Better safer than sorry with red-wine stains

Better safer than sorry with red-wine stains

By Carleton Varney

Special to the Daily News

These are the four words I often hear these days at cocktail parties, as well as at museum galas or other large social events: “Sorry, no red wine.”

What is offered, instead, is white wine, champagne or sparkling water.

Why? Hosts and hostesses want to protect their creamy white and vanilla carpets and their white-on-white upholstery fabrics. Seems that red-wine service is a relic of the days when ruby-and-sapphire oriental rugs were everywhere and upholstered pieces sported fabrics in deep shades of wine and ruby red, or maybe navy blue or deep green.

Today many designers and decorators forgo color in a big way, opting for beige, cream or white on white. All you have to do is open the pages of a design magazine to see the white-on-white look — and you’ll understand why red wine is often missing from the caterer’s list.

When I’m planning a room, I always consider how to protect the fabrics from red-wine stains. Yes, I do note that there are many stain repellants on the market, but take it from me: Red-wine stains are very, very — and I repeat — very difficult to remove.

Even so, when decorating in the Palm Beach style, there are color schemes better suited than others for tolerating the serving of red wine.

Begin with a burgundy-red carpeting for a room with walls of a very soft mint. In fact, I would stripe the walls in mint, leaf green and white. All the trim in the room should be white, and the ceiling might be tinted a soft rosé in homage to that delightul wine with the blush tint, generally from Portugal; I personally love the brand Mateus.

For your window treatments, choose damask drapery in a blush rosé-and-burgundy pattern on a cream background. Hang the drapery on poles painted burgundy with brass finials at each end.

Make a few throw pillows from the drapery print, and toss them on a sofa upholstered in a burgundy chenille fabric — a very red-wine look. Your club chairs can be upholstered in densely striped fabric of mint green, burgundy and cream.

Even with such a scheme, it might be safer to save the red wine for elsewhere, perhaps while chitchatting around the dining table.

And I’m sure you’ve noted the popularity of wine-tasting rooms in today’s grand homes. You’ll also find many family kitchens with wine coolers, some occupying full walls.

Yet even in the wine room or kitchen, glasses tip over, staining the tablemats or chairs — or a dinner guest’s clothing.

Some years back, at a Washington state dinner, I knocked my glass over, spilling wine on the cream chiffon dress of the then-vice president’s wife, the late Joan Mondale. Out came the club-soda-and-salt recipe for removing red-wine stains. Joan and I ended up as lifetime friends, one of the nicest results ever from a glass of spilled red.

So enjoy your glass but do watch out for that light-colored carpet and upholstery.


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