This week marks the time of year where we spend more time being hosts and guests. Whether you’re traveling to your childhood home (how lucky are you?), welcoming your son home from college, hoping a flight across the country, or hosting dinner for 20, this time of year helps define how we host. To me, being the ultimate host is making my guests feel comfortable and welcome in my home. This is true luxury-to give comfort, not things. A warm blanket, or a fresh bar of soap isn’t expensive, but so welcome to weary travelers. My clients tell me time and time again, that they want their weddings to feel as though they’re opening their doors for the best dinner party of their lives. How better do we do this than through food? So many cultures embrace food as the vehicle to show love, appreciation, bounty, history… everything. You may make a traditional meal, volunteer at the homeless shelter, or grill your favorite cut of meat. But whatever you do that makes your holiday season meaningful, it’s this act of bringing family and friends together at the table that is the perfect showcase of luxury. Maybe it is setting the perfect table on the family china that makes it feel special to you because that was the tradition in your family (like it was mine), but maybe it’s just having enough wine, or making that one special dish because your mother made it, and her mother before her. Cooking together, sharing family recipes, and the act of passing the dishes around the table says more about you than the way it looks. Whatever it is that you do, it’s making your guests feel right a home that makes you the perfect host. Nothing more.
A small little moment happened like that for our family last night-we got home late from various appointments, everyone starving. For once, I had planned a meal in advance, and while we waited for our chicken to cook in the oven, I seared some bread Seth had brought home from the Publican, and made a little snack while we waited. As I layered the cheese, tomatoes and basil on the bread seared in the oil, I took pride in providing fresh, simple ingredients to provide a hearty snack for my family. And, as they ran down the stairs, shoving the food in their hungry mouths, I knew that they could want for no more in that moment, and I was, in effect, giving them everything they needed. And in that, there is nothing more luxurious.
Jenny and Mitch were one of my most fun couples to date. They arrived in the studio separately, Mitch coming first, feeling right at home, from striking up a conversation about ethical graphic design pricing (inspired by a look through my bookshelf) to pretending Jenny had gotten the wrong studio by speaking in an accent when she rang the buzzer. When they sat down for their custom consultation, they immediately starting joking around how hilarious it would be to go super formal for their wedding invitations, and more specifically, by having me create a custom crest. Neither have the backgrounds that have custom heraldry, so spinning what used to be considered royal for their humble coupling seemed incredibly ironic, and a perfect fit for their personalities.
We went through a multitude of ideas for things to include, from their pup, Poughkeepsie, to transformers, to unicorns. I encouraged them to keep some of the formality, as I thought this could be something that could last. (perhaps premonition of our china and linen line, launched in late 2009?). So we included the city stars of Chicago, a symbol of fertility, their initials, and the aforementioned unicorns. We used a warm color palette of bronze, chocolate, and mustard for their paper suite, and played with the text to reflect their senses of humor. Their bronze engraved invitations were a great match for the warmth of their destination wedding in Mexico.
We used this inscription from the bible for the back of their evelopes, and then later on our custom linen runner.
I am truly grateful to Jenny and Mitch, for being the inspiration for many more crests to come and our Monogram Collection. It really all started with them; I’m thrilled they made it such a fun process for me too.
The annual Empire State Building Valentine’s Day Contest is fast approaching. For those of you that aren’t aware, couples submit a creative proposal via two minute video by December 5th detailing their personal love story for the chance to have their dream wedding atop the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day. This year, RedEnvelope, along with ProFlowers, are designing the three winning weddings. For full rules and a list of prizes, please visit Empire’s Facebook Page.
What an amazing opportunity, right? If you’re going to get married atop the world’s most iconic building, there’s pretty much only one style that will work: Classic. Black and white with hints of red combine for a picturesque color palette, Clean lined wedding cake, personalized accessories for him, and, of course, hire a photographer who has a classic influence for photos that capture the day.
Tux, Table Decor, Peony Bouquet, Personalized Pillowcases, Wedding Dress, Cufflinks, Pocket Watch, Fragrance, Pillow, New York Skyline Wedding Invitation
I love this idea for your wedding, but you could also adapt for your next dinner party, potluck dessert gathering, or thanksgiving table: Recipe Card place cards. Kelly from Nimble Well was producing a photo shoot for upcoming spring and fall trends in table decor, and we collaborated with Julia Franzosa to produce this autumnal spread. Kelly even made this incredible German almond-topped cake (I know because we ate it afterwards) from Smitten Kitchen’s recipe to showcase the idea of individual cakes per guest table at a wedding reception.
This is a great way to have Family Style service at your wedding. Each table gets an individual cake, maybe even different cakes for each table. These can be made by family members, or ask your local bakery to create them for you. Then, turn the recipe into a place card / take away for each guest. Family style service is a great way to get to know your table mates, and is my favorite way to serve at a wedding. We served our food this way at our long rectangular tables at my own wedding, and everyone loved the intimate and casual vibe.
Speaking of intimate and casual dining, have you gotten your ticket to Kinfolk and Estera Events collaborative dinner in Michigan City this weekend?
Those of you who know kinfolk- the quarterly, ad-free, photo heavy, uncoated paged magazine know: That simplicity is the highest form of elegance. Kinfolk makes everything look amazing, from gathering wood for a fire, to starting holiday traditions, to vacationing alone. It’s the almost impossible lifestyle magazine, but, unlike other magazines where perfection is the goal, Kinfolk allows you to believe that anyone could attain this understated way of life, if only you took an afternoon off now and again to unplug.
