Dining by Design with Martyn Lawrence Bullard

Pull up a chair and dine with us, while we enjoy the company of Martyn Lawrence-Bullard. You know and remember, Martyn, right? He’s pretty unforgettable – one of the Million Dollar Decorators from the Bravo series – who happens to be quite the looker too! He was blessed with Hollywood-style glamour, in the league of Cary Grant, Marlon Brando and current-day eye catchers, Antonio Banderas, Enrique Iglesias and Colin Farrell. See what I mean? 

via BravoTV
It is only fitting that he run in the same circles too, right? Not! It isn’t luck or good looks that got Martyn to where he is today. Luck is often confused with opportunity. Martyn Lawrence Bullard was present for opportunities, some call that luck. Hard work and talent, not luck, is what is required to turn that into success.
via Architectural Digest
Recognized as one of Architectural Digest’s top 100 designers in the world, it is Martyn’s cup-runneth-over design talent and sincerity which has positioned him as a sought-after designer to some of the hottest celebrities we know today. As he told the gals over at The Skirted Roundtable,
"Cheryl Tiegs told me, 'I just clicked with you. I don’t know what it is but I felt I could trust you and together we could create something amazing' and that is something that I’ve taken with me for my entire career as the way forward."
It worked. He's been working with Cheryl for his entire career and has only added to his impressive roster since. In fact, he designed the home for one of my would-love-the-chance-to-dine-with mentions, Cher, along with Elton John, Tamara Mellon and a celebrity-client list that goes beyond impressive to a mouth-dropping WOW!  

via BravoTV
I was tickled pink when Martyn responded that he would love to be a part of my Dining by Design series, given his schedule. His work does not end with his celebrity client list. He is preparing for the 2nd season the Million Dollar Decorators, designing two fabric lines - his own collection and another collection for Schumacher - a furniture division and working on licensing partnerships that we are not even privy to yet!

This man has a lot on his plate - no pun intended! How he finds time to sleep is beyond me, so agreeing to be here with us today is a huge honor. He is every bit as gracious as he is successful! I know you are going to enjoy this personal peek.

Can you share with us one of the most memorable dinner affairs you’ve been to? 
I’ve been lucky to attend so many wonderful events and dinners, but surely dinners on the terrace at Elton John and David Furnish’s south of France villa have to be amongst my most favorite. Each meal is served with different china, glassware, and table scape- a visual treat, as much as a culinary one.

Martyn also cherish's his friendship and time spent with client-turned-friend [which seems to be the way it always works with Martyn], Ellen Pompeo, and has graciously shared a favorite summer recipe of his, he got from Ellen after enjoying it during dinner at her home.
What was dinner like for you at home while growing up?
Dinner was always a family affair and we were always seated together to share and enjoy the end of day conversation. Sunday lunch was always my favorite and a weekly treat. My parents loved to entertain and always did so with vigor and pride, setting beautiful tables and always serving fresh home-style fair.

Do you prefer to be the guest or the host?
I love the role of both, guest and host. As far as cooking, I prefer to be cooked for! I love to entertain. I am sadly not a good chef, but love to experiment. I do, however, adore setting tables and making dinner scapes.

 Weekly, I host a dinner of some sort, from pizza and movie night to a chic set dinner with all the trimmings. Comfort food is the fastest track to my heart so it’s my favorite to serve. I love fried chicken especially and of course, a traditional Sunday Roast Lunch. Yum!

What makes a great dinner party?
A combination of good food and good conversation is always the best recipe for a memorable dining experience. Fun loving guests with passion for life and all topics fresh and modern. No politics please! …And let’s not forget the wine! 

An eclectic mix of guests, with at least one new blood, makes for a great party. I adore small intimate dinners of 6 to 8 over larger affairs. That way you get to talk to all the guests and intermix fully. Laughter is what I hope for. Humor is everything and more delicious than any entrée.” Yes we eat for nourishment, but dining should also be an experience. Dining should be a complete pleasure. It’s the most intimate ritual that creates happiness and contentment.

Do you prefer formal and tie-required or barefoot-in-the-backyard?
I love both, depends on the venue, season and theme. I do adore a good dress up dinner though, especially themed dinners like Murder Night or Halloween.

