With the holiday season just around the corner, most of us are turning our focus to family gatherings, hosting parties, planning menus and spending countless hours in the kitchen preparing traditional family recipes. The kitchen is typically the hub of all holiday activity, which can be a source of great joy or major stress. If your kitchen layout is well organized and efficient, entertaining can be fun and hassle free. However, a poorly designed kitchen can often leave you feeling that you never want to host a gathering again. Please read below for tips that can help you create a kitchen that is ideal for holiday entertaining.
1. Open Floor Plan
2. Kitchen Island
3. Butler’s Pantry
4. Warming Drawers
5. Ample Storage
Open Floor Plan – This allows the cook to enjoy guests whether they are in the Kitchen or adjacent Dining Room, Living Room or Den. With this layout, no one misses a beat or feels left out.
Kitchen Island – A large island allows for food preparation and serving, as well as a place for your guests to gather. In my house, this is where the action is, with family cozying up to sample whatever is being prepared.
Butler’s Pantry – This space can keep much of the mess out of sight, in addition to providing storage for larger kitchen appliances, serving trays, and seasonal china. I don’t have a Butler’s Pantry, but encourage clients to invest in this multifunctional space.
Warming Drawer – For anyone who loves to entertain, this appliance is a must! It is almost like having a second oven, and is perfect for keeping side dishes warm while your turkey (or other main dish) is still roasting. It also makes warming your dinner plates a breeze.
Ample Storage – Having ample storage that is well thought out (a place for everything and everything in its place!) allows for a clutter free kitchen. Open countertops can provide great space for guests to bring a dish, set up a buffet, or even multiple cooks to work at once.
Photography by: Ruby & Peach Photography
You might be thinking that the above tips are all well and good, but what if they are not in the cards for this year? My best advice would be to do a thorough decluttering and reorganization. Anything you can do to clear your countertops and create more space in the kitchen, as a whole, can be helpful. This might include removing your kitchen table temporarily for traffic flow, or even adding an additional table for more food preparation space.
If the closing of another year finds you feeling a bit “bah humbug” and frustrated with your kitchen design, perhaps it’s time to consider making your 2022 New Year’s Resolution to create your dream kitchen. With so many kitchen options and gadgets available, this process can often feel daunting and a bit overwhelming. Hiring a designer can help you navigate the many decisions that must be made as well as minimize potential costly mistakes. Here’s hoping that 2022 finds us working together to create your beautiful kitchen for holiday gatherings and creating cherished memories.
Sweet Potato Soufflé
Please enjoy this easy & simple Sweet Potato Soufflé Recipe:
4 large or 5 medium sweet potatoes (about 6 cups mashed flesh)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups pecan halves
5 tablespoons melted butter
Step 1: Preheat oven to 425°F. Wash and thoroughly dry outside of sweet potatoes. Wrap in aluminum foil and place on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet. Bake for 1 1/2 hours; remove and allow to cool until you can easily remove the skins, about 30 minutes.
Step 2: Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a glass 9- x- 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray; set aside. In the bowl of a mixer or with an electric hand mixer, beat sweet potatoes on medium-high until they become smooth, about 2 minutes. Add butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and cinnamon; mix until fully combined. Add eggs, milk, vanilla, and salt; beat on medium high until the mixture is fully homogenous. Pour into prepared baking dish.
Step 3: In a bowl, stir together brown sugar, flour, salt, and cinnamon until well combined. Add pecans and toss to coat. Add melted butter and stir until butter is evenly absorbed. Scatter across the surface of the soufflé. Bake until the center of the soufflé is set and does not jiggle when tapped, 45 to 55 minutes.
If you have been considering purchasing a second home you are not alone. The demand for second homes in drive-to destinations is surging. With the YOLO (you only live once) mindset on the rise and the ability for many to work remotely increased, second home purchases are at an all time high. With my own second home purchase, as well as those of many of my clients, I thought it might be timely to discuss how our team approaches designing second homes differently than primary residences. Here I have outlined four key considerations:
1. Have Fun & Take More Risks
2. Incorporate Luxury & Comfort
3. Embrace the Views & Seek Inspiration from your Surroundings
4. Purchase Multi- Purpose Furnishings
“ Have Fun & Take More Risks” – A second home can be one of the best places to showcase your personality. Many of my clients want these homes to feel a bit more whimsical and casual. This might be the ideal place to experiment with those colors and patterns that you’ve been afraid to try at home. Because vacations are for disconnecting and affording a change of scenery, make this home feel different than your primary residence.
