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After a year of decorating to maximise comfort, homeowners happily spruce up their digs to entertain again.

Wed, Jul 7, 2021 10:29amGrey Clock 5 min

BOOTY’S IS now, finally, open for business.

The bar is not a commercial establishment, though Kiki Dikmen, a logistics executive, would probably be thrilled to see you. With the help of interior designer Lucinda Loya, he built the bar in his Houston home. It has Mediterranean-blue walls, cloudy mirrors and smoke rings painted on the ceiling. The space was a pandemic labour of love that he recently unveiled to friends and family on his birthday.

“We gave everybody who came a gift—monogrammed masks that said ‘Booty’s’,” said Mr. Dikmen.

Just as the pandemic is winding down for most people in the United States, an end-demic is revving up. Interior designers, furniture showrooms and tableware retailers report that after months of isolation, clients and customers can’t wait to welcome family, friends, colleagues—hell, just about anyone—into their homes. “They feel as though they’ve walked through the fire and survived. They want to reward themselves for the sacrifices and, in many cases, profound losses that they’ve experienced over the last year and a half,” said Palm Beach designer Jim Dove.

With gregarious abandon, homeowners are upgrading décor with a “you only live once” verve that some designers say is unprecedented. Hermès-orange vanities. Gold-striped ceilings.

“Warhol-flowered wallpaper? Yes, please!” said San Francisco designer Katie McCaffrey, who recently clad a powder room with the pop artist’s psychedelic hibiscus.

Sean Anderson, an interior designer in Memphis, Tenn., senses a déjà vu: “I keep hearing people refer to the months and years ahead as the Roaring Twenties, and that is absolutely reflected in some choices that are being made right now.”

The Rug Company has seen a 46% increase in online visits to its “Bright Rug” category, a spokesman said. Among those eye-popping carpets: swirling rainbows and blown-out florals by fashion designers Paul Smith and Mary Katrantzou, respectively. Resource Furniture has seen a noticeable uptick in demand for wall beds that convert home offices into guest rooms. At online furniture seller France & Son, sales of extension dining tables and stacking chairs have increased 40% year over year, said owner Kevin Wu. “We’re getting a lot of calls from people who say they need things delivered in time for a holiday. Memorial Day was just crazy.”

As we say goodbye to social distancing and hello to socializing, folks who had already dolled up their outdoor spaces—because that was the only safe place to get together—are now laying plans to welcome guests into the house. Here’s a room-by-room rundown of the joyful upgrades homeowners have in store for their visitors.

‘Downtown’ Dining Rooms

Chicago firm KBS Interiors is kitting out a dining room for a family that had decamped to the suburbs but who, as vaccinations began rolling out, wanted to make the room “a splashy, lively space to make up for lost time,” said Ana Nardi, co-founder of KBS. Plans include sculptural velvet chairs and a gnarly-chic sideboard made of live-edge wood. “They want their homes to feel more like the hotels and restaurants they missed going to.”

Many suddenly social homeowners want to break bread with as big a crowd as they can shoehorn—stylishly—into their homes. Interior designer Cara Fox in Salt Lake City said clients are requesting extra dining room chairs to accommodate hordes. To seat more guests, Greensboro, N.C., couple David and Rachel Lezcano recently bought a vintage midcentury Heywood-Wakefield dining table that expands—it came with two leaves—to seat up to 10 guests. The Lezcanos, who this week hosted their first dinner party in more than a year, seated six with the use of one leaf. “We’re so excited to have people come into our house again and make it feel alive,” he said.

Nontraditional Tabletop

“We are seeing a huge increase in sales of entertaining and tableware pieces, specifically in very large sets of glasses and plates,” said Noel Fahden, vice president of merchandising at online vintage retail site Chairish. Cocktail napkins are flying off the shelves, as are taper candles, “which is interesting, because typically we would see taper candle sales peak in the fall when there’s less daylight—not around the longest day of the year!” said Ms. Fahden.

And though glassware and candlesticks conjure thoughts of meticulous place settings, Dana Wolter, a designer in Mountain Brook, Ala., sees clients having fun with china patterns and textiles. “It’s formal entertaining but with a more organic and casual flair,” she said.

