Holiday (Not Holiday) Decorating

I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving weekend and are looking forward to the upcoming holidays! Holiday decorating can be a challenge, and can be costly too for something that will be displayed for such a short time period.

When I buy something for the home I want to be able to use and exhibit it for a long while, so here are some holiday themes that veer away from the expected red and green where you can repurpose some of the decorations year-round through accessories such as pillows and throws.

Faux Fur

An art deco-inspired bedroom with faux fur accents. Source unknown.

An art deco-inspired bedroom with faux fur accents. Source unknown.

Nothing says “warm and cozy” like a soft furry throw.  Faux fur throws and pillows in patterns such as rabbit, mink, and chinchilla evoke ski lodges and crackling fires, and maybe a little Bing Crosby. Combined with Christmas ornaments and lights in white, gold and silver, this theme presents itself as a winter wonderland. Once the holidays are over faux fur touches in the living room or master bedroom bring a hit of Hollywood glamour to your home.


Decorating with peacock colors and motifs began in the Victorian era and remains perennially popular. Using the colors in the peacock feather – gold, copper, emerald, and sapphire – brings a richness and sophistication to your holiday parties but also looks beautiful throughout the year.

Both of these pillows are available at Pier1 Imports.

Both of these pillows are available at Pier1 Imports.

Bold Colors

The holidays are festive, so why are the traditional colors so dark? Have some fun by decorating with a palette of turquoise, tangerine, aqua, peridot, and hot pink. Against a neutral backdrop, your holiday home can look like a candy coated paradise. Some of the accessories can then be moved into a kid’s room or as a whimsical pop of color in a more grown-up space.

Courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens

Courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens

Blue and White

This is a versatile theme that can work for both Christmas and Hanukkah, and the look is timeless. Blue and white china is surging in popularity once again and can serve as your starting point for creating the holiday table. Classic silver flatware and candlesticks complete the look.

How darling is this teapot?

How darling is this teapot?

So tell me, how are YOU decorating your home for the holidays?

Paint Yourself a New Kitchen

From time to time, I hear from people who want to update their kitchens without renovating, because they either intend to sell their home within a year or so or they simply wish to save money. The simplest solution to achieve a brand new look is with paint, paint, paint, and more paint. Here's how.

The pic is a little blurry, but you get the point.

The pic is a little blurry, but you get the point.

Paint your appliances: Thomas' Liquid Stainless Steel can transform your white or, my personal favorite, almond appliances to a more contemporary stainless steel look. They also provide a small amount of dark film to adhere to your display to complete the look.

Paint your cabinets: Benjamin Moore ADVANCE product line can be applied to your cabinets in a number of methods (roller, spray, brush) in any of the multitude of colors in their fan deck. Color is back in style for cabinets -- particularly gray, blue, green, and black -- so feel free to try a color instead of white. Be sure to prep in advance with a thorough sanding. A client sent me a photo recently while their cabinet makeover (painted in a warm gray) was in progress. What an amazing improvement!

Paint your hardware: Krylon and Rustoleum spray paints have a number of metallic finishes in order to update your look. Antique brass and copper are particularly trendy right now.

Paint your countertops: Rustoleum Countertop Transformations provides a granite-like look without the granite price tag. From personal experience, I recommend using a darker shade (such as Charcoal or Onyx) if your current laminate counters tend to absorb and show stains. They have a range of solid color options as well, but I find that it's worth a little bit of extra money to get a higher end look. Note: the counter takes three days to dry. If you want to try it, perhaps book a long weekend trip out of town?

In the case of all of these paint projects, be sure to prime, take it slow, paint several layers of thin coats (as opposed to laying it on thick), and allow plenty of time to dry between coats.

In addition to paint, items you can change in the kitchen without major sledgehammer action include flooring, backsplash, lighting, and window treatments. Whether you use a pro or you DIY, make sure to plan ahead and select all of your products before getting to work so that all of your colors and finishes work together nicely.

Then go back to doing what you do best in the kitchen: cooking, baking, entertaining, and just feeling right at home.

Everyone knows this famous TV kitchen. Could there BE any more painted surfaces in here?

Everyone knows this famous TV kitchen. Could there BE any more painted surfaces in here?

