When a new cookbook comes my way (as a few wonderful ones did this year under the tree),  I devour it the same way I devour the design magazines that are shoved through my mail slot.  There’s nothing better than hearing the dog bark, realizing it’s the time of day for the mail drop, and then hearing that undeniable thump of a heavy design magazine.  Life comes to a halt while I sit down in a sunny spot and admire the combinations of gorgeous homes, bounteous gardens, and original ideas my design peers continue to impress me with.  Now you know what my husband thinks, cookbooks and design magazines are my porn. Guilty as charged.

But back to cookbooks…I generally go all-in, one cookbook at a time, experimenting with recipes and I’m making some good headway working through a darling cookbook called Confessions of a Serial Entertainer by Steven Stolman.  Stolman offers a lot of practical and sage advice. The recipes definitely have a vintage 1960’s simplicity about them.  Most have less than 7 ingredients and are peppered with refrigerator staples…this is not the book for the faint-hearted cook who avoids butter and mayonnaise!  But the recipes are tried and true, uncomplicated and unpretentious, which turns the host’s attention to her guests instead of her kitchen.


Our JMD Christmas gathering is always between Christmas & New Year’s.  I love to host and cook for everyone at home. My newest cookbook was the source of several dishes for our post-Christmas menu.   We started with Palm Beach Cheese Puffs:


Next was Karen’s Special Baked Shrimp & Feta, Tomato Pudding, and Pureed Broccoli.



A group of Interior Designers are highly sensitive to visual stimuli so I made sure I had plenty of time to think about my table. At work, we mix textures and patterns all day and it’s fun to do the same on a tabletop.  Below are different vintage styles of crocheted placemats (somehow my husband & I both ended up with the ones our Grandmothers made),  several silver flatware patterns, multiple stemware styles, and 2 colors of antique transferware plates:



 Place cards at seated dinners make it easy for everyone. These pomanders also smell great and I noticed a few went home in my guests’ pockets.


Roses are reliable but need cajoling to open fully.  I pick them up at least two days ahead and begin the process of trimming the stems and adding warm water a few times…a sunny window helps too.


The right container makes everything easy.  I own these zinc container below in a few sizes.  They  are great for lower arrangements for a seated dinner or for serving a sliced baguette. Containers available through Nest, Manteo, North Carolina (252) 473-5141.


Sticking with a drinks theme or color is festive.  Two favorite “pink” drinks:


Co worker Mary Buford stayed with the pink theme with one of my favorite gifts below. It was a fun night to be the BL!


Happy New Year!

 Last year when we were asked by Traditional Home magazine to decorate our client’s house for a feature in this months’s issue (Nov/Dec 2015), I had a good opportunity to ponder my approach to setting the stage for Christmas.  More than a few loved ones have told me that I need to read one of those books about turning off the Christmas machine, but in the month of December I have too many presents to wrap to read anything at all except my online order confirmations.  I am always racing out for one more stocking stuffer, adding one more gift to balance out the children, and baking for one more friend or a teacher.

Amid my determination to over-do, I have found one thing about Christmas where less is more, and that is interior decoration.  There are no less than 17 large trunk-sized red-topped plastic bins loaded with Christmas décor in our attic at home.  Prior to my less is more epiphany my family would schlep those big bins downstairs, and over the next several days, I would struggle to meticulously place the growing collection of holiday tchotchkes around our house.  In my newer, streamlined  approach, only half of these bins make it downstairs, and mostly they are ornaments for the tree.  True confessions: I haven’t thrown anything away!

