Marie Cosgrove was 11 years old when her great aunt gave her a shot glass. But it wasn’t a standard barkeeper’s measuring tool. Made of leaded crystal and faceted like a diamond, it felt weighty in her small hand and glistened like water dancing over rocks in a pristine stream. “My aunt told me it was Waterford and that I had to be very careful with it,” she recalls. “I needed to cherish it and pass it along someday.”
Cosgrove starts with a foundation as crisp and smooth as new-fallen snow—a linen tablecloth she found at Terrain in Glen Mills. “I iron things until they’re so stiff they can stand up on their own,” she says.
Cosgrove is an advocate for snapping up pieces that strike her fancy and worrying about the details later. “If it’s something I know will work with what I have, I don’t want to be ruminating about it a month later, when it’s gone,” she says.
The next layer is a runner of Royal Stewart tartan—“very casual and relaxed”—topped with woven wicker chargers from Pottery Barn. On top of that, she places a more formal charger, ruby glass circles from Villeroy & Boch. The next layer is something unexpected—a Christmas wreath slightly larger than a dinner plate, reflecting her philosophy of infusing formality with whimsy. “I thought about putting the wreaths on the backs of the chairs,” she says. “But when I laid one on top of the charger, I thought, ‘Wow, that looks fun.’”
The plates that rest atop the wreaths are Waterford Holiday Ribbons. Her good silver is flatware by Reed and Barton. The crystal wine glasses are Waterford Crosshaven, a retired pattern that features lattice-like facets.
The vintage green cut-glass water goblets by Whitehall were collected by her mother when Cosgrove was a girl and avocado kitchens were in vogue. Hurricane globes from Waterford’s Jefferson collection are paired with candles from IKEA. As an experienced hostess, Cosgrove knows that the best-performing pieces on the table aren’t necessarily the most expensive. “IKEA candles burn clean and don’t drip,” she says.
Still, she acknowledges a special connection to Waterford. Through her work with the company, she developed friendships with the artisans who craft the crystal. One made her a font for holy water. Another invited her to his son’s wedding in Ireland.
Years of trial and error have helped Cosgrove refine her personal brand, a style that marries sophistication and sentiment. She’s learned what works—and what doesn’t. Flocked trees are lovely but way too messy. Wash fine china and crystal by hand to prevent chips and scratches. Keep your entertaining antennae up after the holidays have ended, because you never know when you’ll discover something fabulous, perhaps a silver Victorian-era toast rack.
Cosgrove found a small silver-domed tray on eBay, immediately recognizing its potential as a multifunctional serving piece for culinary treats ranging from chutney to clotted cream. She’s an advocate for snapping up pieces that strike her fancy and worrying about the details later. “If it’s something I know will work with what I have, I don’t want to be ruminating about it a month later, when it’s gone.”
Throughout her home, Cosgrove creates holiday vignettes that add to the sense of warmth and welcome. A silver tea service, cups and saucers are stationed on a small chest for Christmas tea. A small chair with a seat upholstered in tartan is home to a stack of children’s books. The mantle and a large mirror are draped with garlands of pine festooned with Christmas balls, ribbons and pheasant feathers. “I love using real greens and mixing in red and white roses with magnolia leaves,” she says. “Sometimes, I go over the top and spray paint magnolia leaves silver and gold, because during the holidays more is more.”
Such artful opulence requires planning, adjusting and periodic refreshing. It’s time consuming, too. Cosgrove starts unpacking her decorations in mid-October, completing her tableau around Thanksgiving. “If it’s your passion, it isn’t a lot of work,” she says. “There’s nothing I enjoy more than knocking myself out for my wonderful friends.”
Cosgrove finds inspiration in overcoming obstacles. At the height of the COVID pandemic, she came up with the idea of serving individual charcuterie courses on miniature cutting boards. It was such a hit with guests, she’s making it a regular thing.
A self-serve bar is set up on a buffet. Cosgrove’s recipe for Pimm’s Cup—also a favorite at Winterthur’s Point-to-Point—is displayed among the bottles and barware. Champagne is served in flutes introduced in Waterford’s Millennium series with the aptly named Happiness pattern.
The Waterford shot glasses that started it all are on the dessert table. Ruby crystal cordial glasses are lined up with plates and serving forks.
“I saw them on eBay, and the person who listed them said they belonged her uncle who was downsizing,” says Cosgrove. “He wanted to make sure they went to a good home.”
Every day for weeks, the seller walked past Michael C. Fina, the iconic jewelry and gift store in Manhattan, and admired the glasses, contemplating the price of such finery. One day, he cast aside caution and bought them. Forty years later, he decided to sell them to Cosgrove. “There’s always a story, whether it’s yours or someone else’s— and I’m happy to continue the tradition,” she says. “It warms my heart.”
At Cosgrove’s home in Chadds Ford, table settings are as much a part of the season’s décor as the tree. She doesn’t have a formal dining room, so she sets an intimate table in front of the fireplace in the living room for dinner on Christmas Eve. It’s a feast for the eyes—a joyful confection of high-end pieces, big-box finds and family mementoes.