Yes, Reese Witherspoon Has Visited Oprah’s Vegetable Garden
Sometimes I just wake up in the morning and wish I were Reese Witherspoon. (Obviously, I should get some more realistic goals.) The actress and producer is ultra-talented, always impeccably dressed, and utterly charming. The characters she plays—whether it’s the determined Elle Woods in classic rom-com Legally Blonde or the nosy, passionate Madeline Mackenzie in Emmy-sweeping HBO series Big Little Lies—radiate with a fierce energy and warm wit, which no doubt stem from the woman herself.
You might also know that Witherspoon is an entertaining aficionado, and the creator of lifestyle brand Draper James, so it’s no surprise that Crate & Barrel tapped her to be their newest ambassador. ELLE.com sat down with Witherspoon to talk holiday entertaining tips, whiskey cocktails, and what Oprah’s garden is really like. (Yes, Witherspoon has been there—and yes, she might have sneaked something out.)
Draper James is doing a collaboration with Crate & Barrel in the new year. What can we expect to see from that?
Well, three years ago, I started Draper James, just to give people a window into what it means to be a Southern woman, and into Southern entertaining. I grew up with my grandma entertaining every Sunday night, she would cook this big dinner, and sometimes it was just family and sometimes it was a big party. So I wanted to show people what that’s like: It’s a lot of friendliness, grace, and charm. This collaboration with Crate and Barrel will involve their beautiful products, which have such timeless style. They’re beautifully made and high quality. So we’ll just be infusing that with some Southern charm.
There’s a lot of that Southern warmth in Draper James items—some of the items have the cutest slogans or sayings printed on them.
Oh, then you’re going to be really excited. You just hold on, sister!
Is there one in the range that will be particularly you?
I can’t tell you what’s coming! But there’s going to be a lot of great things at great price points that bring in that Southern charm and humor. Something you can just have in your kitchen, and it makes you smile. You know how, at Christmas time, you drink out of a Christmas mug or a holiday mug? It’s like that. Taking the everyday routine and elevating it.
Since we’re talking about the holidays, what are your entertaining hacks?
I learned to have a quick dinner party: Basically just throw out a quick cheese board with some nice almonds. [Laughs] I always have things stockpiled around the holidays. And then, you know, some of the classic serving pieces from Crate & Barrel make it so easy. They have beautiful marble trays and little tiered etageres where you can display things, and it makes it look so much better.
You mentioned watching your grandma entertain, and as a kid, I loved watching my mother prepare for dinner parties, too. How do you get your children involved and make those memories for them?
I love making gingerbread houses with my kids. It’s a holiday tradition—we do it every year. The kids all get their own gingerbread house. I would also like to emphasize that entertaining isn’t necessarily making everything from scratch, but sometimes the presentation makes it so beautiful! The kids just really enjoy creating these houses, and they stay around the house for like three weeks, and the children slowly eat all the gumdrops off of them.
Do you have a particular gingerbread-house style? Are you a stick-figure kind of girl, or do you make everything all snowy?
This sounds so silly, but I usually pick a color theme and I stick with two colors every year. So I’ll either do gold and red or green and silver. I try to change it up every year.
What’s the naughtiest food or beverage item you put on your holiday menus?
Well, I definitely have a whiskey cocktail. I like a whiskey soda with an orange slice.
You’ve played so many characters who have gorgeous homes, like in Big Little Lies or Home Again. Do you steal any decorating tips from the sets?
I have been known to buy furniture off the sets. Particularly for friends of mine who are building a house. [Laughs] My publicist and I talk about furniture all the time. So, one of the Home Again chairs is sitting there, and I’m like, “That’s the chair she’s looking for!” It was a braided leather chair. So I waited until we were done filming and I put it in the back of the car!
Is there any homewares item that you can’t walk away from, or that you can’t stop buying?
Cake plates. It’s my go-to bridal gift as well. I love giving married couples a cake plate. Because it’s something elegant in your home, it elevates everything. I use it every single day for muffins, it just keeps everything fresh. There’s something so beautiful about the presentation of it. You just feel so grown up when you have a cake plate.
What’s your favorite holiday music?
You know what’s a fun Christmas album? Esquivel. It’s really funky and weird, but people really enjoy it. It’s kind of bouncy, ’60s—really fun and funny. And I like traditional Christmas carols. I make everybody sing at my Christmas party. I have a piano, but I can’t play it! So I have to hire someone to play it. And I have handmade books of my favorite Christmas carols.
If you had to invite a couple of people to your party, whom you’ve never met before, who would you ask?
Ooh, gosh. That I’ve never met before? Well, probably incredible artists. Like, I would love to meet…do they have to be alive? Well, I think Oscar Wilde would be an amazing dinner party guest. I would really like Eleanor Roosevelt, who’s brilliant and incredible. Like a painter or a photographer or something…Dorothea Lange!
That’s a very cultured group!
Well, you really made me think for a long time! I was just going to say Oprah and Gayle. But you made it really hard.
At least with Oprah, you know she’d bring her own vegetables.
Yes, isn’t that so charming? She has such pride in her garden. I’ve seen her garden in person. Mindy Kaling and I did probably sneak a little food out of her garden when she went to visit. We did a movie with her. It really is impressive, as you can imagine.