Less is more applies in most of our interior design work, and my epiphany redirected me to focus on a few strong elements rather than have a jumble of many over the Holidays.  Start with the strongest element…the tree.   Take advantage of the opportunity for drama and bring home the tallest tree that your ceilings can handle.  In the Traditional Home feature, our client’s tree is both color-coordinated and stylish, with varying shades of  pink glass balls, vintage ribbon candy, and wooden snowflakes.   I also love trees that are dripping with home-grown ornaments and somewhat of a mis-matched jumble.  If the focal point is the tree, then the key is excess. Don’t hold back.

kdp0030 tree

kdp0009 tree zoom

  I love fresh, simple banister garlands with fir, boxwood, holly, poet’s laurel, and magnolia with a color appropriate ribbon running throughout.  Bringing the outdoors inside can be messy but it’s worth it for that unmistakable Christmas smell.

kdp0002 entry hall

Mantles need no more than fresh greens and fruit to feel festive — and of course stockings hung with care.  Favorite Christmas fruit: pomegranates, lady apples and oranges.  I leave a platter of fruit and cloves out for family members to create their own fragrant pomanders.  We call this ritual “cloving” at my house and everyone gets in on the fun, where we often ending up with varying levels of silliness and appropriateness in our pomander designs.

kdp0004 living room mantel

kdp0028 mantel zoom

Bring exterior wreaths inside. The gold magnolia wreath below is stunning but any green wreath is a great addition to an interior door or window.

kdp006 breakfast room

kdp0023 yellow and brown room

Don’t forget your mirrors-they create pretty, reflective backdrops for garlands, lights or wreaths. Repeating consistent elements like adding interior wreaths and the prolific use of fresh garlands and greenery creates a strong, yet simple Christmas welcome.

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kdp0003 master bedroom

Our client’s beautiful Christmas view of the chilly James River:

kdp0018 outside shot

Your house is glowing and it’s time to entertain and share it with friends and family.   Pull out the champagne, good china, and sterling and then give yourself a needed break and swing by your favorite take-out restaurant.

kdp0001 dining room

Our thanks again to Traditional Home magazine for the feature and our clients who withstood the Christmas photography home invasion with characteristic loveliness. Happy Decorating!

photography by Kip Dawkins


Challenged with a request from an old friend, we just wrapped up a design project without ever seeing or visiting it. Our extensive library of fabrics, wallpapers and carpets was off limits. There was to be no hunting and foraging for antiques and artwork, and no installations. Without the input of an architect or builder, we provided all of the specifications of the size and finishes, and best of all…LOCATION of said project.  You have probably guessed it ~ this a virtual room ~ completely invented in my design fantasy world.  Anne Tollett of Hanover Avenue has  launched a new business that offers a design service to clients with the need for a design aesthetic and help from a professional on developing it. She can pull together a room for clients in any location and all of the interior products are available from retail or online vendors. With the help of a few amazingly creative and technological whizzes, she does all of this remotely from her computer.  On a very hot and humid August day in Virginia, we selected a humidity-free, oceanfront room in Malibu for the location of our project.  Free from any architectural plans or limitations we indulged in creating a luxuriously expansive space ~ our room footprint is 20′ wide x 35′ long with 12′ ceilings, polished concrete floors and ceilings, bleached pecky cypress paneling and a wall of floor-to-ceiling steel doors. The wood paneling serves to warm up the concrete and the steel doors are softened with gauzy linen curtains.

Janie Molster Room Overall View (2)

Rooms that offer multi-purposing are my favorites and this room doubles as a living/dining space.  Using a broad range of online websites, our shopping sources (all listed on the Hanover Avenue website) are as diverse as the MOMA Museum Store (black Arne Jacobsen egg chair) to Ikea (striped pillow).  Experiencing design when decorating for just me, without a budget (remember this is a fantasy),  and with instant gratification (one click and transaction complete), I remembered why I love design (and internet shopping).

Janie Molster Room Living View (2)

Using a few of my go-to design credos, this room is a blend of high and low and multiple periods and styles.  While the dining table and side chairs have historic references, the iron chairs and driftwood side table offer  both contemporary and whimsical elements.  Keeping the larger upholstery fabrics in solids, scaling up the size on all lighting, and the layering and mixing of area rugs are further personal favs.  I spotted the vintage pink lucite sculpture at the 1st Dibs showroom in New York this summer and remarked that if I could have anything in the showroom, this would be the thing that would be mine.  In this fantasy (and for two more weeks on the Hanover Avenue website) it is mine.

to view  more of this project and video interview with Anne Tollett:


Janie Molster Room Dining View (2)

