Entertaining With: Tracey Overbeck & Ethan Stead

By Camille Styles
Entertaining with Tracey Overbeck and Ethan Stead | Chelsea Fullerton for Camille Styles

I really want to go to a party at Tracey Overbeck and Ethan Stead’s house. Aside from being smart, stylish and incredibly creative, this couple approaches entertaining with such an attitude of joie de vivre that the guests at their legendary dinner parties couldn’t help but have the time of their lives. As you enter the gorgeous grounds that house their historic home, abundant with live oaks and pomegranate trees and surrounded by a tall stucco wall, it’s easy to forget that you’re minutes from downtown Austin. Since Tracey owns the eponymous acclaimed interior design firm, I knew that the Stead’s home would be cool – but I wasn’t prepared for the jaw-dropping details and individuality oozing from every corner. Since they spend half the year at their homes on Martha’s Vineyard, the east coast and ocean play prominently into their entertaining style. On this particular day, Tracey and Ethan were prepping for an oyster party they were hosting for friends that evening. Take a step inside their home and click through the images shot by Chelsea Fullerton to see the perfect table setting, what they poured and how they prepped for an unforgettable oysters-in-Austin party.

Tracey’s standard hostess outfit:

Tank top, jean shorts, diamonds, and of course, barefoot.

Dream dinner guests:

Michael Schumacher, Catherine Deneuve, Christopher Hitchens, David Bowie, and my late grandmother Katherine Pinckney Nau when she was in her 30’s.

Tracey’s entertaining style in 5 words or less:

Great Design. Top Shelf. Levity

Always in her refrigerator:

Champagne. My grandmother taught me that!

Tracey’s grandmother collected French clocks, so the Steads have countless beauties like this one adorning the walls of their home that create a striking contrast to their more contemporary pieces. We were lucky to catch the symphony-like concerto that takes place every hour, on the hour.

Kitchen rule they rarely break:

Never go to sleep with a dirty kitchen.

Taste they’re always craving:  

Tracey: sweet

Ethan: salt

The particular batch of oysters prepared on the day of our shoot were Tracey & Ethan’s “Sandy Miracle” — the last oysters harvested on Sunday before Hurricane Sandy struck the Northeast on Monday, meaning no more oysters for the season. The Steads order theirs direct from oyster farmer (and champion free diver!) Dave Sipperly, their neighbor on the Vineyard.

“We never know what Dave will bring home for dinner after being on a beach outing with his family. However, we can always count on the best and freshest oysters from our RI friend!”

Ethan’s Guide to Shucking an Oyster:

  1. Wear metal oyster-shucking gloves for the task — the edges are sharp and can be dangerous if you’re not super careful.
  2. Insert your oyster knife at the hinge, angling the blade down, then carefully wedge the the shells apart to avoid breaking the back of the shell.
  3. Slide the knife under the adductor muscle to loosen the meat, then settle the bottom of each shell into a bed of ice or on an oyster plate and serve immediately.
  4. Think of oyster shucking like breaking open a pistachio — some are easy to break, while you have to battle with others.

When serving great oysters, keep the rest of the ingredients simple. Ethan offered half the oysters with traditional cocktail sauce, while the other half were dressed with sliced ginger, a spoonfull of pomegranate juice, wasabi paste, a drop of mirin and microgreens.


The proper way to devour an oyster? However you desire! Tracey eats hers with an oyster fork, while Ethan shoots his in all in one delicious bite.

Tracey’s search for the perfect oyster plates ended when Ethan gave her this gorgeous vintage French set for her birthday – he searched high and low on eBay to complete the entire collection. The party table is complete with silver and china inherited from Tracey’s grandmother and great-grandmother, and the handmade linen placemats at each setting depict iconic locales around Martha’s Vineyard.

The highlight of our visit? Tracey played the drums for us. (I told you these two knew how to party!) The Stead’s dinner party guests frequently take a turn at he drum set, and there’s no doubt that it’s a guaranteed way to get the party started.

The perfect dinner party playlist includes:  Zero Seven, Wax Tailor, Scissor Sisters, MC Solar, and Anything Brazilian

Head over to Go Forth Creative to view more of Chelsea’s work.