Classic Design for Modern Living

Category: tablescapes

The Holidays Again, Oh No! 15 Survival Tips For You

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design

Illustration by Jeremiah Goodman


The holidays are here once again, each year I am astounded by how quickly the year has passed. Does this happen to you? In my work as an interior designer I am busy making your space magical, I rarely have time to do anything for myself. We have seen the perfectly set tables and decorated trees in holiday movies. I can’t help it, I’m a hopeless romantic. This post is aimed at each of us who really want to prepare for the holidays but need a little motivation. While I admire great cooks, I personally leave anything fancy to the professionals. Yes, I can roast a turkey quite well and make certain dishes. But let’s be clear, I am no chef. That said, here are some ideas anyone can use to really enjoy the upcoming holidays.



Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design


  1. Think small! I love the above photo, it is evocative of the kind of dinner most of us would be pleased to sit down to. I particularly like the image as it is not a traditional setting like a dining table. Not everyone has a large family or a large dining room for that matter. This looks perfect to me!




Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design


2. If you have a home and are organized you most likely have a mud room or great entrance area that is perfectly suited to the storage of boots, hats, coats and the like. Not everyone has this kind of space yet pine for a mud room. If you think you don’t have any room look at the image below, if it can be done in a hotel room it can work in your space.


Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design






3. What if your entryway is empty? Most homes I visit today are more than half empty. I am not speaking of my clients but am referring to this attitude of never making time to furnish your home. This handsome console would add pizzazz to your entryway. It would also make a terrific sofa table or center table.

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design




4. Storage issues you say, we all have them. When in doubt, buy a cabinet–it is the perfect way to hide things in a mud room; additional placemats, napkins or place settings in the dining room; or use as a media cabinet. I love this piece, it is handmade by a great group of veterans in Texas. What do you think of the steel and reclaimed wood?


Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design





5. You just found out you’re hosting a holiday dinner, lo and behold your range or oven are broken. I will never forget we had the same issue a week before Thanksgiving many years ago. Mr. Aware, yes me, missed that little detail. We moved into our new home (100 years old but who’s counting) in August of 1998, everything was working ok at the time. That was not the case in mid-November. Great, oh great! The heat was on in more ways than one, luckily we were able to get a new oven a week before Thanksgiving.


Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design





6. I have a small budget, I can’t do any of this! That’s ok too. A fresh coat of paint on the wall is a no brainer even if you and a few friends have to do it one weekend. The new Benjamin Moore latex paints are terrific, many will cover in one coat as long as you are not covering a super dark color.


Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design




7. I’m not hosting at my house and I hate the host house, now what? Ok I get it, but please get over it. The main thing is, you will all be together (sometimes that’s the real problem, smile)! Does it really matter if your Great Aunt Gertrude or Nana’s house is a bit grand and not your taste? I say embrace it! Enjoy their dishes, crystal and flatware. Why not? It’s just one day, and think how happy Nana will be to see her things being used and enjoyed by her nearest and dearest. Oops…do I hear a broken glass falling? They are just things! If she’s afraid of breakage then use the everyday service or rent it, most places will deliver and pick up for a very small fee. It’s worth it!


Kenneth Walter, Chicago Interior Design, Gray & Walter Interior Design

Don’t let a grand setting put a damper on your holiday

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design

Sometimes the old ways are the best!




8. I don’t want to have my holiday dinner inside, what do I do? Lucky you! We have had some really warm weather lately in Chicago, this is not realistic for us however. If you live in the south or somewhere with warmer weather by all means have the gathering outside. Hell yes, why not? Please invite me next year!

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design


Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design




9. Our Guest Bedroom is dreadful and my mother-in-law is a royal you know what! Better get cracking my little crocodile! There are plenty of ways to do over a bedroom quickly. Look at the handsome photo below for inspiration. Chances are you will not find the exact items readily but you can find very nice things at Crate & Barrel for instance. Better yet call me, we can take care of this issue quickly!


Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design


Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design

What a great use of an attic space!

10. For Pete’s sake I don’t live in a house, I have a little apartment and have to serve four people. Problem solved, look at the lovely room below, the set up is clean and modern and will solve your issue–bam!

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design



11. Stock the liquor cabinet, make sure you have plenty of mixers in individual bottles. Do you know what your guests like to drink? If not, you need to make a few calls or send some emails.

