the big stuff when hosting, but when it comes down to it, your guests really are what makes the evening. Everything else is just extra.
Q: How frequently do you host at home and what does a typical gathering look like at your place?
Temidra: I like to keep my gatherings intimate so it’s usually a small group of close friends and family. I love family-style to keep things low key and cozy. Pre-Covid, Tanya and I would host dinners for my mom and her friends once a month. We love creating themed dinners. Since Covid, we’ve just been doing little dinners with family. EVERY gathering we have has music and ends in a dance party for sure! Our biggest event we’ve ever hosted was my wedding. We planned everything and decorated ourselves. To this day I'm still surprised we pulled it off.
Tanya: I love to keep things fresh and exciting, so every gathering is different for sure. I love a themed gathering and it’s always nice to have a dress code occasionally. Anything thing from red carpet ready to tropical vacation.
Q: What is your favorite dish to cook when you have company?
Temidra: In our family growing up we never followed recipes. The way we would learn to cook traditional Antiguan food was through watching everyone cook it… but, I do love a good salad! It’s not really a recipe but I love mixed greens from my garden, strawberries, cranberries, feta or goat cheese, and nuts topped with a homemade vinaigrette. I love a good charcuterie board, too!
Tanya: I always try to mix things up when I cook, but there are a couple dishes that everyone seems to love. One is a Mexican-inspired grilled chicken with black beans, yellow rice, sweet peppers, and salsa wrapped in a tortilla shell, baked in the oven with cheeses and a side of guacamole.
Q: Who is your dream dinner party guest and why?
Temidra: Martha Stewart because she is the queen of everything! She definitely would appreciate my tablescape and she seems like she knows how to relax and have a good time.
Tanya: I would have to say Rihanna — she’s from the islands, so I know she’ll love the whole vibe and just want to have a good time with good food, music, and people!