Houston Interior Designer Pamela O’Brien Recaps Her Trip to the Kips Bay Decorator Show House

Kips Bay Decorator Show House | Design: McCann Design Group | Photo: 2024 © Nickolas Sargent Photography

Kips Bay Decorator Show House | Design: McCann Design Group | Photo: 2024 © Nickolas Sargent Photography

Many years ago, I had the honor of attending a blogger’s tour in NYC. One of the highlights was visiting the iconic Kips Bay ASID Show House. That year, it was a pair of joined penthouses in a Manhattan skyscraper. It was simply amazing.

Over the years, the Kips Bay Show House machine has expanded to Palm Beach and Dallas. I have been to show houses in both cities and am happy to report that my yearly Florida jaunt has become a permanent fixture on my calendar. As a Houston Interior Designer, I find it important to experience the interior design styles in other cities. After all, what better inspiration is there than travel?

Two of my design besties, Wrenda Goodwyn of Spectacular Spaces and Susan Hayes of Re-Feather Your Nest Decorating, live in Florida. Wrenda is on the West Coast, but Susan is less than 45 minutes from Palm Beach. Susan invites us to stay with her each year, and we have a wonderful time enjoying her beautiful Floridian home. We were lucky to have Lauri Ward, founder of Use What You Have Interiors, join us as well. We all met through training that Lauri provided and have stayed in touch ever since.

Female Interior Designers - Kips Bay Show House

Left to Right – Lauri, Wrenda, Susan, and Moi

Touring the Kips Bay 2024 Decorator Show House 

This year’s show house was an explosion of color and style, with 23 designers designing side by side. While there were many inventive spaces and lots of design inspiration, a nice use of blue hues carried through many prominent rooms for a united feel. Palm tree wallpaper in white on blue or blue on white was used several times, and it looked perfect. Bars are always a big thing at show houses, and it begs the question: Just how much are we drinking these days?

Kips Bay Decorator Show House Palm BeachDesigner: Jim Dove Photo: 2024 © Nickolas Sargent Photography

Kips Bay Decorator Show House Palm Beach | Designer: Jim Dove | Photo: 2024 © Nickolas Sargent Photography

Libraries are also popular, although they often feature more objects than books. I’ll freely admit that being addicted to audiobooks, I buy very few books these days.

Houston Interior Designer - Kips Bay

Kips Bay Decorator Show House PPO Photo

Of course, the bedrooms boasted fabulous en suite bathrooms. Closets were as pretty as any luxury retail space, and several bedrooms had cute little escapist cubbies where one could simply indulge in quiet time and perhaps a few vices. One escape room had a pretty chest filled with cigarettes, two drawers full of candy, and a bottom drawer stocked with vodka bottles. It was very fun and tongue-in-cheek, obviously designed by and for quite a fascinating woman. 

As always in Florida, there seemed to be an abundance of seashells. These are not your ordinary personal collections in a bowl on a table at home or at your beach house. Instead, they were used in fanciful ways. One example was the scary shell mask faces hidden around corners outdoors. These reminded me of the Māori masks and tattoos I saw when we visited New Zealand.

Kips Bay Decorator Show House Palm BeachDesigner: Helen Bergin Photo: 2024 © Nickolas Sargent Photography

Kips Bay Decorator Show House Palm Beach | Designer: Helen Bergin | Photo: 2024 © Nickolas Sargent Photography

One of the most celebrated features of the house was the incredible shellwork affixed to the bedroom furniture. This motif was enhanced by panels on walls, windows, and furnishings where ornate and realistic shell designs were embroidered onto fabric. It was truly remarkable work. I can’t imagine wanting to sit down on the benches or chairs with these stunning designs.

Rinfret Kips Bay 001

Kips Bay Decorator Show House Palm Beach | Designer: Rinfret Limited | Photo: Carmel Brentley

The outdoor spaces were magnificent, of course. Each time I visit Florida, I marvel at the verdancy. Living in Texas, we have some pretty lovely gardens, but the climate in this part of the state appears quite benign since they haven’t had the number of freezes we have been experiencing and seem to be getting ample rain. From what I’ve experienced, the plants are gloriously happy, and it just makes me smile.