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design



12. My room is a mess, there is stuff everywhere. Dedicate one day to it and put your clutter away, try to pull the room together the best you can! When in doubt donate things you no longer use or put things in storage if you plan on needing them again.

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design




13. Hang your artwork! I meet people all the time who have things stacked up everywhere. I am not talking about artful arrangements of pictures propped on the mantle. This has to go!

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design



14. The little things count! Ok I get it, you don’t have a room like this. But you could, start small! Buy a throw to cuddle with, a few pillows and candles. Put some nuts in a dish and candy in another, don’t forget some great books on the coffee table to inspire looking and conversation.

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design



15. I’m broke and just lost my job. Well that happens! So make some cards, paint some cool glasses and give them to your family. What did you say? You’re not artistic, well that’s ok. Write a hand written note telling someone how much they mean to you. Give your sister-in-law some IOUs for babysitting so she and your poor brother can get away from the kids to feel human again. Help your Dad clean out the garage, yes really! You get it, not everything good comes from a store.

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design


Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design


I am so grateful to have my family, my health and a profession that gives me immense joy. What are you grateful for? I wish you and your family a wonderful holiday season ahead.


Big Hugs,



Please Sit Down

Today I’m totally crushing on chairs–CCW, Chair Crush Wednesday! I presume this will not replace Woman Crush Wednesday or Man Crush Monday but you never know. Many of us have a favorite chair in our home. Do you?

imageA few of my favorite chairs clockwise from top left:

Egyptian Art Deco meets Mid-Century, A modern Fauteuil, clean lines in a Game Room, sexy time at the iconic Blue Bar, tufted coziness in matelasse


The Bergere is a popular chair, a terrific shape that fits into traditional, transitional and even modern rooms. Many pieces manufactured today have less carving, sizes for these chairs tend to vary but are typically more luxurious than a Fauteuil (see next photo).


The Fauteuil, is an open arm chair, the styles can range from Louis XV, XVI or many other periods. This chair was made in many countries so you can see many versions ranging from Italian, French, Swedish and more! The sizes can range from petite, perfect for a dressing table; small, perfect for dining; and medium to large, most suitable as larger side chairs in a Living Room. These chairs can have a lot of carving or cleaner lines as shown on the example above in one of our projects. Easily moveable, they can be moved from one side of the room to another to accommodate impromptu guests and furniture arrangements. They are suitable for Versailles or your chateau.


The iconic Barcelona Chair designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is a fantastic chair that is extremely versatile. This collection has many options:  daybed, chair, ottoman and coffee table. These pieces are strong statements used alone or in a grouping; a mid-century darling famously seen in Philip Johnson’s Glass House in New Canaan, many mid-century office buildings or your urbane neighbor’s Living Room.


Charles and Ray Eames designed this magnificent chair and ottoman decades ago, the design still reads fresh and timely now. Talk about a classic that stands the test of time. Original versions had rosewood, the old ones are costly but worth every penny. Estate sales and restoration can be pay off and be your friend.


Jean-Michel Frank designed this famous chair, if you have one it is worth a small fortune. It has inspired many adaptations. Poor Monsieur Frank committed suicide and left us too soon, I wonder what else he could have created if he stuck around longer.


Hermes is now producing these Frank designs


 Monsieur Frank continues to inspire me in our projects


Philippe Starck designed the Ghost chair above, consider it the Fauteuil for the masses. It is available in many shades of Lucite ranging from clear, red, hot pink, black and many other shades in-between. The chair is perfect for many reasons: low in cost, easy to move and very flexible (looks good in many styles of decoration), it even stacks!


 Talk about versatile!

I hope you have enjoyed this little history lesson. Perhaps you will be inspired to update your space. One word of advice, try to purchase the original designs if you can. This doesn’t mean you are paying a fortune for your furniture. It means you are buying the best you can afford, the cheaper knock offs will break way too quickly, the better versions cost more and provide lasting value. One more thought, if you haven’t heard of One Kings Lane check out this link, they have many wonderful chairs you have been looking for!

Please take my seat~!


P.S. Feel free to explore our old blog posts for additional great chairs!




Since Thanksgiving is right around the corner I am even more reflective than usual. I can’t help think how lucky we are to be Americans living in this great country. Whatever our differences, no matter what, we are people who have a common denominator. We all love someone. Let us not forget there is not enough love and kindness in the world. I nominate myself to continue this mission.