“Incorporate Luxury and Comfort”- Install the best that you can afford! Your vacation getaway should cater to all the senses and especially to comfort. Purchase high quality mattresses and upholstered pieces so that you and your guests feel like you are staying in a luxury resort. Plush towels and the softest sheets and blankets add to this luxurious experience and can be achieved without breaking the bank by watching out for sales and discounts. This home should be your safe haven! If the space is not as nice or nicer than your primary residence, why go?
My go- to linen line would hands down be Matouk Luxury Linens. Matouk is known for being luxurious, durable & affordable. Their duvet covers & quilts are machine washable, making it great for turning linens after hosting guests.
“Embrace the Views and Seek Inspiration from your Surroundings”– Let the location influence your design without dictating it! Incorporating pieces from local artisans as well as materials from nature can help to make this home feel different from your primary residence. However, I often caution clients to not go overboard with seashells, pinecones, antlers, etc. as this can give your home a cluttered “Disneyland” feel and detract from the overall sophistication and design.
“Purchase Multi-Purpose Furnishings“- Because second homes are often smaller than primary residences, it is important to source furnishings that serve dual purposes. Consider storage ottomans that can also serve as a place to sit or writing desks that serve as a bedside table as well as a place to work. Maximizing every square inch of your home with these functional furnishings can really pay off with added enjoyment and utilization.
With a number of these design projects on our current roster, I have enjoyed the opportunity of spending time in nearby lake homes, beach homes and mountain homes. This has not only afforded me a break from my regular work routine but has allowed me to get to know these clients better. I believe this “second home buying” trend will not decline anytime soon so will look forward to many more of these fun projects.
Living Room Photo Credits: Hector Manuel Sanchez, Styling: Buffy Hargett Miller, Design: Maison Studios
make your vacation home timeless, collected & beautiful.
It is hard to believe we are already six weeks into our Linville mountain house renovation project! Through this ever-evolving, long-distance design process of many Facetime meetings with our contractor, calls, and photos sent back and forth – I am certainly learning a lot! I always find myself yearning for that next visit to witness the transformation taking place. In discussing our ongoing project with friends and family, I have been reminded of several “Renovation Mantras”. These have been collected over the years and can be valuable advice whether you are redecorating, building, or remodeling:
- “Don’t Rush the Process, Good Things Take Time”
- “Be Flexible”
- “Expect the Unexpected”
“Don’t Rush the Process, Good Things Take Time” – While we all want things done yesterday, experience has taught me that it takes time to let the space organically evolve to achieve the best possible results. I know we all have deadlines (like wanting your home to be perfect for the holidays!) but we will live with the decisions we make regarding design for years to come. It is so incredibly important to take the time to explore your options and think through a number of solutions and possibilities. One of my design goals for our renovation project was to create a feeling of openness and spaciousness, as this was not our home’s initial reality. Our first plan to help achieve this was to demolish the closets on just one side of the entry hallway and add a new window. After several months of discussion, we decided to completely demolish the closets on both sides of the hallway to further open this space up to the living room. There were several compromises along the way, but we are now thrilled with the results, and feel that the wait and process will ultimately be well worth it.
“Be Flexible” – Though this is perhaps the most difficult point for me personally, it is critical to be flexible during a design project. This flexibility comes into play with many aspects of the typical design project, but especially so in 2020. We have all had to stretch our flexibility this year – whether we are told our favorite tile selection is on backorder, lumber prices have skyrocketed, or the weather is simply not cooperative – we have to just roll with these changes and challenges! Of course we can have expectations, but it’s also important to realize that things happen and you can’t control everything. Given the state of affairs in the world right now, it is important (and realistic) to factor in longer lead times, higher prices, and less availability.
“Expect the Unexpected” – I have never been involved in a renovation project that didn’t experience a hiccup, and my project is no different. The very first week on the job, our contractor discovered the Master Bathroom shower pan was leaking and the shower tile needed to be removed. Of the two showers in the home, this was the one we didn’t originally plan to demo. This revelation caused us to look at ways we might take advantage of the unexpected and improve the space. Ultimately we were able to enlarge the Master Bathroom giving us a more functional and visually appealing bathroom retreat. We must focus on the silver linings!