Folie à Deux (A Madness Shared by Two)

Creating a home together can be one of the most exciting things you can do as a couple, though some couples will say that meeting halfway regarding design drives them crazy. Her favorite color is blue; his, brown. She’s into surfing, he’s into planes. You get the idea. With some good old-fashioned communication and compromise, there are ways in which you can meld both of your styles to create something that feels like home for both of you.

Fortunately, we live in an era in which eclecticism is widely accepted in transitional style. Mixing vintage and modern happens quite frequently and can be done successfully. What needs to happen is some sort of unifying element, and the simplest way to achieve that is through color. For example, if all of the furniture is in a neutral shade with texture, the wall color becomes more flexible.

When couples first begin looking for items for their home, it can be fun to find looks and furniture pieces that appeal to each individual and share them in a no-bad-ideas brainstorming session. One thing that I suggest couples do is to create a secret Pinterest board where they can post images of things they like and collaborate. The idea that the board secret appeals to a lot of couples, as it's an endeavor they share together without outside influence. I do recommend that when they take this approach that partners only "favorite" things they like, and not comment. All discussions about ideas should be face to face.

Traditional, modern, and rustic elements meet in this design for a young couple.

Traditional, modern, and rustic elements meet in this design for a young couple.

In one of my recent living room projects, we started with the rug that they had owned in their previous apartment. He wanted more traditional pieces; she wanted to include some fun and modern shapes and prints. Both wanted a bit of a rustic element, found in the coffee table. They are both very happy with the space and find it a comfortable area to spend time with their family.

Ideally, each partner will have one room in which they can fully express themselves without intervention -- the most popular examples are the man cave and the craft room. When each person has their needs fully met on some level, compromise in other rooms becomes much easier to navigate.

You never would have known this was a recliner if I didn't tell you first!

You never would have known this was a recliner if I didn't tell you first!

Don't off-handedly dismiss the idea of a recliner. Before I started working as a full time designer, I worked in furniture sales as many of us do. The #1 request from men was that they wanted a recliner. Now some people may not want to include the sloppy bachelor pad relic a la Frasier into their decor, but the design for recliners has become more sleek and deceptive in that they no longer scream "recliner" (such as this piece from Circle Furniture or these two from Ethan Allen). If you can't find a recliner you agree on, see if a chair with an ottoman will work just as well in order to put his feet up after a long day.

Perhaps one partner has a sentimental dining set, and the other partner doesn't like it but it's in really good condition. There are several options in order to update the look to the other's taste. The wood may be able to be painted or stained, the chairs may be reupholstered, or perhaps they can use the chairs and not the table or vice versa.

If it all still seems too overwhelming after following this advice, it may help you both to find an interior designer who listens to both partners to find an equal balance. Her (yes, I'm going to say "her" since I'm clearly talking about me here) vast resources and experience may lead to an option that was not previously considered so you can spend more time on the sofa instead of going crazy selecting one.

Pop Interiors: The Clue Home Color Collection

People say in my presence all the time that they wish that they could have the job of “naming the paint colors”. Sounds like fun right? Thinking about this, I want to take things one step further and create my own color collection, influenced by my love of the culture that is pop.

One of the most obvious inspirations to me was the board game turned cult film “Clue”. I enjoyed the board game (even if I found it a little confusing), but the movie I still find to be an absolute treat (and also a little confusing). The Shakespeare-reading anglophile in me adores a good farce, and I went to see the film when it first came out in the theaters, back when you could only see one ending of three at a time. That was a strange marketing ploy, but I digress.

And how easy would it be to create a paint collection for “Clue”?! The characters’ names are colors for crying out loud. Turns out it’s a little harder than you’d think. Sure some of the work is done for you, but finding a shade that homeowners or decorators would want to use, even in a hyper-dramatic circumstance, can be more of a challenge. I also decided to create colors for the rooms and the weapons to balance out some of the louder shades in the collection.

Some of the colors are inspired by the game, others by the film. Mr. Green, for example is a lighter shade than would be expected, and I based it on an exchange in the film.

Mrs. White: Are you a cop?

Mr. Green: No, I'm a plant.

Miss Scarlett: A plant? I thought men like you were usually called a fruit.

My Mr. Green is a honeydew melon.