No surprise, given his love of fashion! Dressing up provides the opportunity to go all out!! Did you know that Martyn co-owned a clothing store at the young age of 17? Yes, he and his sister opened a store, Temptation, which he decorated to the nines. In Martyn’s words, “our store sadly didn’t last that long but my passion for fashion hasn’t faded and my passion for interiors has actually turned out to shape my life and career”. That is for sure!

When you arrive at a dinner party, what is the first thing that you take note of?
The effort of the host to make everything a beautiful feast for the eye and the lighting, which is essential to create a mood. I believe that flowers and candles are vital, but don’t follow any rules.
I have many collections and love to use them on the table as decorative objects, from beads to sculptures to sea shells and coral. You should be adventurous and let your imagination guide your table theme. I love to mix table settings. I believe the table scape should show personality and honor your guests with the effort put into their creation.
What do you consider the 3 “must-haves” a good host(ess) should never forget?
Never forget candles, plenty of wine, and always, a sense of humor. He has said that everyone should, “make sure to take time out of everyday to laugh. Laughter cures all.” It is clear from watching Million Dollar Decorator and from seeing images like the one below, that Martyn is someone who truly lives this philosophy.
Some quick tips for creating a memorable dining experience?
  • There should be at least three courses to the meal; four if you want to add a palette cleanser. More than that is overkill.
  • Friends are always the vital ingredient to a successful party. The palate, the place…vital too, of course, but secondary to the people you invite.
  • Music always, but carefully selected. It should never be too loud or too fast. Ambient, sexy and mood enhancing: Billy holiday, Marvin Gaye, Robyn Thicke, Adele.
  • Flowers [or centerpiece] are a must. Only one color per container and what’s fresh and in season always looks the best.
  • Dessert? Always! From fresh berries with sorbet to molten chocolate cake and crème anglaise!
What wine, beverage, or cocktail do you recommend?
Sassicaia is my favorite red or a rich Barolo and for white, I like a simple, soft Pinot Grigio. I love crisp white wines, especially Pinot Grigio and Sancerre. Always Pellegrino served at my table as a palette cleanser. Veuve Cliquot is my favorite everyday champagne choice, Ruinart Rose for special occasions. Before dinner, a good dry martini always wets the appetite, and Pimm’s Cup #1 with cucumber and lemon slices in the summer is delicious.

And after dinner, Chateau D’Yquem is my ultimate dessert! Forget the pudding!

So, who do you - [readers] - think Martyn would like to share a seat at the table with?
Given Martyn’s earlier comments about "mix of guests and laughter" as being essential to an enjoyable dining experience, I can see some reasons for the eclectic trio he responded with: David Hicks, Oscar Wilde, and Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor[all deceased]: 

I’m not surprised at all with David Hicks being on that list. Hicks, who passed away in the late 90’s produced some of the most respected work in Interior Design in our generation and continues to inspire many designers today. His work was noted for bold use of color, talent of mixing antiques and modern pieces, favoring tailored lines and contemporary elements. Sound familiar? I can see some sharing of philosophy between Martyn and Hicks. He also has a design, fashion and theatre background, so I see similarities there, as well.

David Hicks, A Life of Design
Oscar Wilde is well-known for his writings and traveled the globe presenting a lecture series on aesthetics. More than that though, he most definitely would provide much humor to this dining trio. You probably recognize some of his quotes, even if not knowing where they hailed from. One of my favorites:
“Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.”
So how does all this translate to planning the perfect dining area?
Let me sum it up! From viewing Martyn Lawrence-Bullard’s designs and hearing his thoughts on the dining experience, we can easily extrapolate the critical design considerations that can be applied to every home and any budget:

Consideration #1: Deep benches, upholstered seating or cushions.  Create a space people want to laugh and linger in! Remember those times you were stuck at a dining table, inside your head you were screaming, beads of sweat running down your forehead,out of pure frustration and discomfort? I do! Think comfort!

Consideration #2: Don’t fill the room with so much furniture that guests feel restricted. You want the space for a little liveliness, if you have the space to afford it. Box people in and their personality is contained too. Yes, that can be a real party killer! Select seating and tables that can be adjusted for the size of the group.

Give people room to easily get up and move around so the thought bubble above their head is not screaming, "when can I get out of here?" Think space!