An earthy bestseller at tableware maker Haand in Burlington, N.C., is the brown Burl collection, which has “flecks of golden colour swirled” into the surface of each porcelain plate, said Haand co-founder Mark Warren. “One of our largest recent orders was 56 pieces, which the customer had mailed to a vacation house,” said Mr. Warren.

That customer happened to be Bob Pittman, creator of MTV Networks and a former chairman of AOL.

Reached by phone, Mr. Pittman described how he was recently overtaken by a strong and unusual desire to elevate his dinnerware. “If you had asked me about my dishes two years ago when I was rushing in and out of the house, I would have said I literally haven’t thought about it in 20 years,” he said. “But during quarantine, I realized I’d let a lot of stuff go to hell and I needed to upgrade. So I bought one piece, and then it became an addiction,” said Mr. Pittman. “Now I’ve got cabinets filled with it.”

Floral arrangements, too, are busting loose. “The formal centrepiece is a thing of the past,” said interior designer Heidi Caillier of Seattle. “Now people are jamming together just-picked wildflowers, poppies and peonies that they grew in their quarantine gardens.”

Dressed-Up Guest Rooms

In anticipation of company post-lockdown, Portland, Maine, resident Candace Karu sold her condo a few months ago and upsized to a 1920s Dutch Colonial that has a spacious spare bedroom. Of course, with travel restrictions then in place, Ms. Karu had no idea when she’d actually be able to have her first sleepover.

“I have far-flung friends and was just hoping they would eventually be able to come and stay,” she said.

In an act of hope, she asked her daughter, interior designer Tyler Karu, to transform the guest bedroom into “the most beautiful room of the house.”

They chose luminous green paint for the walls. “It looks like a colour Vermeer would have used,” Candace Karu said, “and there’s a little corner with a comfy chair, and the bed sits very high so it has a beautiful view of the Portland skyline.” The window shade is a boldly striped fabric by local textiles artist Kels Haley, who created the design in homage to the costumes of 1920s flappers who were “dripping in pearls and wearing elaborate headdresses.”

Operation Houseguest officially got under way after travel restrictions ended in May. “I’ve got a full schedule pencilled in for the rest of the summer,” Ms. Karu said.

Showstopping Kitchens

To create a welcoming atmosphere, clients are looking for “unshackled whimsy” in kitchen décor this year, said New York interior designer Nancy Mayerfield, who has been fielding clients’ requests for coloured appliances. “In recent months, we’ve done blue Lacanche ovens and white Bertazzoni ovens,” said interior designer Keren Richter of White Arrow in New York.

Two homeowners also transformed formerly humble kitchens into spaces fit for company. “We just did a kitchen island that seats eight to 10 people,” said Ms. Nardi of Chicago’s KBS. “We put in a very deep kitchen sink, so guests won’t see the mess.”

In Atlanta, homeowner Jaya Krishnaswami last month upgraded her kitchen with a new pantry with sliding storage shelves and cubbies, designed by California Closets. “We’re having a lot of family coming to visit and I wanted to be organized,” she said. This month Ms. Krishnaswami is hosting 10 relatives who are flying in for a family reunion.

Home Saloons

Not all revellers who desire a domestic watering hole are turning to A-list designers to execute their dreams, à la Mr. Dikmen. Some find accoutrements themselves from sources like 1stDibs, a spokeswoman for whom said the site has seen a noticeable increase in demand for bar carts, dry bars, wine coolers and barware in the last three months.

After moving in May to a new apartment in Ontario, Calif., homewares stylist Miranda Rose Farmer created a serve-your-own bar nook in her dining room. Anchoring the alcove is a console table with three shelves floating above. “The aha moment was when I got a Lazy-susan tray for wine bottles. People can just spin it to whatever bottle they want,” she said. She stocked the nook with pale pink wine glasses, a cut-glass cocktail shaker with a rose-gold metal cap and green shot glasses. “I love the decadence of having people over again and I wouldn’t want to spoil that feeling by serving them drinks in plastic Solo cups.”


Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: July 3, 2021


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What We Fight About When We Fight About Money

New research tackles the source of financial conflict and what we can do about it

Mon, Nov 27, 2023 3 min

When couples argue over money, the real source of the conflict usually isn’t on their bank statement.