Mrs. White has a slightly bluish undertone reminiscent of blue flame in reverence to Madeline Kahn’s fantastic delivery in one of the film’s most popular moments:

Wadsworth: You *were* jealous that your husband was schtupping Yvette. That's why you killed him, too!
Mrs. White: Yes. Yes, I did it. I killed Yvette. I hated her, so much...
Mrs. White: it-it- the f - it -flam - flames. Flames, on the side of my face, breathing-breathl- heaving breaths. Heaving breaths... Heathing...

Let’s pause for a moment while I giggle at my laptop.

The game influenced my decisions for the conservatory and the knife. The conservatory isn’t really seen in the film so I selected a pale lavender seen on the card for the room used in the game. In some versions of the game, the knife has an ivory handle.

Enough of me talking about it, here’s the Diana Kennedy Interiors interpretation of the Clue Home Color Collection.

This was a lot of fun for me, and I hope to create more pop culture palettes in the future (Reservoir Dogs maybe?). Please let me know if there’s something that you enjoy that I can make a color collection for. I’ll sign off now with one last quote.

Wadsworth: ...and to make a long story short...  

All: Too late!

Good night!


Color Quandries

Intimidating, right? With some thoughtful planning it doesn't have to be.

Intimidating, right? With some thoughtful planning it doesn't have to be.

I’d have to say that the decorating decision that (in my experience) makes people the most nervous is selecting paint colors. Considering that paint has none of the permanency of say custom furniture or structural selections such as tile or flooring, it seems strange that this would be the case. But I can understand it because paint can make a dramatic change in how a space feels to the people who use it.

My primary piece of advice for those trying to select a paint color is to take their time with it. Colors are affected significantly by light. How it looks in the paint store is going to be different from how it looks at home, and fluorescent versus incandescent light will also create changes in hue.

There are plenty of sources to help you when you are first starting to look for your next wall color. (Benjamin Moore has some useful articles on their site) Here are some lesser known tips that I’ve learned over the years to help make you feel sure in your selection.

·         Paint samples onto large pieces of poster board so that you can take it to various points of the room so you can see it in different lighting, both day and night. For less than $10 a color sample you’ll have a lot more confidence in your decision.

·         If you decide to sample on the wall, put a coat of primer on the area first. That way you are comparing the new paint color to white instead of the current shade.

·         Sometimes white ceilings can look stark. Instead, try an ivory or the color of your walls but with a 50% concentration. Don’t feel shy about asking the folks at the paint store to make it for you. This is a particularly great technique with low ceilings that don’t have any moldings to help make the ceiling height appear higher.

·         If you’re uncertain about the undertone of a lighter paint color, in most instances you can look to the bottom of the strip to see what a higher concentration of that color would look like to see how well it suits your scheme. A gray shade alone could have brown, blue, green, or lavender, and you will see that hue in certain lighting when it goes up on the wall.

If all else fails, contact a local interior designer for a color consultation, particularly one who has been trained in color theory. Designers that are members of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) have an education requirement to join so those are a safer bet.

When you find the right color for your space, you will feel it! Enjoy your search.

Save the Date...

So, fun news! This afternoon I am meeting with Jenifer Dunn-Coen of Well Dunn Home Designs  as we are pairing up to decorate a home for the Concord Holiday House Tour.

We’re both really excited about the opportunity, and the house (and the homeowner) we are working with has us doing a happy dance.

The event is being held on Saturday, December 5, 2015, and all proceeds benefit the Concord Museum.

Stay tuned for updates and photos as we take on this fantastic endeavor!

Make yourself at home!

Me with the lady you find first when you Google my name.

Me with the lady you find first when you Google my name.

Welcome everyone to The Delightful Diary, the official blog of Diana Kennedy Interiors. This is a blog that will deal primarily with interior design: tips, updates, and stories. That after all is my passion and my life’s work. There’s nothing more fun than to introduce the latest color trend, sparkly chandelier find, or fabric that your cat can’t destroy (that would be mohair).

But as no one ever has one interest, you may find hints of my other love in these entries. Not my husband Ryan or my dog J.J., though I do love them immensely (Kisses to you both!). I’m talking about pop culture, the pink wedge in the Trivial Pursuit pie. So the conversation might occasionally turn to “Jane the Virgin” or the aesthetics of an 80s new wave video, because I like to amuse myself every once in a while. I hope you will indulge me.

Thank you for stopping by and peeking into my private thoughts. Kidding. This diary is for all lovers of art and design, and I look forward to your participation.

XO, dk