Holiday party season is nearly here! I love to entertain, but I'm hardly a hostess extraordinaire. (Sending an understanding guest to the corner store to haul back a bag of ice because you forgot to refill the trays is deeply uncool.) So when celebrated New York designer Bunny Williams — by all accounts an entertaining whiz — launched a collection of party essentials for Ballard Designs, I asked her how she makes it look so easy and what she's working on next.
Kimberley Brown: What's the key to hosting a successful party?
Bunny Williams: I always try to plan for everything ahead of time so that I am able to enjoy the party along with my guests.
KB: What's your favourite way to entertain?
BW: I love to have a seated dinner, but serve the food on a long buffet so that guests can feel free to help themselves. We'll use a large dinner plate and offer our guests three or four choices of dishes. Then the table is cleared and a dessert is served on small plates. Afterwards, we'll move to the living room for coffee and tea.
KB: Your new collection for Ballard Designs includes dishes, linens and holiday decorations. What ties them all together?
BW: I always say, the more prepared you are, the easier it will be to entertain. This collection comprises all you need to ready your home for guests, from tabletop items and cachepots for flowers, to a wonderfully smelling scented candle and beautiful bone or rattan holders for guest towels.
KB: Any plans to add to the collection in the future?
BW: We are already hard at work on the next collection which will debut in Spring/Summer 2015 and will include outdoor entertaining and tabletop items along with wall decor.
Pick up our December 2014 issue for more on Bunny's new line.
Looking to add some warmth and personality to your home for the winter? Wallpapering a room — or even one wall — does both and is an easy way to introduce pattern. These 2014 prints from Farrow & Ball are small enough for tiny powder rooms, but would make an impact on a large bedroom wall, too. Here are my picks:
Browse our Wallpapered Rooms gallery for more inspiration.
1-4. Farrow & Ball
Earlier this summer, I had the pleasure of going behind-the-scenes at West Elm's HQ in Dumbo, Brooklyn. Only days before, former president Bill Clinton had also visited the office. He was there to learn more about the brand's commitment to pay $35 million directly to artisans around the world who produce products for West Elm using handcrafted techniques — and the buzz of his visit still lingered, leaving everyone in high spirits.
I was soon being led past beautiful rooms where product for Holiday 2014 was perfectly styled and presented, and into the busy design offices where shelves were messily piled with samples, walls were littered with pictures and palettes, and the seeds of new ideas were being planted and grown.
Jonathan Orr, West Elm's VP of design for textiles and decorative accessories, had recently returned with his team from Peru carrying armfuls of pottery, blankets, knits and photographs that were laid out on tables. Why Peru? Orr said something about it being "in the air" — you see a nod to it here, a hint of it there, and suddenly it's of the moment... or it will be next spring and fall, when the designers at West Elm turn their inspirations into the pieces we'll all be coveting in 2015.
Expect to see lots of fabulous fringe, shaggy textures, bright but earthy colours and beautifully woven textiles. I was surprised to discover that there's a mini loom right in the office, which is used to work out patterns and create the samples that are later put into production.
Indeed, a lot of design work, at least in the initial stages, is still done the old fashioned way — by hand. In an area removed from the main offices, down a hallway and tucked behind industrial shelves stuffed with stock, was what amounted to an art studio. Pots of paint, colour-stained brushes and clusters of mini bottles topped with eye droppers crowded a long desk. I also spotted delicate watercolour sketches that may one day be turned into patterns for bedding and textiles.
Images painted for spring and summer 2015 had already made the leap from paper to pillows.
I was particularly excited to see these two mood boards. Alexander Calder is one of my favourite artists, and while Scandinavian mid-century is hardly a new idea in 2014, never mind 2015, I found myself swooning over the tangerine, midnight blue and cream palette. Perhaps it's time for me to get my own hands dirty with a little paint.
