Celerie Kemble claims her childhood was in many ways a tutorial in interior decorating. She spent her formative years around construction sites, antique stores, and in the unique homes designed by her mother, Mimi Maddock McMakin, a Palm Beach native who founded Kemble Interiors, Inc. in 1982. After graduating from Harvard, Celerie worked briefly in film production before following her passion for decoration.
Since then, she has spent the past 18 years cultivating a highly publicized portfolio that is as unique and diverse as her clientele. In addition, she has created fabrics and wall coverings for Schumacher, a collection of lighting and accessories with Arteriors, a decorative collection of floor coverings with Merida, home accessories with Maitland-Smith, a collection of textiles and soft goods with Eastern Accents, curtain hardware with Classical Elements, mirrors with Mirror Image Home, floor tiles with Mirth, home fragrances and accents with Secret Celebrity, and an outdoor furniture line with Lane Venture. Her most current project is the dining room for the Modernism Week Show House 2019 at The Christopher Kennedy Compound, open February 14-24, 2019.
Celerie is a tastemaker known for her candor, humor, and approachable design advice, and she is also an expert when it comes to entertaining. Today I am delighted to welcome Celerie to The Glam Pad as she reveals her tips for becoming the perfect hostess! I am also sharing some of my favorite highlights from her extraordinary portfolio. Welcome, Celerie!
Q: Please tell me about the inspiration behind your show house dining room. How was it inspired by Palm Springs and the Christopher Kennedy Compound?
A: Having grown up in the tropics, I am not a desert creature, so I wanted to bring water to the desert. The color palette is what I imagine might emerge after a desert rainstorm – greens amid golds with a few bursts of floral colors. In a nod to this growth, the walls are clad in climbing gold vines, a print from my recent collection with Schumacher. The Floridian in me is always playing with palm fronds but in this case, the spinney branches of the wallpaper felt like desert agave. The table I chose has a terrazzo top and was made for me by the furniture makers at CBM. The stone brings together the gold of the smoke trees and the sagey tones of desert growth that informed my palette. Last but not least, there is an element of glamour in Palm Springs, which I hope suffuses the entire room.
Q: What are the most important principles to keep in mind when designing a dining room conducive to entertaining and modern life?
A: The dining room is most apparently an entertaining space, but it is also a storage space for your most attractive accoutrements. The essentials of a successful dining room include comfortable seating, and good lighting. When you think of dining room furniture, it is generally very spartan, I opt for pieces that are sculptural as they have the power to elevate a room. It is important to put forward a design where the practical elements feel like art – and a good place to do this is lighting. Lighting in the dining room also enables you to put your hand on the joystick of mood. It’s an opportunity to use shadow play to make your guests feel their most beautiful. In this dining room in Palm Springs, I opted to use my own lights from my collection with Arteriors. The fixtures are perforated which creates a dimensionally dynamic and dappling light.
Q: And how do you plan the rest of the home so it is welcoming and flows well when entertaining?
A: When I am planning a space, I like to think of my furniture as having conversations. This enables each piece to relate to the other. It is also essential to have chairs you can pull up or move around for the occasions when you have overflow and guests need a place to sit.
Q: What does a Celerie Kemble dinner party look like?
A: I always invite people into the process of bartending, cooking, and serving. I think the participation in the kitchen and around the bar makes people feel at ease. I think of it as adding the energy of each guest to the collective party energy and think it yields the most fun.
Q: Do you have a signature recipe you might share?
A: I’m obsessed with my instant pot, and right now I love the pork recipe by Melissa Clark. It’s a reliable recipe that you can make in advance, both things I require in a recipe when I am throwing a party. Careful it’s spicy!
Q: How did your mother and your upbringing in Palm Beach influence your entertaining style?
A: My mother’s home is always ready for guests and an impromptu party. We both decorate as if we’re expecting a crowd. Setting life up for an impromptu party takes off the pressure for perfectionism. The trick to this is to keep cheese, crackers, and wine on hand.
Q: What are the key elements to consider when entertaining? How does one become a successful hostess?
A: Enjoying yourself in the process of throwing a party makes your guests enjoy themselves. Usually people are coming to your house to feel closer to you and to spend time with the friends you’re bringing together, not to assess your skills as a chef, sommelier or hostess.
Q: How do you recuperate if a disaster occurs, and do you have an example?
A: I have had someone show up the day after a party was planned because they mixed up the date on their calendar. In this case, it’s nice to be ready for the aforementioned impromptu party. That means having cheese, crackers, and wine on ready supply in the house. That will buy you enough time to order takeout. If the house is messy from the night before, don’t apologize. They might like you more if they see your house can get messy too.
Q: What is your favorite hostess gift to bring when you are invited to someone’s home?
A: I’m a terrible gift giver, but if I am organized enough, I’ll bring a recent book I’ve enjoyed that I think the host might like. In most cases, I’ll just bring a good bottle of wine.
Thank you, Celerie, for these amazing tips! To learn more, please visit Kemble Interiors, Inc. You can also follow @celerie and @kemble_interiors on Instagram. And I highly recommend Celerie’s books Celerie Kemble: To Your Taste and Black and White: And a Bit in Between.
“In life as in design, it is not perfection you should be after. There’s beauty in the faded and worn, the well loved, and the sentimental…After all, life has seams. Your home should be like a loosely woven fabric of desires, memories, practical, notions, and even compromises.” – Celerie Kemble