With “A Passion for Parties” just published and CarolyneRoehm.com in full swing, American’s arbiter of taste is hearing once again that she has “reinvented herself.” Not so, says she. There is no plan to start over as someone new, but instead to follow the prismatic pattern of authenticity that is uniquely hers.

Women’s Voices for Change counts Carolyne Roehm as one of our godmothers.  She was present at our creation in 2005 and in this entry we are lucky enough to have some shared moments in conversation.

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Women’s Voices for Change: It is an exciting time for you, isn’t it?

Carolyne Roehm: It is. An exciting time and one I recognize from past experience — a demanding time as well. The website is growing and it’s been a slow build, with never-ending work. I have “A Passion for Parties” out now and I found myself asking, “Why am I doing this? Where is and what will be the return?” And then, as always, something clicks and I see it all growing virally and there is such positive reinforcement and I’m hooked all over again.

WVFC: Talk about reinventing yourself.

CR: I don’t think I’m reinventing myself. It’s evolution. I’ve wanted to be a designer all my life, since I was a little girl. As I’ve gotten older, the available canvases have become more. The advantage of change and maturity is that your mind becomes bigger and you have an enlarged vocabulary to pull from. The possibilities are richer and the vision is larger.

Reinvention is really a mixed message and not appropriate when one has followed a rational path. Of course, evolution is the result of unforeseen factors and outside forces having impact, but I am and always have been more of a work in progress than a new and different creation each time I step out in a new way.

WVFC: Do you love parties?

CR: No. I love making the parties. I love to make them look pretty. I love to plan them and see them take shape in my mind. I love the fantasy and the look and the thought of people being pleased by being within a world that is pleasing to them, but my very favorite thing would be if I could do all that and have the music playing and then go to my room with a book, a baked potato and a glass of red wine and get in bed and read.

WVFC: You wouldn’t?

CR: No, I’d like to, but I wouldn’t do that, yet I have been able to change to do parties in a different way. Now I say, “Come over, wear your corduroy pants and let’s have a quiet dinner.” Or I can indulge in another favorite way of entertaining — long country house parties where people are together for the weekend in a cozy way, watching movies, taking walks, going their own way and coming together for meals. There’s no need to try to impress real friends and we shouldn’t be trying to impress anyway.

Parties, entertaining: expression is what they should be about.

WVFC: Doesn’t everyone assume you’ll be the one to give the big bashes though?  You’re just so good at it.

CR: I suppose so. I have the house for it in the country, but as we mature, we know what we need. I’ve been so busy with the website (and on it you’ll see I pack the orders in the barn and send them out myself) and the book, and I did a house for my significant other this year. I’ve been able to say, “I’m taking Thanksgiving off.” It was just the two of us and I scaled down from a 20-pound to an 18-pound turkey for that.

WVFC: And Christmas?

CR: It’s going to be wonderful, in Colorado at the house I mentioned. I’m going to go out there to rest. I mean, to truly force myself because I am a workaholic and I do let myself become overcommitted and, like anyone else, I can become overtired. So, I’ll decorate the house for the holiday and keep it simple afterward. I’ll sit down and read my book or go skiing and listen to a book along the way. My mother will come for a while.

WVFC: You seem to have a good relationship with your mother.

CR: Yes, but it’s an honest one and it’s had its rocky moments as all mother/daughter relationships do. Another benefit of growing older is you allow for the not-ideal parts of relationships and you even understand why some of them happen. For instance, there was a period when I was with a man whom my mother did not think was good for me. That was rough. In the recent past, however, things have been smooth.

I do admire her. She’s bright. She has a high energy level. She is admirable. We can’t talk politics, but that’s just how that is. Nothing is perfect.

WVFC: You are a Midwesterner, correct? Talk about that and about being so identified with a New York way of life.

CR: I’m a Midwesterner through and through. New York has of course taught me a lot, but my roots are different from this. This is generalizing, but I do believe it is true that the women I meet in the middle of the country have lives that are just as full in their way as those in New York, but not as based on personal agenda. We come to New York to realize something — some dream to become a lawyer or a stockbroker, an actress or a designer. After years it becomes habit have a plan or to be in process of becoming.

I don’t find that so much in other places. People just take time to talk with you, not because they want to get an opinion across or have you realize something about them. Here we can be strident and needing to make our points of view known. I wonder if we listen well. Here we value expertise and being an expert — seeing things in black and white. There are more shades of gray in the middle of the country.

WVFC: Back to seeing things and the way you see. Is living in New York sometimes an assault on your senses?

CR: I go from one extreme to another in the way I see New York, just as I am able to go from New York to Connecticut and love living in both places. When I am in the city, I sometimes walk around thinking, “Oh, look at that … and that. I like that color. That’s an interesting combination.” It’s like flash points igniting. Other times, I’m in my own world, seeing nothing, that’s when I’m in process working something through like the website or the book.

WVFC: Talk more about why you did CarolyneRoehm.com.

CR: Well, a website is a different canvas. You and I didn’t grow up with computers, but we are modern women. We don’t want to be left behind. What’s more, I think we have much to offer. I wanted to take the web to a different level. I wanted to make it pretty and to have a real dialogue.

And then there’s the magazine. It’s not only that I give tips, it’s that people want to tell me what they do with them. People send me photos of their daughters’ weddings. I see a suggestion I made applied to someone else’s life and I love the way it looks. People interpret my thoughts and interpretation is what I love to inspire. I think that is the value of being on the web. People can see how I think in day-to-day ways and then they can interpret my view for themselves.

This is why I didn’t just develop a line or two and sell to retailers. It’s the women I like— the people who are going to live inside of what we create together.

WVFC: Has your personal style changed in the 21st Century?

CR: Well, I guess I’d pretty much figured out who I was by the end of the last century. I think as you get older, you’ve done the work of distilling and editing until you arrive at who you really are and what your life is really about.

I am a little more tailored and streamlined. I still love femininity, but I am not drawn to the frills the way I once was. It’s a bit like what goes on with furniture. Take a Louis XV chair and you love the detailing, but when its influence goes to the colonies or Sweden, it becomes less flowery. It’s more pared down and refined, but the beauty is still there.

Maturing is like that. The beauty is definitely still there, but we’ve adapted to climates and realities and eliminated some of what wasn’t really necessary.

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