I have some exciting news: I’ve started an interior design business! After thinking about this idea and working on it in earnest for quite some time, I’m stoked to announce Next Dinner Party Designs, my design consulting one-woman business is a reality.
Please do check out my new design website, but know that this here blog isn’t going anywhere and I’ll continue to write about design, travel, food, foreign service stuff, and more here at The Next Dinner Party. Next Dinner Party Designs is a design consulting business that is aimed at folks like me who move around often and want to make their home abroad feel like home. But you don’t need to be abroad to benefit from an enthusiastic person with a good eye like myself helping you figure out what to buy, how to use the beautiful things you already own, and how to arrange and style your rooms for optimal enjoyment. Consider working with me. It’ll be great fun. Or, at least you can sign up for the monthly Next Dinner Party Designs newsletter, which will include all the design things inspiring me currently, and thoughts on topics like what to buy while on vacation or living abroad and how to make those items work in your home.
How I got here: For my entire cognizant life, I’ve been compelled to create spaces that impart a certain feeling. In my doll-playing childhood, this manifested itself in me creating elaborate sets for Barbies like imagining a swimming pool as an octupus-infested cove (entirely inspired by a spooky episode of Baywatch); designing a hotel lobby and two guest suites for a “simple” game of hotel in our basement; and creating an elaborate forest scene diorama so my plastic lizard Bobrick could live in his native land no matter lizards actually live in drier climes as I’d only much later realize.
I convinced my mom to let me redecorate my high school bedroom and it turns out electric green walls with a black and white geometric shape border made for a harsher vibe than I’d expected. I planned and fantasized all summer before college at my Western Michigan University dorm room would look like and I even went so far as to get a comforter and pillow sham for my roommate, who would be moving from Alaska, and it’s a wonder she didn’t go put in for a new, potentially less-controlling roommate. When my college friends chose a ramshackle group house Kalamazoo’s “student ghetto” I arrived early (again, with my mom, ever up for a back-breaking design challenge) and painted essentially the entire interior of the house. Did it again the following year when we moved into a four-bedroom attic apartment in a Victorian.
But it wasn’t until I moved to Washington DC that I really learned the “if you build it/they will come” power of a well-designed space. When I was in my early 20s, I wanted nothing more than to host outrageously fun dinner parties in my apartment, fully convinced it was the height of adulting. (I wasn’t wrong. I still think hosting dinner parties is the most fun thing about being an adult). That two bedroom apartment in a large historic building at the base of Meridian Hill park was the site of so many dinner parties, usually with heaping plates of hearty vegetarian fare balanced on our laps, or sometimes I’d prop books under the legs of my coffee table for a makeshift table. While living in that apartment, I found a brand new fainting couch at a design store’s sidewalk sale for just $200, I painted a built-in shelf orange, had a very girly shabby chic bedroom, and I repurposed mostly free or very cheap things to make a cozy, space where people wanted to hang out.
I won’t go through all the many times I’ve had a vision of how I wanted to live in a space and the satisfaction of that comes with realizing the vision. But allow me a quick highlight reel of the overseas ones of which I’m the most proud: There was our apartment in Madrid, which became a party pad in a country where everyone lives with their parents until they get married in their 30s, and where being invited into someone’s home was rare.
There was our very small first Jerusalem apartment, whose dark drabness brought me to tears when we first arrived. I wanted the place to provide cheery comfort in a city that struck me as both tense and dreary and when a group of friends came over to drink and commiserate when Trump won the presidential election in 2016, the sight of my grief stricken new friends sitting on the geometric Ikea rug in a cozy pale green room made me realize I had created the comforting space I’d envisioned.
And the abroad home that I loved the most and am most proud of: our spacious Mediterranean four-bedroom house in Algiers. True story: Along with our housing assignment, we were issued apologies because the previous tenant had some complaints. But I felt insanely lucky to have so much space and I vowed to make every inch of it useful. After I did that, I wouldn’t want any room left out so I was always like “Adam, maybe have your coffee on the twin bed in the second guest room so it doesn’t feel left out?” After I created a very cool bar out of a the hutch that came atop a Drexel desk, the space surrounding the bar seemed to be calling out to be a lounge area. I had a custom low sofa made by an Algerian designer, put that atop a vibrant red and hot pink Algerian rug (made cushy with a thick rug pad) and I thought the space looked like the coolest desert lounge spot. And it was indeed the sight of more than one jam session/dance party, from a local musician singing a haunting but danceable version of Dance Monkey to the soulful Black Assets and other OneBeat Sahara musicians singing and playing drums. While I wasn’t apart of the musical creation, I did design a space that felt perfectly suited to the magical energy and collaboration that happening before my eyes, and that made me feel apart of it, and also tearfully joyous. Plus, I was slinging drinks at the bar I’d also designed. Happy place!
Both the ambassador and the deputy ambassador live on the Algiers’ embassy grounds in historical villas from the 1800s. But the deputy ambassador’s residence is undergoing a remodel and so when the embassy was looking for a residence to house her for at least half of her tour – they turned to our house. I’m proud to say that during the three years we lived there, our house went from bottom of the barrel to one of the top houses in the embassy housing pool!
And one last recent design related thing I’m proud of: There was a very outdated, not very used embassy “recreation” center in Algiers and I was asked to be the project manager/designer to turn it into something useful and beautiful. It was incredibly fun for me to create a vision, meet local artisans and business owners and see their wonderful creations, and watch a room become a bar/lounge/workout area that I know thousands of U.S. Embassy Algiers employees will use for years to come. We had a reveal party of the new U.S. Embassy Algiers Community Center a few nights before Adam and I departed Algiers and although it wasn’t totally finished, I was proud of what I (along with an awesome embassy team) accomplished. (I hope to get some good photos of the space soon!).
And over the years, I’ve helped many friends set up their homes, from my bestie Lauren in Colorado, to my neighbor Ari in Jerusalem, to Sarah in Paris. And I’ve recently had a few paying customers and I’ve learned a lot about the process of consulting with clients to making their spaces shine.
If you can’t tell, I’m extremely excited about this new creative venture. And I’m excited to have created something that could become a portable career, which is what foreign services spouses are often striving for.
To Next Dinner Party Designs,