With much of last year’s holiday festivities toned down or canceled altogether because of the pandemic, 2021 is already shaping up to be a season to remember.
However, local interior designer Lauren Ashley Allan says the key theme for 2021 is something we learned from the recent health crisis—focus on the things that make you happy.
“It applies to all kinds of items in your home,” explains Allan, who recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of her eponymous firm, Lauren Ashley Allan Interior Design and Architecture Studio, which serves clients throughout the Chicago area, including the North Shore. “My two kids Cleo and Van make it more fun to celebrate holidays now, because you can bring them into holiday traditions young and take them through the design process with you.”
Allan, whose design pedigree includes working as a Senior Designer for Kelly Wearstler and Creative Director for Nate Berkus, says 4-year-old Cleo and 18-month-old Van will be included in creating the family’s Christmas and New Year’s holiday décor as well. Drawing influences from vintage books and magazines from France and Italy, her signature take on modern glam is all about bringing in unexpected elements and accents you can’t find anywhere else.
“A party is always in season. Come up with a concept such as mixed metals, be bold, and have fun!” she says. “Set up a home bar that guests will flock to. It should look festive and appetizing. Before you start, make sure you’re pulling in tabletop and bar accessories from different sets. A mix of materials, like brass and ceramics, helps it look curated and rich, like you’re using a fun group of things you’ve collected over the years. I like to bring in bigger pieces that are both functional well as decorative, such as a large organic bowl to hold ice and sodas.”
Allan says holiday entertaining is also the perfect opportunity to put your own signature touch on décor. Rather than rushing out to buy new serving plates or bowls, open the china cabinet to see what’s already there that can be repurposed in a new way.
“Conversation pieces make the bar more interesting,” she explains. “Introduce a select amount of glassware, leaving most out of site behind the bar, with only the frequently used and beautiful decanters up front. Bring in a beautiful tray to give height to different things or a raised tray as a platform for small plates and more accents. Plus, you can slide things under it for extra space.”
Allan also likes to keep a “dialogue with the outdoors,” bringing in fall and winter leaves and branches to add color and height to the bar. Even the smallest details like pretty, well-chosen bartender’s accessories can set the tone for a party that guests will be talking about into next year.
“For instance, serve a small dish of olives, with vintage brass tableware and dish. Scale is important and if everything is big, nothing will shine on its own,” she adds.
“When you’re setting up, think about the flow of the guests. Arrange things so they can come, get their drink, their olive, a napkin, a straw—it should be seamless.”
This carefully curated attention to detail has defined Allan’s own signature style over the last year as she has made her dream of opening her own firm come true.
“I am so thankful for the incredible support and outreach by friends, family, vendors, contractors, and acquaintances. Our team and the community that we have built around the country on social media is so special—people who truly want to support a female founded business,” says Allan, who is currently working on renovations and high-end, new construction residential projects around the country from the Chicago area to Long Beach, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Florida, and Los Angeles. “It’s important for me to stop and remember to enjoy the journey as each day brings something new. I feel so fortunate to love my work and share that with the world. All you can do is work hard and hope you can make the world better through whatever it is you do.”
She says this holiday season will be even more special for her and many others as we emerge from the pandemic. “I am so excited to be with friends and family again!”
Follow Lauren Ashley Allan on Instagram at @lauren.ashley.allan.