About 1/2 of the home’s second floor appeared to be an open-air veranda. It was amazing to go up the stairs (featuring a gorgeous green-glass light fixture and staghorn ferns growing on the walls) and walk out to what felt like a terrace restaurant. The space was huge!

Kips Bay Decorator Show House Palm Beach | Designer: Ariel Okin | Photo: Carmel Brentley

Kips Bay Decorator Show House Palm Beach | Designer: Ariel Okin | Photo: Carmel Brentley

A Floridian Shopping and Dining Excursion 

After visiting the spectacular show house, we indulged in shopping and dining at HIVE. The bakery was buzzing, the tables were full, and the multiple buildings full of furniture, accessories, partyware, tableware, and children’s items were such fun to browse. After a tasty lunch with my non-negotiable lobster roll sandwich (something I always get when on the East Coast), I decided to purchase the cutest little breadbasket. HIVE is a scratch-made kitchen and bakery, so they serve delicious homemade bread daily from woven trays that seemed just the right size. Since I consider bread my favorite food group, I like to offer it to guests when I entertain. I always feel my bread baskets at home are either too small or too large. The little woven tray I bought at HIVE was the perfect souvenir. 

Full disclosure: I also bought a six-pack of absolutely delicious chocolate chip cookies, which I polished off myself, and a bag of pecan sandies, Jon’s favorite cookie, which I did not allow myself to open. As of this writing, I plan to give them to him this evening. I promise!

A Pit Stop at the Flagler Museum

I just finished the book An American Beauty, highlighting a woman’s rise to fame and fortune in the mid to late 1800s. Having enjoyed it and being a Downton Abbey fan, I must put The Gilded Age on my watch list. Since I was in the midst of Gilded Age opportunities, I decided to book a visit to the Flagler Museum. Henry Flagler was truly the mastermind behind Florida becoming a destination, and his winter home in Palm Beach is a testament to the opulence and grandeur of the time. The home is beautiful and conjures up the imagination of what it would be like to be in one of the many lovely guest suites. A gorgeous pavilion overlooks the Intracoastal Waterway and the massive yachts at the Palm Beach Yacht Club. A coconut groove provides lots of greenery and Flagler’s own rail car is available to tour. We had tea in the pavilion following our visit to the home.

An added bonus was a traveling exhibit of Alphonse Mucha’s works in the upper portion of the mansion. I adored Mucha when I was in college and could not believe our luck at happening upon three rooms full of some of his best-known work. Seeing how creative and successful he became with his sensual, romantic, and colorful designs was fantastic. He could create anything from costumes and theater sets to magazine covers to tins for biscuits and chocolates. We just loved this exhibit.

We drove the long way home along A1A, a gorgeous road passing many stunning Florida homes. Many are behind stucco walls and thick hedges, but you still see glimpses of exquisite real estate and often water on both sides. The drive is a pleasure.

The whole trip was a delight. Florida and all its pleasures never fail to inspire me. Until next time, find your own inspiration or call us, and we’ll help you discover it.

Owner of Pamela Hope Designs, Pamela O'Brien, smiling in blue dressMeet Pamela, A Luxury Interior Designer in Houston

Pamela O’Brien is the founder of Pamela Hope Designs in Houston, Texas. Pamela is an award-winning luxury interior designer, writer, and speaker. Prior to founding Pamela Hope Designs, Pamela served as a spokesperson in media and public affairs, working with media outlets like Dateline NBC and 48 Hours. This experience allowed her to travel the world and furthered her love for travel, culture, and interior design. After going back to school to pursue interior design at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Pamela launched her own interior design firm. Pamela is known for building strong relationships with her clients, who later become friends and collaborators. She is highly influential in the Houston interior design space and shows no signs of slowing down.

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