Consideration #3: Be playful, express your personality and go with a scheme that will work for the types of gatherings you plan to host. If you entertain often and enjoy thematic events, a more subtle scheme will allow for those changesThink about how you want the space to feel and use that to guide your decisions. Think color & pattern

Consideration #4: Remember, the dining area is the space for coming together. Aside from eating, it's an intimate space for conversing, laughing and sharing. Music is essential, but should not be obtrusive, so plan to have it piped in or hidden-away so that the music fills the space without detracting from it. Think music!

Consideration #5. Consider the option of elegance but design the room to offer a style that can be dressed up when needed, but offers a casualness that you won't be afraid to utilize everyday. Think flexible elegance!

Consideration #6: For any design to be influenced by Martyn Lawrence Bullard, "mixing it up" is a definite must! Notice how Martyn mixes patterns, woods, styles and textures in all of these spaces. Experiment and bring in pieces that truly have meaning to you, catch your eye or make your heart sing, combined with the purely functional aspect of what the room needs. This is what makes a space interesting. Think fearless!

Want more of Martyn Lawrence-Bullard in your home?
Pick up a copy of his book, Live, Love, Decorate and look for his table top collection that will hit the stores soon. You may not have Elton John or Cher sitting at your dinner table, but you can certainly apply Martyn’s style to dress it for the celebrities in your life so go ahead, Live, Love and Decorate !

Bon Appetit ~ Sarah

Dining by Design: We are on holiday!

While we are on holiday, we've been faced with extremely limited connectivity and virtually no cell service what so ever. In light of that, I thought I'd feed you a little guess who.. .a little tease of what is to come? See if you can guess which designer, who will be featured in this series, revealed the following:

Which designer tells us, "Chateau D’Yquem is my ultimate dessert!"

 A hint... a "looker" and a "talent" and hollywood elite love his/her work!

Which designer taught a french menu class in culinary school?

With that kind of background, you can count on an amazing feast with this host/hostess!

Which designer had dinner with Yoko Ono and Cyndi Lauper?

At the same table... in Yoko Ono's apartment?

Oh my goodness, the interviews are so much fun. I can't wait to continue sharing with you!!

While I'm beaching it, for the remainder of this week, tell me if you can guess who any of the designers are! You will know soon enough, because they will all be featured here!

Be back soon ~ Sarah

Dining by Design: Join Me for Dinner!

In conducting these interviews and reaching out to so many, the question has been turned back on me more than once, for my own views on dining and design. Though I have not had the honor to grace the covers or pages of shelter magazines like Veranda, Traditional Home or BHG and have yet to be interviewed by Oprah, my past experience related to dining is met with some smiles, laughs and interest simply because it is so difficult for many to imagine what dinner could have been like on a daily basis in my family.

You see, I am from a very large clan, the 12th child - well, actually 13th, which explains a lot, but I won't go there right now. Given that, can you imagine what it was like doing those dishes, let alone cook for all those hungry mouths? I have always considered some of my greatest strengths as a decorator stemming from the environment I grew up in. With a large family, you had to be practical, sensible and really, really, really good at making things “work”, whether that be dollars, space or food! [You should see how I pack a dishwasher!]

Yes, dinner in my family was different than most – with the exception of two other families in our neighborhood who shared the same kind of crazy. We lived at the top of the hill with 13 kids, further down the road was another family with parents as equally insane (kidding Mom, kidding!) – they had 12 and at the bottom of the hill, another couple, gluttoned for punishment, with 11 children. Is it any surprise that our surnames are Devaney, McNamara and Halloran? Suffice to say, young families weren’t clamoring to move in to our neighborhood, lest they be burdened with the same Irish-Catholic plight!

I suppose I should start by telling you where we ate, since that is one of the most common questions, after “how big was your house?” and “where did you all sleep?” Just think for a moment about what offers the greatest amount of seating flexibility while at the same time efficient space utilization? That’s right…. a picnic table. Yup, right spank in the middle of our kitchen. I guess in trying to visualize, it must seem odd, but to the neighborhood kids from smaller families and friends from school, there was nothing cooler than the fact that the Devaney’s had a picnic table in their kitchen. The Walton’s had nothing on us!

