October 23, 2021

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Home Improvement

A Homey Party House in SoHo

Susan MacTavish Best is a consummate host. In pre-Covid times, she held regular salons for anywhere from 50 to 150 attendees at her loft in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood. Knowledge of the gatherings spread largely by word of mouth, and MacTavish Best, 46, sent invitations freely. “They were eclectic, not exclusive, events,” she says. At the end of the cocktail hour, she’d ring a bell or tap a sterling silver goblet with a piece of cutlery to let the guests know they should fill their plates — set on the 18th-century Georgian oak dining table would be an array of dishes, cooked by MacTavish Best herself, such as quail lollipops with quince, rum and honey roasted cayenne-cumin carrots and cauliflower and Taleggio baked pasta — and find a spot among the upholstered 17th-century benches, contemporary walnut and ash stools or various throw pillows and trunks spread atop an assortment of antique rugs in the living room. She’d then interview a chosen guest, perhaps an athlete, scientist, actor or C.E.O., about their profession, life and beliefs. Especially memorable was a night last holiday season when the celebrated trumpeter Bill Williams fielded questions before he and four others performed brass-heavy renditions of Christmas carols.

The bookshelves were built by a friend of hers, for instance, and there are more than a few nods, from the blue-and-green plaid wallpaper in the guest bedroom to the wingback chairs covered in the MacTavish family tartan in the living room, to her family’s Scottish and Canadian roots. Hung in the bathroom is a newly minted $100 Canadian bill featuring an image of a man and his microscope that signifies her grandfather’s involvement in the discovery of insulin. Nearby is a 1957 notice from the Canadian House of Commons commemorating her father for being one of its youngest-ever members. And the 1930s-era baby grand piano tucked into a corner of the living room is stacked with sheet music that’s been passed from one generation to the next.

These days, MacTavish Best splits her time between New York and Los Angeles, where she has a loft in the Arts District Downtown, though she keeps her more historical objects on Broome Street. “I love both places,” she says, “but New York appreciates the old, so it just makes sense.” When she’s in SoHo, she works from her home office, appointed with a 1915 Wells Fargo banking desk, as well as orchids, golden pothos, ferns and other plants. In addition to planning more virtual talks, MacTavish Best is also writing a pilot for a TV show about Silicon Valley. Now, a night among friends might mean cooking dinner for neighbors or a very small group of loved ones, but someday soon MacTavish Best hopes to be able to welcome others back into her home. She’s thinking she might serve a roast rack of lamb and can already imagine herself chatting with a guest, fizzy gin cocktail in hand, as she garnishes the dish with lavender and prepares to join the rest of the party.

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