At last season’s home furnishings markets we were thrilled to spot a few daring product designers giving a brave shout out to the color red.  Red conjures up strong visuals and strong opinions. Think love, lipstick, Bloody Marys,  Nancy Reagan’s wardrobe, and red geraniums (you may not want them in your garden but it’s a happy Spring day when your nursery is stocked with them).  While we have clients who love red and others who worry that it may not be restful, for me it’s the happiest of colors. I have had a red room in every place I have lived beginning with the childhood bedroom my Mother let me design (red and white ruffled gingham curtains and red shag carpet…yikes!).  Important to note that for some, a little red goes a long way. If a red lacquer dining room is too adventuresome for your taste (albeit very flattering in candlelight), try smaller pops of red in accessories as in the pillows below:


We love World’s Away’s coffee table introduction last Fall:

Worlds Away coffee red

A vintage version in similar materials from 1st Dibs:


An antique “throne” settee is revved up with a red cabana stripe.

Stripe Settee Pink Lamps

Nantucket Red on a guestroom floor at The Ship’s Inn:


A red vanity and graphic wallpaper in a small bathroom:


Wearing red and channeling Bill Blass’s quote, “Red is the ultimate cure for sadness”.

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Organizing and displaying collections takes careful thought.  I always encourage clients to group whatever they are collecting en masse.  It is visually stronger and more interesting  to display a group of similar items in relation to each other.  Most anything can constitute a collection.  I rotate my own collections which range from sort-of special to especially loved.  On a walk through my house one would find collections such as a grouping of sculptures by a favorite New Orleans artist (Julie Silvers),  my children’s primitive pottery, a wall covered with brown transferware, old family sepia-colored photos, and last but best, 15 odd pairs of my boy’s very worn toddler-sized red Keds sneakers.  I have them tied all together as a vertical hanging sculpture.


We recently worked on a project where the client had several wonderful collections but they were scattered throughout the home. On this wall we reorganized a graphic collection of botanicals by South Carolina artist, Becky Davis.

light shop baskets

In this Nantucket Inn, we gathered up a collection of woven lightship baskets and clustered them on a parlor desk.

black and white

Another way to group collections is in a color genre.  In this foyer a collection of artwork in tones of black, white and grey creates harmony with a like-minded palette.


A Delft plate collection accented with Delft lamps and a Delft planter in a breakfast room. If you have a favorite stack of china hiding  in a cupboard, consider grouping them in a fun design on an accent wall.

Untitled-2 gray background edited 2

Collections don’t need to be costly to be loved.  I am very attached to my dog-eared collection of coffee table books.  I love how our client stacked her own collection. Coffee table book collection turned coffee table!


My client came to me with many great attributes- good taste, decisiveness, and a love for all shades of blue. Her favored palette choice ranges from dark indigo, sapphire, cobalt, to sky blue. (In this case she’s a North Carolina native so it’s a clear Tar Heel sky blue).


Blue and white was our jumping off point for several rooms. In the living room we started with an extensive, albeit unorganized, collection of antique blue and white delft pottery vases and urns. We grouped disparate styles of display brackets over the sofa and washed them in milk paint for continuity.


Generous blue taffeta curtains accented with cut crystal curtain finials add more glamour.


The garden room has a neutral backdrop accented with blue ombré velvet pillows and tie dyed glazed table lamps.

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A grouping of antique blue delft plates and delft lamps mixes with antique table and chairs (side chairs upholstered in blue and white linen ticking).


Festive fabric covers a slouchy sofa in the Family Room with color blocked pillows and a blue geometric rug.

Our favorite blue paint colors:

Benjamin Moore: Alfresco, Glass Slipper, Palladian Blue, & Mill Springs Blue

Farrow and Ball: Dix Blue and Oval Room Blue


I have very talented friends whose brains I pick about flower design on a regular basis. To me it is as if they step into the backyard or garden, clip some errant branches and voila, an uncontrived tablescape masterpiece appears. I have to put a little more thought into these things, but I always look for easy ways to dress my table that don’t require the hunting and gathering of exotic flowers & accessories. Just this week my artist friend Nancy hosted a beautiful cocktail buffet with a standout centerpiece-a small glass cylinder container within another larger cylinder. Beautiful roses were in the center container and exotic fish swam about in the exterior cylinder–I will be stealing that one!