I must give my father credit, he was a master at space utilization and he had the table custom made because a standard picnic table was not big enough, nor would it hold up to the active household of eight boys and five girls. There was a lot of running around, sitting on tables – shhhh, don’t tell my mother - and at times, even a bit of jumping over and maybe even, on the table. Seriously though, for space utilization, benches are a great solution for kitchen, dining and breakfast areas and they don’t have to look as barbaric as a picnic table might sound.

Some of my fondest memories took place around our "dining table". It was truly the center of activity. My mother spent most of her day cooking it seemed, so when it came time for me to learn how to sew, shop was set up at that table. While she was preparing dinner, she could simultaneously help me with my sewing. Homework, playing board games - torturing one another - yup, it all took place there. But my true, fondest memory is the vision of my mother at that table. Her kids came first and she took delight in our enjoyment of her cooking. I remember watching her spoon tapioca from what seemed like the biggest bowl in the world to me back then, filling the cups and passing them down. Even then, I think I realized on some level that it was pretty amazing that she could prepare and serve us, over and over, and always seem to take joy from it! My mother made a home-cooked, from-scratch meal pretty much every day until I graduated from high school! Beyond impressive!

Did formal dining affairs ever take place at home?
Even though we always had some degree of casualness, due to the sheer size of the family, the picnic table was “dressed” for the holidays with a beautiful tablecloth, china and crystal. I have very fond memories of waking up on holiday mornings, my parents already up for hours preparing, to the smell of food cooking in the oven, which is the best kind of "alarm" to be awakened by. I loved seeing my parents working together as a team to put that day, that meal and that memory together for us.  
Traditional setting for a "normal-sized" family.
[My Aunt Sheila's home]
We had a formal dining room but honestly, I don’t ever recall- not even once - having dinner in that room. It was beautiful but we couldn’t all fit in there so our holiday meals were at the picnic table too.

What is one of my most memorable dining affairs I’ve been to?
I was fortunate to be invited to a private event in Newport, Rhode Island in one of the mansions there. To be honest, I don’t even recall which mansion, but I remember the "event" details of the evening well.  We were greeted at the mansion by the entire cooking staff; after their welcome, they ushered us off with a guide to give us a historical tour of the mansion, all the while passing wine and hors de oeuvres to keep our stomachs at bay. When the tour was over, we were brought in to the kitchen where the chef and his team walked us through the stages of preparation, revealing the amazing meal we would shortly enjoy.

We were finally seated in the dining area, elegantly dressed in blue and gold, and the bottomless wine started pouring. A musical trio of violinists appeared before a harpist entered and began playing in the corner. Then, as if soldiers in formation, the wait staff came out in a solid line and began serving the first course. There were many tables and I swear each table was served each course at the exact same time. It was an amazingly well-orchestrated event. Timing can be a challenge when entertaining, but they must have had rehearsals for this. It was perfection!

Do I prefer small intimate gatherings or large, lavish affairs?
I actually like both; however, I always want guests to feel relaxed and comfortable. When I got married, for example, I did a few things differently. I chose to serve a family-style dinner, to help break the ice that can sometimes fasten itself at a table of strangers. I spent a lot of time on the seating plan though too, really thinking about the personalities that I thought would really hit it off. I also gave the kids their own table - near their parents but on their own - which was as much a welcome change to the parents as it was a psych for the kids and I had individual cakes as the centerpiece on every table. Yes, if you haven’t already guessed, the kids table ate their cake before their meal! (Adults now, they still talk about it!)

My real comfort level is to create and participate in more casual dining. I don’t want people feeling like they need to sit uncomfortably straight and be overly concerned about what spoon or fork they are using. I want them to enjoy the food, the people and have fun!

What makes for a memorable, engaging dinner conversation?
People who are memorable and engaging! You don’t need to be a rock star to be interesting, just be someone that offers interest and humor to a conversation. I love to sit with people who are genuinely interesting because they enjoy many aspects of life, are light-hearted and can share conversation about things that are outside of themselves. In other words, I don’t usually want to talk about your job, I’d rather know about you! And, like most of us, I love people that can bring a little comedy to the evening!

If I could pick three people, however unlikely, I'd love to have dinner with, who would they be?
Aside from the many talented and interesting people I’ve been interviewing for this series, I will say, Cher, Mother Teresa and my grandmother - my mothers’ mother. Seems an odd trio, doesn’t it? I just love Cher; she is an amazing personality and talent. Despite her success, I feel that what we see is what we get and who are we kidding; I bet most of my readers would want to dine with her too!