Well, do so this Saturday with Kinfolk, me, Estera Events, Nimble Well, Rare Bird Preserves, and more, for a truly unique experience to celebrate the release of Kinfolk’s Cookbook, At the Table.
Meet at Parson’s Chicken and Fish for a school bus ride to Tryon Farms, where modern homes meet country living in Michiana, where we’ll enjoy beer, whisky, and snacks before hopping on a hayride. Dinner will include savory english style pies from Pleasant House Bakery. (I ate here last weekend in Three Oaks, Michigan, and it was amazing!) Weather permitting, we may even have a bonfire.
Just look at the photos from Estera’s last event at Camp Wandawega with Kinfolk, and I think you’ll see why I’m so excited about this one!
Use the code FRIENDSFAMILY for $35 off the ticket and read a full description of the event. I can’t wait to have a day off to relax in the country. See you there!
It is so nice to get away from the city some days. Especially in fall, when the colors are at their peak. I think the color was a bit green still, but we had a great day in the country yesterday, collecting pumpkins from my brother-in-law’s garden in Michigan, orchard exploring, and just enjoying the weather and company of each other.
When designing a custom wedding collection for our clients, we manage a host of details. First there’s the details you see, from edge painting, to hand calligraphy, to engraved text, or ultra thick paper. Maybe a wash of watercolor paint. But then there are behind the scenes details of production, from keeping track of the edits and emails, paper choices and print schedules. Making sure their invitations are in the mail on time, and the calligraphy is in the correct color. It’s these details that make something custom, and unique. Anyone can buy a pre-designed shoe, or car, or blazer, and you get what you see. But when you have something custom made for you, you get to pick what color the contrast lining of your classic blazer is, or the piping on the leather interior of your new car, or the liner color of your envelope. It’s these details that elevate the products we buy from something ordinary to exquisite. I feel lucky that I have the opportunity to learn what’s important to my clients in our custom consultations and conversations, and provide truly custom home and paper products that represent their individual style.
Minimalistic. Rustic Utilitarian. Handmade. The New Antiquarian Movement, What each of these sensibilities have in common is at the core of it’s values: authenticity. Whether it’s a vintage sofa, still encased in it’s nubby olive green fabric, or a beautiful belt buckle, carved from locally sourced, ethically harvested ash and sanded by hand, or just a beautiful piece of linen, woven in small batches, and sewn into oversized napkins. A direct response to the mass manufactured items that are available at the click of a button, this stripping back of the extraneous uncovers what is true and at it’s core.
It’s personal. Intimate. You have to be okay with getting to the heart of the matter, whether it’s stripping back all paint from the trim in your home to uncover the rich vintage oak, or taking your entire weekend to harvest, can, and catalogue your garden’s yield of tomatoes. Making a quilt from the your children’s baby clothes you’ve saved for 20 years. There may be challenges and setbacks that you have to overcome; time you won’t get back. I mean, maybe your homemade salad dressing doesn’t taste that great at first. But in the end, the reward of sourcing and creating, restoring and rebuilding, leaves a satisfaction that just can’t be had by any other way.
This photograph, taken by Elizabeth Messina at our monogram collection photo shoot a couple years ago, captures this sensibility perfectly: a woven Belgian linen napkin, embroidered with a monogram that was developed purposefully with the couple who commissioned it. A fork, from my mother-in-laws vintage silver collection, handed down by her mother. The natural light, captured on this overcast September day. It’s something you can touch. It’s a story you can tell. It was created with thought and care. It’s real.
So much going on this summer…but what’s new? I love to stay busy, and this summer, each custom project brings on new and interesting treatments and challenges, as we try to catch just the right balance of showcasing our client’s personal style, while staying true to our own.
Here are a few I’ve quickly shot on my new favorite camera (my iphone).
One of my personal favorites, these personalized menus culminated a year long project on a northern California wedding. Haley and Riley’s understated, modern style was right in line with ours, making it less a job, more a rewarding project:
We hand water-colored these cotton invitations, which were hand drawn for the bride to showcase her Scottish ceremony location:
And these custom die cuts make up the Teton Mountain Range for an interesting take on a mountain wedding:
And, this week we delivered these classic gold engraved invitations for The Langham Chicago’s grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony.
826CHI is one of those supremely special places. A non-profit writing center for kids that offers workshops, field trips and tutoring for city kids, all free. Not just in Chicago, there’s 826LA, Boston, NYC- in all, 8 cities that provide this valuable service to kids ages 8-18.
I’ve volunteered at the Chicago location over the years, and this year decided that it was time for me to offer a workshop of my own. Craft and Write a Letter was a two day workshop where we taught 11 5th, 6th and 7th graders to create their own original stationery, and then write a letter on that stationery.
These kids were so creative! Each of them crafted something so unique and interesting; from shaped stationery, to origami, to multiple wraps and interesting folds, to hand painting. One of the students even tea stained cotton paper, after we spoke about how this is a way to get an interesting color to the paper.
This is the unique, handmade, tea stained envelope.
This is a handmade envelope a student made.
I had two teacher assistants that helped demonstrate some of the practices we use at Sarah Drake: edge painting, envelope lining and construction, multiple wrapped string and pearl, and each student really took off, creating just what spoke to them.
The tables were filled with ideas, paper, glue, and crafts, just like our studio table gets after a creative invitation consultation.
Writing the letters was the second session, and the students each wrote lengthy letters to friends, family and past teachers. The time really flew by, and hopefully, I’ll get to offer this class again, as I really felt like it was important to teach this to kids who mostly tweet, text and instagram as their main form of communication.