While I was in New York, I spent the weekend at the new Ludlow Hotel on the Lower East Side. The hotel, which is owned by the same team behind The Marlton, opened its doors in early June and was still undergoing construction when I was there, but any resulting inconveniences were overshadowed by the serendipitous moments that came out of the dust. After a maintenance man visited my room to monitor the air conditioning, he kindly snuck me up to the unfinished rooftop to take in the incredible view and peer into the windows of the still-unfinished luxury suites. Once the hammers and the drills fall silent, I will be back.
This is the courtyard, where I enjoyed breakfast.
And here some professional pics of the rooms.
1-10. Kimberley Brown
11-12. Ludlow Hotel
Both The Wall Street Journal and The Huffington Post U.K. recently ran stories on the rise of the 'shelfie' – a buzzy word for the trend on social media of sharing photographs of artfully arranged items.
The habit is hardly news to design fans: we've been posting pics like these since the dawn of Instagram, when such shots were quaintly known as 'vignettes' or 'tableaux vivants'.
These photos help us define our style, get inspiration and see the beauty in the everyday – that is, until they become cliché. I couldn't help but laugh – and wince a little – at the five repetitive shelfie motifs identified by WSJ. I'm guilty of at least two. Do you see yourself on the list?
1) The Stunning Espresso
2) The Haunting Glass Cloche
3) The Casual Magazine Tableau
4) The Evocative Pair of Spectacles
5) The Strangely Popular in Norway Wooden Hand
See designers' tricks for styling bedside tables.
1. Photography by Ashley Capp
2. May 2009 House & Home, photo by Heather Ross
3. Latte via Pinterest
4. Cloche via Pinterest, photography by Renee Arns
5. Magazine via Live The Fancy Life Blog
6. Eye glasses via Real Simple
7. Wooden hand via Pinterest
I think we can all agree that January is bananas. Everyone is doing everything with fresh resolve, from hitting the gym to fixing up our homes. The result is a sort of frantic optimism that usually simmers down to a sustainable productivity. (Or completely evaporates, but I'm still being optimistic!). Perhaps not coincidentally, the calendar is chockablock with events that aim to inspire design enthusiasts to update, upgrade and embrace change.
In Toronto, the Interior Design Show (IDS), Come Up to My Room, Capacity and Toronto Design Offsite all kick off this week. This year, IDS welcomes Moroso's Creative Director Patrizia Moroso as international guest of honour; the above sofa is by Marc Thorpe for the brand. In Paris, Maison & Objet takes place from January 24 to 28 and will reveal what's new and next from nearly 3,000 different brands. And NY Now will do the same on this side of the pond from February 1 to 6.
But don't let all of this attention on the latest and greatest obscure the biggest trend of 2014. Marketers already have a term for it: JOMO or The Joy of Missing Out. The decade came in on a wave of frantic connectivity that made us social voyeurs and left us constantly wondering, "Are we missing out?" A few years older and wiser, our collective answer is, "So what?"
Twice a month, Google is hosting silent "mindful lunches." App creators are giving us guided meditation sessions at our fingertips. And our homes are reflecting this desire to stop multitasking and live in the moment.
The trend doesn't manifest itself as a style so much as an attitude. As I hop from event to event deciding what's hot and what's not, I'll be asking myself: Is this of the moment? More than ever, the answer will have less to do with colour and finish, and everything to do with how we want to live in the here and now.
I've been noticing a softer decorating palette for the holidays: candy-cane hues of red, white and bright green are taking a back seat to pinks, orange, forest, mint and gold. Delicious! Stationery company Rifle Paper Co. nails the mix in their holiday card collection. Here are my two favourite takes. Hopefully they inspire you!
Pale pink takes the spotlight, dressed up with ribbons of gold and sage with coral accents.
I'd love to see this pretty combination on a tall statement tree.
Minty blue and greens ground sugary pops of pink, and persimmon orange.
A house strung with evergreen garlands and lush wreaths would look great updated in these colours. Happy holidays everyone!
1, 3. Kimberley Brown
2, 4. Justine Wong