I never met my grandmother but I know her to be beautiful through the part of her that lives through my mother and the way my mother has described and speaks of her. I think she was a woman before her time, effervescent, lively and open-minded. It would so exciting to learn more about her life and hear her reaction to the world we live in today!
Finally, Mother Teresa, one of the most gentle, humble and selfless humans to ever grace our planet; she could be seated at any table. I don’t think there is a soul in the world that would not have a million questions to ask her and I imagine – in my mind – that she could handle any question posed and any personality put in her path!

People, Place or Palate: which is most important?
My first inclination is to say all three; people can make up for anything - a lousy atmosphere, terrible food - but the latter two can not make up for lousy dinner dates, so I guess my final answer leans toward "people".

As far as palate is concerned though, darn it, there better be salt on the table and real butter. I know salt is unhealthy and one may think they have appropriately seasoned their food but “to each is own”, let them have salt if they desire. And nothing turns me off more than sitting for dinner and finding margarine on the table. It makes me question the whole meal. Seriously.

As far as place, atmosphere does add to experience, as my most memorable experience above suggests so well. I do appreciate ingenuity and thought that goes in to creating dining spaces that people feel good in and experiences that people want to remember. I hope I have done that myself for guests in my own home.

Do you have a favorite recipe that makes its way into many of your personal gatherings?
Yummy Bars! They are the only recipe I don't share. Seriously, I've never, ever known anyone else to make them, aside from one sister, so I make them every holiday season and people are drooling waiting for them. I did finally relinquish the recipe to one of my nieces just last year but I made her sign a contract of confidentiality - ha, ha. I really did!!

Is dessert required?
You bet! Isn't that really the purpose of dinner – to perform as opening act for dessert?

There we have it. I hope you enjoyed reading my experiences and thoughts on dining and design. I hope you will join us again next week, as we continue this series with another surprise featured guest you will love!

Bon Apetit ~ Sarah

Is #customwrkrmchat of Value to YOU?

When I started #customwrkrmchat my goal was to bring designers and workrooms together more collaboratively for purposes of networking and education. We have had some great topics and discussions, that is a fact. I’m not convinced the initial goal has been met, however, and am looking to all of you for feedback and candid thoughts.

Would you miss the chat if we were to discontinue it? There is a considerable amount of effort that goes in to maintaining the chat, aside from the hour of dialogue that takes place during the live chatting. I need to know if there is enough perceived value to all of you to know whether or not continuing is warranted. [I will not be offended, so please, be honest].

Here are my questions:
  1. Do “chats” still work or are we over-inundated with webinars, after-hour meetings and chats already?
  2. Are there specific content areas that you see as necessary for proactive dialogue between artists/fabricators/workrooms and interior designers and decorators?
  3. Does the time need to change back to mornings or alternate weekly between am/m or should we pick one time and stick with it?
  4. I felt that the #customwrkrmchat content differed from conversation taking place on other design-focused chats. Am I incorrect?
    • Does the content feel redundant?
    • Is the content less relevant?
  5. If you feel the chat is one to continue, do you have any suggestions to grow participation?
As you consider these questions, you may want to review topics that we’ve covered over the last year. With the exception of the first three, held in September of 2011, they are all listed with CurateDE.

Thank you so much for your support and for taking the time to provide your candid thoughts and insights to this query!


Dining by Design with Kelly Hoppen

Kelly Hoppen started her business at the age of just sixteen. Her success would be amazing anyway, age non-withstanding, however knowing that she began as a child, in my mind, makes her success - and she herself - all the more fascinating! She left school at the age of 16, was offered her first project shortly thereafter and by the age of 17 was set up with her own design practice, already responding to an affluent clientele. Who does that? Not many, that is for sure! So it is of no surprise that Kelly is a woman on many a would-love-to-have-dinner-with lists!! Dining and Design with Kelly Hoppen? Yes, please. What time should I arrive?

