Most readers know Colin Cowie from television. His show, Everyday Elegance with Colin Cowie, airs on the Women's Entertainment network, where he offers tips on themes based around entertaining, home decorating, and style. He's also regularly in the media as a style icon, appearing on shows including Oprah Winfrey and Good Morning America, and in magazines such as InStyle.
Cowie is a party- and wedding planner with experience designing lavish gigs for rich and famous clients such as Hugh Hefner, Kelsey Grammer and Lisa Kudrow. But his popularity lies in the fact that he takes an egalitarian approach to lifestyle and events. He offers ideas and guidelines for creating the perfect event or look, but doesn't issue edicts. He keeps in mind that not everyone has a celebrity-level budget, and encourages people to do what's right for them, above all else.
His best known works revolve around weddings: Colin Cowie Weddings, For the Groom, and For the Bride cover all aspects of the planning, offering specific rundowns of occasions he has orchestrated. He's a full-service planner, too: For the Bride offers tips on the "marital arts," while his tome for grooms offers similar tips on keeping the romance alive and other elements of post-nuptial care.
Cowie's general books on entertaining, such as Effortless Elegance and Dinner After Dark, inspire readers to go beyond the routine even for traditionally casual meals. In addition to menus (surprisingly simple breakfast recipes for chicken and fennel sausage and almond pancakes, for example), Cowie offers ideas on timing, setting the mood, and decorating the table. He might offer a recipe for an endive salad, but not without a mini-primer on endive and a recommendation on kitchen equipment. It's true that not all of Cowie's ideas are "effortless," or "everyday" -- but for those who are willing to put in a little extra time, isn't that the point?
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One of Cowie's greatest moments, he says, was designing and producing Hugh Hefner's wedding. "I had only been living in the U.S. for 18 months and this was a deep-end lesson in American Celebrity. I had no idea how famous the world's most famous bachelor really was! To this day it was probably one of my best produced events. It also labeled me ‘Mr Wedding."'
Cowie is one of Oprah Winfrey's many beneficiaries: His appearance on her show to discuss weddings sparked sales for his book on the subject. Colin Cowie Weddings is now in its fifth printing.
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In 2002, Colin Cowie shared some of his favorites with Meet the Writers.
What is the book that most influenced your life, and why?
My favorite book was Memoirs of a Geisha. I thought it was extremely well written and gave us a great view into a window of culture we know almost nothing about. What was even more astounding was that the book was written by a male author.
What are your ten favorite books, and why?
- The Leopard Hunts in Darkness – Wilbur Smith
- Rage – Wilbur Smith
- A Time to Die – Wilbur Smith
- The Sound of Thunder – Wilbur Smith
- Burning Shore – Wilbur Smith
- Elephant Song – Wilbur Smith
- Hungry as the Sea – Wilbur Smith
- Shout at the Devil – Wilbur Smith
- Men of Men – Wilbur Smith – Smith is by far my favorite author. I have been reading him since I was in my early teens. He is the quintessential African adventure writer who tells epic tales of African mythology that anyone with a love and understanding of Africa MUST read.
- The Soul of a Flower -- Noboru Kurisaki – A stunning pictorial essay of Japanese flowers
- Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden – Extraordinarily well written book on the life of a Japanese Geisha. This is a window into a world we know so little about and live so far apart from.
- Angela’s Ashes – Frank McCourt – A pitiful inside view of growing up Catholic in Ireland during the war.
The Party – Peter Sellers – Completely hilarious
Tell us about your first job.
- Bhudda Bar Compliation CDs
- Emma Shapplin – Carmine Meo
My first job in the U.S. in 1985, just weeks after I arrived in L.A., was for a movie producer and his wife in Malibu. Little did I know that all the guests were benefactors of the MOCA museum, which meant that everyone had donated a million dollars or more to the museum. Talk about being in the right place at the right time! I made an incredibly chic, understated, European style lunch and six weeks later I was incorporated. It was the height of the Reagan era, it was the 80’s, and there was no such thing as enough!
What else would you like your readers to know? Likes and dislikes, your interests and hobbies, your favorite ways to unwind – whatever comes to mind.
I am a lover of many things. However, little makes me happier than spending time leisurely cooking a meal on a weekend for friends. I love to set a beautiful table. I enjoy discovering new wines and I absolutely love entertaining.
After dinner with friends, I love to play the piano. I started when I was seven years old and still enjoy playing piano.
In the Works
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Cowie has two new books on deck. Legendary Weddings is a compilation of the great weddings he has designed around the world from Venice to Capri and from Aspen to Honolulu. Also on the drawing board is a book on Summer Style and Entertaining.
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