Home for the Holidays is a special series featuring our favorite food and home experts and their diverse homes—and holidays—from around the world. From Los Angeles to Mumbai and Hong Kong, we get a peek at how each family approaches the most special of seasons—in a way that’s uniquely theirs.
“Slowly but surely, we are transitioning our home back to a more soulful cottage,” says Kennesha Poe-Buycks. “We want it to be high on cozy vibes, and eventually, low on builder and flipper-grade finishes.”
Two years ago, when Poe-Buycks moved into this 1940s cottage in Seattle, she wanted it to be a place where her family could not only settle down, but thrive. “Our home was originally transported from another part of Washington and placed on this land,” she continues. “While its farmhouse style has been manipulated quite a bit, the soul of that time remains.”
Witnessing Poe-Buycks celebrate that soul through her work on Restoration House—the Instagram feed and blog that document her plans and renovations—is like stepping into a conversation full of warmth. Bright floral patterns mix with deep wood tones, soft textures brush up against woven finishes, and even the smallest details seem to rightfully claim their place. “I love a good nod to the English cottage,” she says. “It looks a bit lived-in with signs of wear and use, and there are keepsakes on display. It feels restful and inviting, and I’ll take any of that I can get.”
It’s no surprise, then, that Poe-Buycks cherishes the most compassionate span of the year: the holiday season. This is her chance to blend the past with the present, and make personal memories that hint at a collective well of nostalgia. Below, she shares her overall design mindset, the holiday routines she has on lock, and what she does to remind herself to stay in the moment.
Do you enjoy decorating with vintage? What draws you to older pieces versus newer ones?
I’m obsessed—so much so that I opened my own shop to help others do the same. It also doesn’t hurt that my garage was stuffed with hundreds of finds from my explorations.
What I love about older pieces is that they come with a richness, a story. While newer pieces have their place, there’s nothing more exciting than picking up a piece of furniture, an art frame, or some other accessory that has some experience. Because of that history, vintage pieces have a way of making a statement simply by being in the room.
Some of her decorations are decades-old, but others can be “new” finds she spotted at vintage stores. Those items have a history, even if they’ve only recently landed on a shelf. Photo by Kennesha Poe-Buycks
What activities do you and your family do leading up to the holidays?
There’s one neighborhood where all of the homes are designed in a Carpenter Gothic style, so they look like gingerbread houses. We love going there and touring them—the neighbors go all out with synchronized lights and decor. We put on holiday music, hop in the car, and get after it. It’s a fun, seasonal tradition, and it remains one of my favorite things to do even as our kids have gotten older.
Any tips for keeping stress at bay leading up to Christmas Day?
It all comes down to self-care. The holidays seem bent on being stressful, but a lot of this can be self-imposed. There’s the pressure of comparison, performance, and commodification that can make us all feel unlike our typical selves. I try to keep things simple, and do things as a family. It helps keep everything in perspective.
Share what a typical Christmas day goes down in your household?
Even though our kids are older, they’re still up at the crack of dawn each year. But as they were growing up, I made a tradition of preparing a casserole on Christmas Eve that we can pop in the oven in the morning. We still do this, so once gifts are opened and we’ve cleaned up a bit, we have the casserole for breakfast. It’s the star of our show after the gifts. Once breakfast is over, Christmas is really a lounge day. No Christmas is complete without The Christmas Story marathon!
Tell us about your most cherished holiday memories. Have these memories influenced how you spend the holiday now?
I have a lot of holiday memories, and most are attached to receiving a gift I’d wanted all year. But I think I’d like to speak to my memories of large family gatherings and that feeling of togetherness. I’m an only child, so it was my favorite when my house was flooded with all of my cousins. I’ve taken those memories and used them to make my home a gathering place. I like to entertain throughout the year, so this energy extends beyond the holiday season!
How would you describe your approach to holiday decor?
This would mean I would have to put myself in a box and I despise them—ha! If I had to choose, I’d say that I lean more traditional in my personal design aesthetic, and in terms of the holidays, I love a classic style. The only exception is that I don’t care for red in decorating, not even during this time of year.
Do you buy new or vintage holiday items? What are some of your favorite resources for decor?
I like to mix it up—some of my decor is 20 years old at this point. And that’s strange, considering I’m only 25 (wink, wink). I love my own shop, of course, as well as those of Coco Kelley, and June Home Supply.
Kennesha likes to keep her holidays simple, including the tablescape, so that the experience doesn’t feel overwhelming. “I remind myself to do things as a family,” she adds. Photo by Kennesha Poe-Buycks
How do you decorate your table for entertaining?
I like natural fibers, like cotton or linen, paired with a fresh centerpiece and something unexpected. This can be the use of vintage vessels lining the center of the table that are filled with greenery and florals, or incorporating seasonal vintage fabrics instead of something new. I like to remind people to keep this aspect of their design simple, remember your “why,” and most importantly, invite others in.
How are you celebrating and gathering this holiday season? Tell us in the comments below.
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