Kelly's thoughts on dining or the dining experience mirror the reasons I started this series, "Dining has so many different facets; it’s about entertaining, it’s about creating a stage set but most importantly it’s about getting people around a table and having conversations."
Kelly developed her aesthetic and passion for design while viewing show flats with her mother, the person she describes as her hero, and one she draws much of her inspiration and entrepreneurial genius
“She gave me a rope and slowly let it out, and from that, there grew a confidence in my own taste and abilities.”
 As she told the London Telegraph:
"I have always been obsessed with interiors. Even when I was very young my mother would ask me what I wanted to do at the weekend and I’d say I wanted to look at show houses. After my father died of a heart attack, I left school at 16 and was offered my first interiors job through a friend. By 17, I had a studio in Lots Road, Chelsea, and a business.”
World renowned and one of Britain’s most influential style gurus, Kelly Hoppen travels in circles that are much different than my own, however her aesthetic, style guides and advice can be translated to any home. With a furnishing and accessories line, KHome, a signature line of chinaware, paints, furniture, carpet, fabrics, bathroom accessories and wallpaper, this is a style icon with dining, design and life stories I will gladly pull up a chair to listen to. I invite you to grab yourself your favorite beverage and pull up a seat at the table with Kelly and I too!

What is the most memorable dinner affair you’ve been to and what made it so special?
There have been so many memorable dinners that I can't choose just one. I absolutely love hosting dinners at my house; it's all about having a great group of people, great food and music to make it special! [And what type of music, you wonder. Yes, I asked! Anything from Aretha Franklin or Motown would be likely. Surprised? I was.]

When you arrive at a dinner party, what is the first thing that you take note of?
For me, entertaining in style is always about decorating your table well, putting together a great playlist, filling your room with scent and above all, making the evening fun. So these are the things that I would probably take note of – I like to enjoy myself and have a good time with my friends and guests.
What Kelly also loves is chocolate and vodka, she revealed in a 2010 interview:  "Pleasures? Vodka and chocolate. You make your own low-fat jelly and just add the vodka. It’s like having a pudding but it’s laced with vodka.” Noted! I now know what is needed when inviting Kelly over to dine! Apparently a delight she learned from Victoria Beckham so I guess I know what to serve when I have the Beckham's for dinner as well!! I guess I've been living in the dark as I never even heard of vodka jelly. Not sure I'd get the mix right, I may be inclined to order a kit here.

We have experienced a trend, where people are often utilizing dining room space for alternate uses. Do you feel every home should have a [formal or informal] dining room?
Every home should be comfortable, and have character; after all it is character that makes your house your home. So I don’t feel that every home needs a dining room. There are always other options if a dining room is not possible. For example, I think the ‘American kitchen’ layout - open-plan kitchens - which open out onto a dining room or sitting room are great and very welcoming, as they allow everyone to integrate within the same space – no-one is left alone to cook in the kitchen.
When designing dining rooms, what informs your aesthetic and design plans for individual clients?
The majority of the people for whom I design do not have separate dining rooms, as they prefer integrated dining room-kitchens or dining-living rooms. In all of these spaces, however, I maximize the versatility of the design, so that each could be set up for all sorts of dining and, in some cases, other uses.
A table in a kitchen zone is never just for eating, and it is truly the main gathering point of the room. I always advise my clients to make the most of every inch of space in their home. You need to make sure that you will be able to move around the outside of the chairs when people are seated; lighting is also key, as are the furnishings and table dressings.
I rarely specify matching tables and chairs, as I am drawn to contrast and balance: the masculine and the feminine, the bold and the subtle, the old and the new.
If I was coming to dinner at your house, what could I expect?
I serve my guests their food on Kelly Hoppen Taupe and White plates [of course], and drinks in William Yeaon Purple glasses. For table decorations, I love to use low Perspex troughs and float flower heads in a little water, baby cacti look great as well.
What are Perspex troughs, you ask? Clear lucite containers.
Kelly fills with fruit or nature elements.
For the lighting, I always use my own small candles, which come in either black or white, which is great as you can match them to your arrangement.

My entertaining style is relaxed and I always try to ensure that the evening is fun. That way it does not matter what you serve! Cooking has never been my strong point!

In sum, Kelly has given us some real and easy gems to incorporate into our own dining by design, whether it be for a special dinner or thinking about the overall design of the dining space:
  • Incorporate nature elements;
  • Use items from the garden, that can be incorporated into the dinner, eaten, reused and/or cooked another day;
  • Create a sensory environment - sight, scent, smell, taste and touch all contribute to the dining experience; and
  • Create a space and environment so that it is conducive to enjoy the people you are with and the surroundings you are in!
In Kelly's words,
"Table design is so important; it is like setting the stage for communicating with friends and family. The art of conversation around a table has diminished and one should change your table/settings so you don’t get bored."
I think this is so true, particularly in the technological era we live in. Have you noticed it harder to keep your kids attention? Make that dinner space and time something they want to tune in for; make it a ritual that builds, strengthens and maintains relationships.

