You’re listening to episode lucky 13 of the Decorate Like a Design Boss podcast. I am so glad you’re tuning in and 13 is one of my lucky numbers. So, I am hoping for you to have a thrill on this episode, and for you to have a lot of takeaways as we discover the process of one of the country’s leaders of style. That is the late and great Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. There is much to learn from this stylish icon. I can’t wait to get started as I talk about some of the ways that Jackie met with such great success as she created legendary interiors.
You’ll discover some well kept secrets of the stylish icon and you will learn a few tricks about how she approached an interior. And of course, you’ll walk away with some ways that you might be able to incorporate some of her stylish moments into your very own décor.
Welcome to Decorate Like a Design Boss, a podcast for design lovers who want to create beautiful spaces in their very own homes. My name is Kimberly Grigg and I’m a professional interior designer who teaches design lovers like yourselves how to decorate. And when I say decorate I mean decorate like a design boss. If you’re ready to create a space that your family loves and your neighbors can’t stop raving about well, buckle up honey because it’s time to design.
Well, hello there my favorite design loving friends. I am hoping your world is both beautiful and colorful. As many of you know, I just returned from a San Francisco trip moving my number five child into her new apartment so that she can start her new job and life there. Travelling again, oh gosh, it just felt so good. I think mostly because we haven’t been able to do so. But because I’ve just plain missed the inspiration that I receive when I travel. For some reason, it’s just there, it’s omni apparent.
Maybe it’s because I’m out of the hustle and bustle and actually take the time to be more aware. I’m really not sure. But now that I’m back I am feeling oh so inspired, and next week on episode 14 I’ll be talking about inspiration, where to find it, what we can learn from it, and how to use it to decorate with meaning and purpose.
But for now, let’s get on with this episode. I just have to start by saying thank you, we are climbing the charts with our little podcast here, and I am so proud. Thank you for your ratings and your reviews. I’m just saying you make me feel so good. And of course, I so appreciate your subscription, which I think now is called follow. For your convenience, if you just hit the little subscription button or the follow button, then this podcast will automatically show up wherever you listen to the podcast each and every week so that you can get your decorating learning on.
And if you haven’t taken a moment to review this podcast yet, well, please, please do so. Because by doing so, not only will you be eligible to be entered into the contest to win my infamous monkey bowl, but you are also helping to get this message out to so many others who are interested in designing their own spaces too. So, thank you so much for your support, it really means a lot. And now on with the episode.
I have studied design icons for years, and I have to tell you my design career started with an iconic moment that is a bit like none other. I grew up in a little biddy town called Graniteville, Graniteville, South Carolina. And I am pretty sure I was switched at birth. I was always overdressed, and this wasn’t my mother’s fault, it was my choice. I was highly creative and I couldn’t understand why everyone around me wasn’t the same. And I guess I was just a bit of an oddball, and frankly I didn’t quite fit in.
I had this superpower though, and it was the ability to truly visualize. It became more and more powerful and eventually I used it to my advantage. I don’t mean visualize like a psychic. But I do mean I could literally walk in spaces and I could scramble them in my brain and I could make them look better. I don’t know what that was all about. It was just a gift. I was taught early on to sew by my grandmother and at the time my best friend’s mother.
At around the age of 10 I began to make window treatments for the neighbors, and for the family. And I began to decorate my own bedroom on my small allowance. I moved furniture around, drew floor plans, sewed up pillows and other things. My bedroom was my laboratory and I was hooked on design. Eventually I began to up-level friends and neighbors homes, anyone who would date let me experiment in their homes. Then I began to fit in.
As I could literally walk into anyone’s home and help them make it better just by moving things around. And helping them add a few finishing touches so that their homes would sparkle. I knew from an early age that this just might be my calling. I was fascinated with beautiful spaces and I was constantly in awe when I happened to go into one.
So, there was this beautiful home up on the hill in our neighboring small town of Aiken, South Carolina. Aiken was a lot larger than Graniteville, my tiny neighboring town, and was known as horse country. Aiken is quaint and oh so charming, and it has a really good climate for horses. Ironically, my daughter rode horses, the number five child, and competed in many an Aiken horse show over the years right here in this Aiken town, and long after had grown up and left the area.
But back to this beautiful home on the hill. You see, Aiken’s climate and its open spaces and horse tracks made it an ideal sanctuary for the wealthy northerners. Many had horses and loved the sport. Many would winter in Aiken, and the result was spectacular and amazing homes. The settings and the homes in the Aiken area are massive, they’re lush and they’re impressive.
One of my favorite growing up Sunday afternoon outings was stopping for an ice-cream in town and then riding around with my parents looking and dreaming at these magnificent homes. Well, this one particular home on the hill was my favorite. And I remember it vividly as the white house with the creamy colored trim, and the black shutters. To me, it was The White House. I would strain my neck to see past the big gates at the road. And I would spend hours dreaming about the people who lived there and the stylish interiors that must be there.