Now with demo complete, several walls removed, ceilings vaulted in two additional rooms, and two windows added – our mountain house is already feeling a bit bigger and brighter. I have an exciting vision in place, and we have begun to select tile, plumbing fixtures, furniture, and lighting (always my favorite!). As exciting as our first phase has been, I can’t wait to begin to put things back together… stay tuned as the next chapter unfolds!
While 2020 has been uniquely challenging and unlike any other, there has also been an unexpected silver lining: it comes in the form of a charming mountain cottage in Linville, North Carolina, and it has captured my heart and attention. This quaint home’s property oozes character and boasts spectacular outdoor living spaces that I find enchanting.
I first visited Linville in 2014; my husband had long spoken about this very special place and surprised me with a weekend getaway. We stayed at The Eseeola Lodge, which did not disappoint with its gorgeous flower gardens, chestnut bark siding clad buildings, cozy interiors, and elegant dining experience. All these characteristics immediately appealed to my senses of wonder and beauty. Never in a million years would I have imagined one day becoming a part of this storied and cherished community!
In mid-March my husband was informed that a Linville home he had previously inquired about was back on the market. To be honest, I approached our first visit with a mindset of skepticism and trepidation. However, I was immediately struck by the beautiful setting, vast potential, multiple outdoor living spaces – and the look of excitement on my husband’s face. It turned out to be love at first sight for both of us, and there was no turning back.
Those who know me know I adore a renovation project. After all, where’s the fun in purchasing a home that is already perfect? I much prefer to find a diamond in the rough and add my own touches. The main challenges in this particular renovation project are that my husband has put me on a strict budget (so I must kick the creativity into high gear!) and managing the project long distance from Nashville.
Additionally, the bedrooms are quite small with low ceilings, and there is literally a narrow “hall of louvered doors” that could make one dizzy just looking at it! Some parts of the ceiling resemble swiss cheese (more can lights than you can imagine) and there is a sea of green shag carpeting that is begging to be removed. All in all, my idea of fun!
Renovations are scheduled to begin this month, and I can hardly wait! I look forward to sharing with you the ideas my staff and I have come up with to give this cozy cottage a much bigger presence and updated feel. With a focus on spaciousness and functionality, we hope to document the renovation process and give you a first row seat to the good, the bad, and the ugly, inherent in all renovation projects. So please join me as we learn about “Linville Living” together.
Maison Pierre Frey, founded in 1935, is a luxury fabric and wallcovering manufacturer, long known for creating custom textiles and patterns inspired by classical and contemporary art. While in Paris earlier this year, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to tour their Archives – and I jumped at the chance!
Read on for an excerpt of my journal entry from this day, and to see a photo gallery of images from this special visit:
After a quick cab ride to the Pierre Frey Paris headquarters, Emma and I were introduced to Sophie Rouart who was to be our guide. Sophie was the most lovely, knowledgeable and passionate resource on French history and textiles specifically. As it turned out, Sophie is an art historian as well as co-author of a book on Toiles de Jouy. She has managed the archives at Pierre Frey since 2003 in a space that meets museum quality standards. Each historic fabric (some dating back to the 16th century) has been micro-cleaned, inventoried, and then filed in dedicated drawers. Sophie’s narrative during our tour, delivered in excellent English, was incredibly interesting and dovetailed beautifully with my knowledge of French antiques. She lovingly handled each historic piece with gloves and showed me how these relics have inspired their most current collections. Often, the company looks to these historic pieces for pattern and texture and then updates or changes the colorway. Sophie also demonstrated how the hand blocking techniques were performed and pointed out the resulting imperfections. Today, when copying these old hand blocked patterns, the company intentionally prints these imperfections to give authenticity to the new fabric. It was then time for even more “show and tell” with antique garments constructed from Pierre Frey fabrics, old design mood boards, and even a 3D paper room model. Our time with Sophie passed much too quickly but I will never forget her kindness, the gorgeous and colorful fabrics, and Pierre Frey’s ability to partner with designers to reproduce any of their archived fabrics in ANY color. What a gift!