Lives of style: Tatiana von Witte-Phillips 

George Sand said, "Guard well within yourself that treasure — kindness. Know how to give without hesitation, how to lose without regret, how to acquire without meanness."
Tatiana von Witte-Phillips epitomizes the gift of giving without measuring recompense; the hospitality of a true hostess who revels in her guests’ entertainment and whose soul can touch and edify others.

Born in Shanghai, China, during World War II and the Japanese occupation of China, the daughter of parents who fled Russia, Tatiana endured turmoil and displacement as a child. Her father, a prominent architect in Kobe, Japan, son of a Russian admiral, was reared in Japan and educated in Europe. Her Russian mother was raised in China. Soon after the two married and had one daughter, they took "the last ship to Shanghai as stateless Russians."

Tatiana’s parents divorced a few years after the war. Tatiana, her mother and sister returned to the Soviet Union, where they were "sent to exile in Siberia." Then, when her mother refused to work for the KGB, the family was expulsed to Tashkent, in Uzbekistan, "where we starved," Tatiana says. After completing her education and attending medical school, Tatiana and her mother emigrated to America after her aunt petitioned the Russian government. Tatiana’s sister Marina and Marina’s son were forced to stay behind "as insurance" for another nine years.
Von Witte had a brief modeling career, working for Elizabeth Arden, Tatiana married and settled in New York.

Van Cleef and Arpels had her wear jewelry "on consignment at high fashion balls. They sold it off me."

After inheriting some funds, Tatiana reached into the Russian community to volunteer, helping displaced Russians and Russian-Jewish people find employment, she even opened a Russian restaurant, Ruslan, where many would work.

After divorcing and moving to San Francisco to assist her aunt, Tatiana began to invest in real estate. She purchased her home in San Francisco in 1996. Henry and Tatiana met and married within 10 days of seeing each other, in 2002, when Henry, a recent widower, had just returned to San Francisco from Taiwan. Hearing Henry wonder what he would do with the rest of his life, a sales associate at a store suggested, "Why don’t you start your new life with my friend?" Recalling his late wife’s words, "Don’t worry. Henry, the Lord will surprise you," Henry rang Tatiana, and after numerous e-mails and conversations, he proposed three days after meeting her.

Their residence is a mecca for entertaining. Tatiana, a renowned hostess and world-class cook, has arranged the home as a consonance of art, music and gustatory delights. Warm walls, parades of photographs, brightness and melodic energy fill the abode. It is a true salon. The walls resonate with lyrical memories — a capella conversations, bonhomie and laughter. And opera. It almost resides in the rooms with Tatiana and Henry, floating in the midst of everything they do. There is a joyous serenity here, too: the confluence of piano and seating arranged for an evening performance or a tête á tête. A broad foyer and classic dining room greet visitors in harmony. Banks of windows welcome conviviality. It’s easy on the eyes, ears and taste buds.

Plato said, "Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything." I’m sure Tatiana would agree.

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