Financial disagreements tend to be stand-ins for deeper issues in our relationships, researchers and couples counsellors said, since the way we use money is a reflection of our values, character and beliefs. Persistent fights over spending and saving often doom romantic partnerships: Even if you fix the money problem, the underlying issues remain.

To understand what the fights are really about, new research from social scientists at Carleton University in Ottawa began with a unique data set: more than 1,000 posts culled from a relationship forum on the social-media platform Reddit. Money was a major thread in the posts, which largely broke down into complaints about one-sided decision-making, uneven contributions, a lack of shared values and perceived unfairness or irresponsibility.

By analysing and categorising the candid messages, then interviewing hundreds of couples, the researchers said they have isolated some of the recurring patterns behind financial conflicts.

The research found that when partners disagree about mundane expenses, such as grocery bills and shop receipts, they tend to have better relationships. Fights about fair contributions to household finances and perceived financial irresponsibility are particularly detrimental, however.

While there is no cure-all to resolve the disputes, the antidote in many cases is to talk about money more, not less, said Johanna Peetz, a professor of psychology at Carleton who co-authored the study.

“You should discuss finances more in relationships, because then small things won’t escalate into bigger problems,” she said.

A partner might insist on taking a vacation the other can’t afford. Another married couple might want to separate their previously combined finances. Couples might also realize they no longer share values they originally brought to the relationship.

Recognise patterns

Differentiating between your own viewpoint on the money fight from that of your partner is no easy feat, said Thomas Faupl, a marriage and family psychotherapist in San Francisco. Where one person sees an easily solvable problem—overspending on groceries—the other might see an irrevocable rift in the relationship.

Faupl, who specialises in helping couples work through financial difficulties, said many partners succeed in finding common ground that can keep them connected amid heated discussions. Identifying recurring themes in the most frequent conflicts also helps.

“There is something very visceral about money, and for a lot of people, it has to do with security and power,” he said. “There’s permutations on the theme, and that could be around responsibility, it could be around control, it could be around power, it could be around fairness.”

Barbara Krenzer and John Stone first began their relationship more than three decades ago. Early on in their conversations, the Syracuse, N.Y.-based couple opened up about what they both felt to be most important in life: spending quality time with family and investing in lifelong memories.

“We didn’t buy into the big lifestyle,” Krenzer said. “Time is so important and we both valued that.”

For Krenzer and Stone, committing to that shared value meant making sacrifices. Krenzer, a physician, reduced her work hours while raising their three children. Stone trained as an attorney, but once Krenzer went back to full-time work, he looked for a job that let him spend the mornings with the children.

“Compromise: That’s a word they don’t say enough with marriage,” Krenzer said. “You have to get beyond the love and say, ‘Do I want to compromise for them and find that middle ground?’”

Money talks

Talking about numbers behind a behaviour can help bring a couple out of a fight and back to earth, Faupl said. One partner might rue the other’s tightfistedness, but a discussion of the numbers reveals the supposed tightwad is diligently saving money for the couple’s shared future.

“I get under the hood with people so we can get black-and-white numbers on the table,” he said. “Are these conversations accurate, or are they somehow emotionally based?”

Couples might follow tenets of good financial management and build wealth together, but conflict is bound to arise if one partner feels the other isn’t honouring that shared commitment, Faupl said.

“If your partner helps with your savings goals, then that feels instrumental to your own goals, and that is a powerful drive for feeling close to the partner and valuing that relationship,” he said.

A sense of mission

When it comes to sticking out the hard times, “sharing values is important, even more so than sharing personality traits,” Peetz said. In her own research, Peetz found that romantic partners who disagreed about shared values could one day split up as a result.

“That is the crux of the conflict often: They each have a different definition,” she said of themes such as fairness and responsibility.

And sometimes, it is worth it to really dig into the potentially difficult conversations around big money decisions. When things are working well, coming together to achieve these common goals—such as saving for your own retirement or preparing for your children’s financial future—will create intimacy, not money strife.

“That is a powerful drive for feeling close to the partner and valuing that relationship,” she said.


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