At our holiday office party I ran a piece of simple burlap down the table center and layered low greens (Magnolia, Acuba, and Poet’s Laurel). A few different color ribbons were intertwined with the greens and I used small clusters of roses and pomegranates for added color.

jmd office party table 1 crop

These placemats were a big hit for the holiday in our JMD Home pop-up shop at the Shops at 5807. (available in gold, silver, and champagne)

jmd office party table 2

I still love my Herend China that I randomly selected as young bride.

place setting china

Miniature sheepskin throws are fun and cozy to add to chairs seats for winter meals.

jmd office party 4 chairs

It’s easy to recreate a low, long, and seasonal table design with other materials. At Thanksgiving I used a darker burlap, bittersweet vine, small pumpkins, gourds, and sunflowers.

thanksgiving crop

Ina Garten’s new cookbook makes enjoying your party a lot easier. This week I have prepared the Coquilles Saint Jacques, Moroccan Lamb Tagine, and Tri-Berry Crumbles – all easy and delicious.

ina garten

With love and thanks to my special helper.




A few times over the years I have tried to have a simple thematic Christmas tree…one color of ribbon, all the ornaments unified by style or color with coordinated presents wrapped below. I put up a second tree for handmade kindergarten ornaments and those other ornaments of questionable good taste. I quickly realized that the ornaments dedicated to the less stylized tree were by far my favorites and they needed to be front and center during Christmas. These days we have one tree and it is dripping with treasures but a bit chaotic. As careful as I am, every year a few ornaments suffer the consequences of my packaging. I run a sort of ornament triage unit and carefully tape, glue or mold everything back together as best I can. I would love to tell you the family gathers for hot chocolate and cookies as we sing carols and trim the tree but it’s not really the case. My husband does the brute labor of installation and lights and I start hanging ornaments which can be several hours. I love it!

These are the reasons why:


john's snowman

John’s Snowman

roberts tree

Robert’s Christmas Tree

pierre- lower school

Pierre as a Lower School Boy

swain angel

Swain as an Angel

isabel angel

Isabel as an Angel

salt dough of york rd house

The salt dough ornament replica of my house by my brother, Jeffrey.



Love the willy nilly pattern of the horizontal striped stair runner installation:

stair runner_1

stair runner_2


Mix of blue patterns, vintage rug and a swirly rope lamp:



Pretty in pink with a vintage iron bed:

guest bedroom_1

Petite antique secretary with painted floors and pink trimmed sheer linen curtains:

  guest bedroom_3

Pristine pleated curtain heading:

guest bedroom curtain heading

Detail of custom vanity in bath:

custom vanity guest bath

Antique chair re-imagined with fresh pink floral:

guest bedroom chair_4


Serene bedroom is given zest with antique Oushak carpet:

master bedroom

Slipcovered headboard with ties and vintage hand-painted side tables attributed to Sister Parish’s atelier:

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Detail of armchair skirt with leather tie:

master bedroom_3

Custom vanity in master bath:

custom vanity_master bath

Detail of paint finish with soapstone counter and “living finish” brass hardware:

custom vanity_master bath1


Black lacquer beds with accents of red and local oyster shell lamps:

boys bedroom_2

Antique bureau mixes with mod leather wrapped mirror:

boys bedroom_1


Family heirloom works well as custom fitted vanity:

powder room

Stay tuned for more from this Chesapeake Bay treasure!

scout post


“Always sophisticated and far from gloomy, grey is a perennial favorite of ours. Able to be paired with anything, the color is a versatile chameleon we can’t imagine tiring of, whether when used in our rooms or incorporated into our wardrobes. In fashion, a stylish grey sweater shares must-have status on par with the perfect white shirt, and as the above room by Richmond-based designer Janie Molster shows, the color’s ability to add warmth and sophistication to a room make it a decidedly smart choice for any space.”

-The Scout Guide