Salt & Sundry's Amanda McClements on picnics and summer entertaining | Home Front

Amanda McClements
Jun 23, 2016

Amanda McClements is the owner and creative director of Salt & Sundry, a home and lifestyle boutique with two locations in the District. After writing about food and travel for more than 10 years, she opened her first shop in the revitalized Union Market in 2012. The second location opened two years later, just a few blocks from the home she shares with her husband and dog, Banjo, near D.C.'s Logan Circle.

McClements is here to help you dress up your outdoor entertaining this summer. Ask away.

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Amanda McClements has great taste and knows her way around a good picnic. That's why we asked her to be one of our style experts in our picnic story today. Plus she is joining us today to talk about outdoor entertaining and home accessories, her specialty at her two DC Salt & Sundry stores. After writing about food and travel for more than 10 years, she opened her first shop in the revitalized Union Market in 2012. The second location opened two years later, just a few blocks McClcments home in Logan Circle. Let's chat.


Good morning! I’m excited to chat with everyone about the best ways to move the party outdoors. I’ve been having a lot of fun at Salt & Sundry helping clients dress up their dinner parties, and we have a lot of great pieces perfect for summer. So what’s on your mind?

Hi, Amanda and Jura! We have a houseguest coming for two weeks in July--an old exchange student friend of my partner's, a strapping Walloon named Zénobe. We've followed Jura's list from last week about guest rooms to the letter, but we were trying to think of some simple Continental touches to add to the room remind our guest of his distant land. Any of your (no doubt) brilliant ideas gratefully accepted. Thanks!

Hi there! I love brainstorming extra touches to pamper guests and you're so thoughtful to want to make your friend so welcome. What if you presented a little basket of locally made treats to show off the DC area he'll be exploring? Chocolate bars by Harper Macaw and Undone Chocolate, pretzel cowboy cookies from Whisked, a jar of Gordy's Cajun Okra, some strawberry dill shrub from Shrub District. A taste of DC!

Good morning Amanda. I am always noncommittal when putting things on my walls. I have so many beautiful prints, and many things with a lot of sentimental memories for me, and I would love to start adding them to the open spaces in my flat. Do I need to just go for it? Can you recommend a framing pattern - like should I have everything in matching frames or should I be eclectic and have a bunch of fun frames that speak to me in various ways. Thank you so much. I just love your stores and often spend hours there.

Thanks for the kind words, sundry dreamer! And I hear you ... I have serious commitment issues when it comes to hanging pictures. I've been talking about a gallery wall in my living room for ... 10 years. But yes, go for it! I think  matching frames can unite really different subject matters and art, but I love the look of mixed frames holding everything from old vacation photos to art sketches and bits of vintage textiles. I've loved using Framebridge to get moving on actually framing those old pieces, and they have a great service that can help you map out an arrangement on your wall.

And remember, there really are no rules. Check out gallery walls on Pinterest and you'll see there are so many beautiful ways to showcase art you love. Good luck!


What are you top three hostess gift ideas for bringing if you're invited for a beach weekend?

To make sure you get invited back, I'd bring a few Turkish towels for the host to enjoy, fixings for Bloody Marys one morning, and a great bottle of Champagne.

I need a wedding gift and my budget is $100. What can you suggest?

One of our most popular wedding gifts at Salt & Sundry is a nice slate cheese board paired with a trio of French cheese knives. Under $100 and everyone can put it to good use! With the extra budget, you could even get a gift card to the couple's local cheesemonger.

Hello Amanda it is such an honor to have your presence in this chat! I am struggling to find a theme for a big party in a couple of weeks with all of the boys coming over for a fun night. I am somewhat inspired by your Bauhaus dinnerware, and am wondering if you might have some suggestions either for drinks, menu, or decor to spur me on to make this the incredible night I know it can be. Thank you so much!

I'm so glad you like the look of the Bauhaus plates — a very unexpected and cool palette for summer, right? And it sounds like a fun guys night in the works. Work off that modern color scheme of the Bauhaus plates with a few low jars of white and deep purple flowers, simple linens and plenty of tea lights. Pre-batch a pitcher of Boulevardiers (a great classic cocktail for summer with rye, vermouth and Campari) so you're ready to pour when your guests arrive. Then keep the meal light and summery — maybe a big bowl of pasta with roasted tomatoes and heaps of fresh herbs? I hope it's a blast!

Where are good places in the Logan Circle area to pick up picnic food?

For picnic provisions, hit up Cork Market first. Have you tried their fried chicken? So good. I also love the new Glen's Garden Market on 8th Street.

Have any easy ideas for cocktails that will impress but aren't really involved?


Try mixing up a punch in advance, chill it well and transport it in hinge top bottles. Then you have a delicious cocktail without having to bring along a mobile bar. One favorite that’s super simple: take a bottle of dry sparkling wine and mix with 1/4 cup of lemon juice and 1/3 cup of a sweetened syrup like grenadine or Royal Rose’ lavender-lemon syrup. (A funnel helps get it back into a bottle!)