In closing I want to say I am incredibly indebted to you. I am so glad to know you and be a part of your life in some way. I do not send my blog to just anyone so please know if you get this blog it is because I care about you.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and those you love.

Big Hugs,


Comfy And Cozy


October is here, the chill is beginning to set in. Are cooler nights better for sleep? Many say they are. I have been focused on getting my home ready for the cooler weather and the holidays right around the corner. We are here to help you get ready. It is definitely not too late to make changes. Here are a few suggestions.



Warmth Underfoot

imageHard surface floors really benefit from radiant heat

imageA carpet runner can also do the trick when properly placed


Modern, Spare and Warm


Cuddle up with a soft rug, real or faux

Let’s Get Cozy and Snuggle


Clean and Cozy


Modern and Rustic


A well placed throw can make all the difference


The shorter days make me want to sleep more, how about you?


Put another log on the fire and open the wine


A well placed daybed makes a great place for a nap or a cuddle

imageLight it up


The right artwork is calming and restorative

Now that the golden hour arrives sooner I must time my dog walks earlier to enjoy the last moments of light. For some reason this is now my favorite time of the day. I love the crunchy leaves with the setting sun in the distance. What do you enjoy about Autumn?



Al Fresco Style


Summer is all about pools, porches and playfulness. Interior design is not limited to the interior.  It’s time to bring the outdoors in and the indoors out.  My favorite part of summer is dining Al Fresco.  Here are some of my favorite inspirations for your summer parties and a few ideas to get you started:

1- Be playful, combine herbs, flowers and fruits from the garden for your centerpieces.

2- Having Tivoli lights and candles creates a European and romantic feeling after the sun sets.

3- Layer textiles- tapestries, table cloths, napkins, placemats- have fun!

4- Plan a seasonal menu with fresh fruits and vegetables.  At our house we love antipasto with fresh figs, watermelon and feta salad, paella and anything with berries for dessert!

5- Here’s your chance to serve some great chilled wines, rose and whites are
typically the best bet. Otherwise don’t forget to have beer, vodka and gin
for those who are not wine drinkers. If the theme is south of the border serve margaritas, mojitos and sangria.

6- When you are a guest at someone’s outdoor party remember the nights can
become chilly. Ladies don’t forget to bring a pashmina or cashmere wrap, gentlemen
should bring a light cashmere sweater, or linen jacket.

We all look forward to summer, I know I do!

Hope you enjoyed our post!  Comments are always welcome!  Please visit the Gray and Walter website for more ideas for your interiors,


Kenneth Walter


































A few summer must haves I ran across in July’s issue of Architectural Digest, Enjoy!



Alfresco dining gets an extra serving of style from the Gothic motif of McKinnon and Harris’s Graves outdoor side chair. Measuring 37″ h. x 19″ w. x 25″ d., the aluminum frame comes in gray (pictured) and a variety of other colors. An armchair is also offered, and the seat cushion can be ordered in a range of Sunbrella fabrics or c.o.m.; to the trade., 804-358-2385



The undulating stripes on Larsen’s Jackson fabric evoke gently rolling surf and refreshing sea breezes. The linen blend comes in, from top, ocean, red tulip, liquorice, and celadon; to the trade at Cowtan & Tout., 212-647-6900 rb


Part of Reed & Barton’s Heritage collection, this elegant ice bucket and cocktail shaker by designer Thomas O’Brien are a debonair take on classic barware. Offered in the company’s new pewter-plate finish, the pieces are both durable and tarnish-proof; they cost $175 and $125, respectively., 866-797-9675 sl1


Backed with ultrasoft terry cloth, these tailored cotton towels by Serena & Lily cast classic nautical stripes in summery shades of ultramarine and lime. The 30″ x 55″ bath towel costs $28, the 20″ x 30″ hand towel is $18, and the 12″-sq. washcloth is $8; additional sizes and colors are available., 866-597-2742



Constructed from Sunbrella materials, these indoor-outdoor throws by Textillery Weavers are perfect for cool summer nights. Available in several striking hues, including (from top) tulip, dandelion, pool, and tomato, the washable acrylic blankets measure 44″ x 72″ and sell for $245 each., 800-223-7673