I highly recommend Kelly's book, “Ideas: Creating a Home for the Way You Live” and that you check out her iPhone and iPad app, Home Style by Kelly Hoppen, which offers some simple design guidance and video tutorials to create chic yet functional kitchen features and elegant table settings. And please do tell; what will you do differently when designing your next dining affair or space, after reading some of Kelly's tips?

Thank you for sharing a seat at the table with us!! Join us for more design icon tips for Dining by Design, with those YOU (my readers) have listed as being on your to-dine-with wish list here every week!

Bon Appetit! ~ Sarah

Dining by Design: People, Place and Palate

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have dinner with your favorite "icon", whether they be a celebrity, author, design icon or other public figure? Have you been to dinner at a friends home and been awestruck by the warmth, intimacy and creativity they invested to make the evening so special? What is it that they do differently? How do they add their own signature style? What do they talk about? Expect? Serve?

Several months ago, I started posing a Question of the Week on Fridays on Twitter. A recent question brought about rapid-fire replies.
I was intrigued by the response and conversations that followed. As I read each one, I realized that despite our multiple connections and ability to reach out to other 24/7/365 - thanks to technology and social media channels - people are still longing for more personal connections; a disconnect that Toyota did such a fabulous job poking fun at!

With that in mind, I decided to delve a bit deeper, and thus the decision to start this blog series, “Dining by Design” was born. You know, it is proven that a “family that dines together, stays together”. We all eat dinner everyday; but do we make the most of the experience? Are we creating opportunities to create a place for connecting, laughing, learning and sharing meaningful conversation….
Ok, so we can all agree that really isn’t a prime example of typical dinner conversation. Funny, classic dining scene, though, one must admit and with a well-designed interior too!

In designing spaces for clients, one of the most critical elements is to ensure that the home functions well for the family that resides there. Are designers’ personal experiences and views on dining reflected in the designs they create for their clients? These are the things I started thinking about and some of the questions I asked in order to gain insight on how we all handle, participate and view the dining experience with family and friends as it relates to a life well-lived.

Interior Designer, Jan Showers via
What better way to start such a fabulous series than to reach out to those you identified as tops on your to-dine-with wish list. My hope was that they would be welcoming to the idea and that they most certainly were; as well as humbled that so many had considered them in such a place of honor! 

Interior Designer, Barry Dixon via
I’m thrilled to share these amazing interviews with you – charming, lively, humorous and inspiring. This is about much more than design. Get ready to get personal! Each post with invited guests will reveal intimate, soul-filled and sincere interpretations. Family stories, history, heirlooms, occassional recipes and what each individually feels is most important for great dining: people, place or palate!

I know you are dying to see some names, so here is an inaugural reveal......drumroll, please: 

Brandon Smith (@dcoopsd)
Charlotte Moss (@CharlotteMossNY)
Courtney Price (@courtneymprice) 
Jamie Herzlinger (@JamieHerzlinger) 
Jan Showers (@JanShowers)
Kelly Hoppen (@IMKellyHoppen) 
Martyn Lawrence Bullard (@MartynBullard) 
Mary Douglas Drysdale (@maryddrysdale) 
Meredith Heron (@meredithheron) 
Patti Johnson (@PJohnsonInt)

..... and there will be many more! Exciting, right? I know, I feel it too! Believe me, it's a temptation to want to serve them all up to you at once but they are better spread out, like courses in a well-planned meal, so you can savor every juicy bit!

It’s has been so much fun, figuratively, sharing a seat at the table with so many through these interviews. Now, many of your favorites are on my future must-have-dinner-with list too!!

Interior Designer, Martyn Lawrence Bullard via
I hope the series whet’s your appetite with great ideas and inspiration to make your personal dining experiences more memorable, creative and fun!

See you back here for more Dining by Design next week and each week following! In the meantime, leave a comment here on the blog and tell me, who would you invite to dinner?

Bon Appetit! ~ Sarah
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