Turns out, there was a young girl who lived there who was a little bit older than me. I never met her, but I did visit her home in a most unusual way. As a teen I still longed to see inside this house. And around the age of 17 or so, I had my chance. I had heard through the grapevine that the young girl who lived in this home was debuting and that there would be a party in her honor at that house.
I had no idea what a debut meant, nor had I ever heard of a debutante, and let’s just venture to say that at the time we as a society had never heard of Mr. Google. Somehow, I did figure out what a debutante was and I was determined to go to that party at that house up on the hill. Now, if you’ve never heard of a debutante, this is what it means. Debuting is a season when society boys and girls are introduced to one another through a series of events and parties. It’s the debutante season, and a debutante is the female part of the debut, or the debutant season.
So back in the day it was designed to find or be introduced to a suitable marriage partner. Today debutante events still happen. But they aren’t designed any longer with this intention. They typically are rather formal affairs, and of course, they are invitation only. There was going to be one of the season’s parties in a tent in the backyard of my dream home, and I was going no matter what. Of course, I wasn’t invited, but I was absolutely determined that I would be attending. And well, go I went.
I made my high school guy friend agree to go with me, and we literally climbed the fence. Oh yeah, I’m a hardened criminal. While all the guests mingled in the backyard under a tent, I had but one thing on my mind. I was going in that house. I needed to see inside of it for myself and see it I did. After we made it over the fence, I waltzed right in the front door and gave myself my own personal tour as if I belonged there.
And I’m going to just tell you right now, this home did not disappoint. I am sure I could probably still get arrested for this sin. But I must say, this shaped my career and changed my life. This one trip inspired my design abilities and is forever logged in my brain, and it helped formulate my need to decorate. This was the most beautiful, and frankly, still is the most beautiful, most magnificent home I have ever seen. To this very day it still influences and inspires me, and it will forever live in my brain.
I recognize iconic style when I see it, and I also recognize how important it is to be inspired from a style iconic moment. And this was it for me. I will forever be touched and forever changed by that moment. Now, while I don’t encourage anyone to climb a fence and peer, which is a much better word than break into someone’s home, I do encourage you to become inspired and to use design icons to do so. Tapping into those who have been style icons and exploring their essence and what made them iconic is not only fun, but oh so informative.
So today I will be exploring one of the most iconic of all. And I’ll be pointing out what I think makes her iconic and what we can learn from her incredible style. The undeniable first style icon who comes to mind is of course, none other than Jackie O. What a stylish hero. When I think about emulating the classic elegance of this legend, I think back to her renovation of The White House in the early 60s. And her desire to make The White House a living museum, and that she did.
So, when you think of Jackie O and her design personality and her design DNA, what images do you conjure up? What do you notice in particular when you look at photos of rooms that she helped create? I for one think Jackie was a bit of a nester, yet she just had a very sophisticated way of showing it. She had a relaxed elegance and in my opinion everything she did said, wrote, wore, or touched softly screamed Jackie.
I often wonder how aware she really was about her own influence. She had a way of exuding cozy and warm. But she was also bold in her choices and she seemed to somehow marry function with excellent taste. When I think of her and her enviable style I think of beautiful luxurious fabrics, interesting but clean lines, and I think she had an unusual way of making people feel at ease. There was such a grace about her.
So here are a few things I think you can learn from Jackie’s iconic style. Jackie typically chose rather sophisticated and interesting backgrounds, yet the backgrounds were quiet. If she used a wallpaper in her decorating, it was typically a large, scaled damask, it was in a saturated color, even her white in The White House state dining room was one of the most gorgeous shades of white I have ever seen. She would also use her gorgeous mural, in other words her backgrounds set the tone and offered up really good bones with which to decorate.
Now, of course we all know that Jackie used decorators and designers to help her achieve stately elegant rooms. However, from what I have garnered, Jackie was very involved in the design aspect and the overseeing of those designs. Based on the other chic aspects in Jackie’s life, like that infamous wardrobe, it is quite obvious to me that The White House reno looked a lot like Jackie O’s personal style.
Another thing that I noticed along the lines of getting the bones right is that in most rooms, Jackie used a patterned rug or carpet. This created instant texture and drama and was often the tie-together in the space. When I speak of a tie-together, I am specifically talking about an element in a space that sort of pulls things together either by style, or by color, or by both. Again, this intentionally kept the bones of the spaces quiet so that there could be some real stars and heroes in Jackie’s spaces.
I feel that her core philosophy of design was to keep the backgrounds quiet. I didn’t necessarily say neutral, because I don’t really think this. I think she used color, but not in a jumping around way, but more in a pick a beautiful color, and then create more of a monochromatic color scheme with well-appointed items and pieces, and then add drama with a hero item.
If you looked up, while Jackie had obviously not taken my course on the fifth ceiling as hers were mostly white, but she always adorned each ceiling with a gorgeous showstopping chandelier. These chandeliers feel like statement pieces. They were impeccable and in perfect scale. And they presented a carefully curated detail that I think was both dramatic and memorable. Jackie incorporated a less is more look into most of her accessorizing usually using one rather large statement piece that said it all so that nothing else was needed.