Loved the story today in Living - can you comment on whether what I hear about serving hot food on a melamine plate is not a good idea? Have you heard that? They are so great and a lot of us use them not only on the patio but year round inside.

Glad you enjoyed the story! Definitely keep melamine plates away from direct heat (stoves and grills) and the microwave. 

Are there any good alternatives to citronella candles or bug zappers? I find the lit candles to be distracting and unpleasant when eating on my patio.

If you can run an extension cord to your outdoor space, a good ol' box fan works wonders to keep bugs away!

How did you come up with the name for your store?

I often joke that salt is my favorite food ... but it's certainly one of my favorite things on earth. Can't live without it! The sundry part came as a nod to the sundry shops of the past that contained all kinds of practical treasures. Put them together and you get the eclectic mix of goods we stock and, of course, salt.

Thank you for your advice on outdoor entertaining! I am thinking of throwing an outdoor pizza party since pizza always makes me happy and satisfied. I have a portable woodfire grill, but do you think it would be too much of a hassle to let people build their own pizzas? I just fear keeping the ingredients (especially the meats and cheese) safe in the outdoors, but I think it would be fun. Or should I have them all prepped and just keep a variety available based on what my tops want. Do you like pizza? HF2912

We're kindred spirits! This is one of my favorite summer parties to throw. My advice is get organized. Have several sheet pans to move pizzas to and from the grill, and keep all of your toppings on a table right beside the grill. (Just keep everything cold until you're ready to top!) Guests love the DIY aspect and if you can embrace a bit of chaos as people rush to create their pizzas, everyone should have a blast. I did this once in high winds with toppings flying everywhere but we all had a good laugh ... and eventually dinner.

I am always interested in how people change careers. How did you go from being a travel writer to owning two home accessory shops? Where did you learn the retail trade?

It was a huge change and I really learned on the fly, which was scary. Still is after almost 4 years! I've realized that telling the stories of great people and places is a common thread in my writing career and being a shopkeeper. Now I get to tell the stories of great products in person.

Amanda, so great to see you here today (and hi from NC). I need new cutting boards, but am overwhelmed by the selection available. Prefer some attractive wooden ones that can be displayed in the kitchen. What is you favorite wood re: boards...both from durability and appearance perspectives? Thanks!

Well, hello down there! Nice to hear from someone from my home state. My father is a carpenter in Durham and crafts lovely serving boards for the shops. My favorite wood is black walnut, both for its gorgeous tones and durability. Maple also makes a great cutting surface. 

What is the best way to clean a wood cutting board?

Use hot soapy water to get the board clean, dry well and then every few uses or so, apply a natural oil to protect the surface. I love Christophe Pourny's cutting board tonic, which we sell at Salt & Sundry. It's made from walnut oil and white vinegar.

I loved the Asian food in the picnic photos today. Any other ideas for food that's ok to sit outside?

I try to think of foods that are great (or even better) at room temperature and are easy to eat with your hands. I love making Spanish-inspired pintxos put cubes of hard cheese, cured meat and a salty pickled vegetable on a skewer. Grain salads are another great room-temp option (think farro, barley, etc). Pre-portion them in small jars with lids so guests can eat right out of the container.

My outdoors cushions and furniture always look dirty. Any tips for maintaining things?


Grab throw pillows and colorful blankets from inside that are easy to wash. Drag them outside when you’re entertaining to cover up the rough spots. Bringing the indoors outside is a key to making an outdoor gathering look great. 

In fact, none of us can, because we'd die of hyponatremia! Just kidding you, love the chat and your sagely advice!

Haha, yes, I should have added ... literally. =)

Do you know if a commercial shampooer can be used to clean outdoor cushions?

Do you know what I did last weekend? Pressure washed my patio and ended up throwing my cushions in the mix too. All force, no finesse, but they look better! In the past, I've also used gentle dish soap and a scrub brush to freshen up outdoor pillows and seat cushions. Most outdoor fabrics can take a lot of abuse.

Are you planning on opening more shops in DC? Or elsewhere?

I've been so thankful for the response Salt & Sundry has received from local shoppers, and I would love to find more opportunities to share what we're doing. Is that dodging your question? Haha. Yes, for a location that feels right. 

There used to be someone at Eastern Market who makes cherry blossom soap and other cherry blossom themed things.


Great to hear more about Salt & Sundry and summer style. Next week, same time,  I'll be talking Southern style with Margaret Kirkland, a designer from Atlanta who is part of the 2016 Southern Living Idea House in Birmingham, Alabama. Photos and story here. See you then.

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

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Amanda McClements
Amanda McClements is the owner and creative director of Salt & Sundry, a home and lifestyle boutique with two locations in the District.
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