Pilar Guzman and Chris Mitchell are not professional interior designers. But if taste can be taught, you might want them to be your teachers. They are authors “Patina Modern,” New home design writers Ina Garten, Martha Stewart, and Gwyneth Paltrow are among his fans.
They are a New York City power couple with decades of experience in the media industry. Ms. Guzmán is the newly appointed managing editor of Opera Daily, and former editor-in-chief of Martha Stewart Living and Condé Nast Traveler. Mr. Mitchell is a former executive who served as publisher for Vanity Fair, GQ, and other Condé Nast titles.
Over the past 20 years or so, they’ve renovated and decorated multiple homes in the city and the Hamptons together, mixing their design styles to create a symbiosis (fit for ambitious Pinterest mood boards and features in architectural digest And the Martha Stewart Living). Patina Modern—the couple’s first book—began as a pandemic project, where they reflected on the home decor tips they’d given their friends over the years.
“What we find in most design books — coffee table books — is that they’re really pretty, but they don’t really tell you anything,” Mr. Mitchell said in a video interview. The analogy a friend of ours said is: ‘It’s like having a cookbook with pictures of food but no recipes.’ ‘
He said, “We wanted there to be recipes in this.”
So as it gets dark, temperatures drop and people gather for reunions and meals and pink traditions, how do we make our spaces more inviting?
Use lots and lots of low light.
“We’re big believers in sconces, lots of small table lamps and mantel lights,” said Mr. Mitchell.
They keep more than a dozen lights in any room, many of them on dimmers and low wattage. They avoid any sunken or overhead lighting, and prefer lights at (and below) eye level. Overhead lighting can create an “operating room or department store” feel, Mr. Mitchell said.
He added, “You want to feel like you’re in a lantern.” “And if you’re looking at it from the outside, you want it to glow like a lantern.”
During the holidays, they amplify the glow—with candles, big and small. They love candles DS & Durga And the Lovecin Universal Poly, Ikea tea lights and any scented candle that smells like a wood fire. Mitchell said it’s less about the candle than the holder. They use porcelain votive holders, brass candlesticks, and old English oak malt candlesticks.
“The setting of the table is as much about the beauty of the food.”
For their wedding, Ms. Guzmán said, they couldn’t buy enough flowers to fill the space, so they decorated the food — with “tangerine boxes on the vine” and “huge chunks of Parmesan.” It’s a technology they’re still applying. They often offer cheese, fruit, and charcuterie, and create ambience with multiple cutting boards and breadboards within a palette of items.
One of their biggest design tricks is stacking smaller vessels, especially when you have limited space. Get a bouquet of flowers from the local grocery store or takeaway, cut them up and put them in a small vase, or place the flowers in small silver or gold julep cups around your home. If you’re short on time: light some scented candles, make a pitcher of cocktails and put on some music.
And when setting a table, they focus on layering: Start with a run that provides an accent color, and add pine boughs, holly, candles, and Libeco linen napkins.
Use your best stuff all the time.
“We have to remember the things we love about the holidays feeling for the rest of the year,” Ms. Guzmán said.
That means opting for warm, low lighting, but it also means using the best things now: fine china dinnerware or the antique silver plate inherited from grandma, the gold-stained martini glasses, or the decanter you’ve always feared will break. Try going a little more spunky with those pieces, the couple said, weaving them in for everyday use.
In their own group, which favors oak, brass and vegetable-tanned furniture, they like things to have life with them, get better with age and have a life-giving warmth.
“If you don’t pull it off the shelf and use it, what’s the point of having it?” Mr. Mitchell said. “You don’t live in a museum and you don’t have to be.”