The attention to detail that Jackie used was spot on. I loved how she painted the backs of the shelves that encased the famous China collections, they were painted a color. This was very Avant Gard for sure, and way ahead of its time. Speaking of attention to detail, here is a little Jackie trivia. So, did you know that husband JFK had one leg shorter than the other and it caused severe back pain for him? So, he had special lifts made for his shoes and boots. Jackie observed this and she ended up having a lift made for all of her shoes as well. Hers, however, was only a quarter of an inch, but all of her shoes and boots had this lift.
One quarter of an inch, by the way, is about the size of a pencil eraser, but this is how observant she was and how much she paid attention to detail. Jackie tended to not use much pattern in her furnishings. If you look at photos of the various rooms, you’ll notice a little movement with damask, and stripes, and gorgeous saturated colors on upholstery. But there was very little pattern, and she just didn’t seem the floral chance type. She loved French lines and has often been classified as a Francophile.
But appears that she didn’t like for anything to scream at you. But rather her décors were luxuriously layered in a monochromatic way that mostly incorporated a layer of richness via a well-appointed item like a chandelier or a very large accessory. There was always a balance and a sense of proportion in Jackie’s décors. Just like in her dress, she seemed to just have a sixth sense for inviting this type of feel and look. I think that this came off as graceful but warm.
So, what can we learn from the style icon Jackie O and from today’s lesson? Well first, I think it’s important to embrace your own signature style and make it speak volumes whether you’re actually saying it or not. In other words, finding your style and let it show in everything you do.
If you’re still searching for your own signature style, well go back to episode three and give it a listen so you too can embrace and present your own style in your own spaces. Secondly, pay attention, detail is important. Make sure that your style and that what you choose and how you choose to present it all lines up.
For example, Jackie wore a simple dress in a statement color when she first introduced the pillbox hat. It was all simple and worked beautifully together. Basically, she used a one wow per room philosophy. When she thought about detail, this was what she thought about. In this scenario she didn’t wear big jewelry or anything else that was particularly memorable. Instead, she knew that the hat must work with the dress and color, but also in scale and that because the hat was the statement piece she didn’t need but one.
Same with the use of her accessories in her décor, try using something big in your own decor, try using something memorable as accessory pieces and make a statement especially if this works within your own design DNA and style. One great piece can often be the only thing needed. When there was a need for a lot of accessories, Jackie seemed to use a unifier. For example, she was the queen of putting sterling silver frames out of the family together on one surface. This ended up coming off as one large item because of her use of the repeat or repetition of the same material.
And finally, get your bones and/or your backgrounds right and then you can easily add your next layer. Whether that is a layer of embellishment or pops of color and pattern. This is what was the iconic moment for me in the house on the hill. Always watch your balance and scale. If you have large, tall ceilings, you will need large, tall pieces, and very long drapery. If your room feels out of proportion, then you probably have a very large piece that needs to be balanced elsewhere in the space with another chunky or large piece.
This technique will create the perfect balance and harmony. And Jackie O was a master at this. In technical interior design terminology, we would say that Jackie O was masterful at scale, balance, pattern and color. These traits threaded through the rooms that Jackie adorned and led to warm environments that also exuded a classic yet Avant Gard signature style. And of course, this is what made her so iconic in the style world.
There is always a lot to learn from a style icon and I always think it is interesting to study the different styles of the said icon and determine what elements, if any, will work into your own design DNA. And if you haven’t discovered your own design DNA, well now is the time, just simply go back to episode one, two and three and you can discover your own.
After studying Jackie’s style, here are my personal and specific designer takeaways. Number one, I fell back in love with the movement of damask. My middle initial is D for Diane, and I used to jokingly say that my name was actually Kimberly Damask Grigg. I had forgotten how much I love damask. And it has sort of been out of fashion the last few years, but it has found a way back into the décor world and back into my heard, this time most likely for good.
Number two, I immediately wanted to change all of my rugs to tie together patterns.
Number three, I wanted to pull my collection of silver frames out and display them all together again.
Number four, I was reminded of the value of a gorgeous chandelier.
And number five, carefully edited surfaces that contain a north star, or a hero is ideal.
And number six, it is important to exude your style in everything you do.
So let me know what you gleaned from Jackie O’s iconic style. What things can you use in your own spaces, and what do you think made her a style icon?
So that’s it my friends for today’s episode. You still have time to win one of my favorite monkey bowl accessories. I am pretty sure that if Jackie were with us today she would have had one of these in her own personal collection. It is large and definitely a statement piece. And three lucky listeners are going to win one. All you have to do is subscribe, rate and review this show. You can access all contest rules and details at kimberlygriggdesigns.com/podcastlaunch.
Thanks for tuning in my stylish friends, and I’ll be back next week. Until then, I like to say, don’t wait, today is a great day to decorate. Bye for now.
Thanks for listening to Decorate Like a Design Boss, if you want more info on how to decorate your space like a pro visit kimberlygriggdesigns.com. See you next week.