What inspires your creativity in your designs?
I’m inspired by the people, places and experiences that I’m celebrating. My first step in creating anything, whether it’s a party, a gift for someone, or any design element, is to think about how I can make it personal and unique. In my book, CELEBRATE EVERYTHING!, I explain that I begin every celebration by asking some questions about the person or company being honored in order to help customize the event. Then, I think about the answers, and how I can bring those elements into anything I design. That might mean serving the birthday boy’s favorite food, or decorating with memorabilia from the town where a company started—anything that makes an event personal and one-of-a-kind.
How has your family influenced your career?
I grew up in a very creative household. My sister and I always made our Halloween costumes with our mom—one year I turned myself into a box of Rice Krispies, and another, a giant pack of Trident gum. My mom always took me to the bead store on 39th Street so I could make my own barrettes and jewelry—in grade school I even started a business where I sold earrings at a local shop on Madison Avenue! Both my parents encouraged us to express ourselves, and whenever we went on vacations, my mom would bring blank journals, markers and pens for my sister and me to fill out during the trip. It was such a special experience for me that I wanted to recreate that for my own children, in my own way. I’ve always decorated lunch bags for them and I love creating personalized presents for special occasions. I am inspired by my children all the time.
What is your favorite family activity?
I’m always happiest when I’m with my family, but if I had to pick one activity, it would probably traveling together. There’s something special about spending real quality time with one another outside of our regular routine. Whether it’s visiting the grandparents in Florida or Park City, or my husband and me taking my youngest to visit her sisters at summer camp in Maine, traveling brings us together and lets us spend time with one another, sharing new experiences together. It’s a nice time where everyone turns off—no work, no playdates, just family time. Usually those trips make for family bonding, great conversations, and inevitably…some new nicknames!
Were you always interested in being an author? What is the inspiration behind “Celebrate Everything?”
I never dreamed I’d be an author, but I’ve definitely always loved drawing, and my illustrations are a big part of CELEBRATE EVERYTHING. As a kid, I drew my own birthday invitations (which featured my mom’s handwriting the tagline—“Swim and Dine ‘cause Darcy’s 9!”). I still love making birthday cards for people with an illustration of them in their outfit that day. When I was in high school at Chapin, I started the tradition of “psych signs” for sports games, with sketches of girls playing basketball.
I’ve always been someone who loves to celebrate other people. When my best friend from college got married, I surprised her and organized her bachelorette party at our old summer camp in Maine where we slept in our old bunk and became campers for the weekend.
This love of celebrating the people around me only grew once I had kids of my own. After years of planning and documenting the parties I’ve thrown for them, I realized I had so many great sources and ideas that people could use for their own celebrations. That’s how the book started to come together.
Who is your favorite florist? What are your favorite catering companies and balloon companies?
That’s such a hard question, because there are always so many talented people that I get to work with! It’s one of my favorite things about planning these celebrations. In New York, you have access to so many great vendors and I do a huge amount of ordering and sourcing online, too.
For flowers, it’s so hard to pick because everyone has their own styles and it really all depends on the occasion! I’ve collaborated for years with event designer David Stark; he shares my passion for creativity, attention to detail, and fun surprising elements. Some other great florists that I’ve loved working with are Putnam + Putnam, Lewis Miller and Stonekelly. I’m also a big fan of event designers Bryan Rafanelli and Raul Avilla. I love paper flowers, too; Livia Cetti at The Green Vase and Rebecca Thuss are two of my favorite makers of those. These are some of the great talents in the industry, but when I’m just doing arrangements at home home, between Dutch at the flower market and the delis on the corner, it’s easy to get great flowers—I usually go the single-bloom route to keep arrangements easy and elegant.
If I had to choose a few caterers, I’d start with my long-time friend, the wonderful Peter Callahan. Peter and I have collaborated together on countless parties; we always brainstorm at the start about the theme of the party and come up with original ideas, whether it’s a caviar on a cracker-shaped engagement ring for a bridal shower I hosted for Dylan Lauren, or a smoked salmon tea sandwich shaped like a tiered cake for another shower. I also love Havens Kitchen- which has the best vibe and delicious food. Recently, I did a holiday party at Drew Barrymore’s pop-up, and Pinch Catering did a great job with the food. Anyone who knows me also knows that I love adding sweets to my celebrations, so I always incorporate bakeries, too. One Girl Cookies is one of my favorites—not only does everything taste great, but they’re lovely to work with. I just got reindeer-shaped s’mores for a holiday party from them. I’m also a big fan of Baked and their sprinkle cake, Eleni’s Color-Me Cookies, and I love customizing Georgetown Cupcakes with my artwork. I’m a huge Laduree fan, too—who isn’t?
When we’re talking about balloons, I have to bring up about my friend Jihan and her Geronimo Balloons! She’s the ultimate in balloon inspiration. The Balloon and Event Construction Company did a great job when I had the book launch for CELEBRATE EVERYTHING—they traveled all the way to New York City from Florida to put together our incredible balloon wall. I’m also a fan of Brooklyn Balloon Company’s work.
What are your favorite crafts stores in NYC? Any crafting/art classes you can recommend to our audience?
My favorite place for crafting in New York City is Pins and Needles. My daughers absolutely love it! It’s a sewing store and studio with classes and my girls are always going there to make gifts, clothes, and décor for their rooms. The Craft Studio is another great spot for kids crafting sessions and parties.
As far as craft supply stores, of course there’s Michael’s, and I’m also a big fan of Purl Soho, Paper Presentation, and Paper Source. I take multiple trips a week to the Paper Source store!
What is your favorite family vacation spot?
I’m just happy to be on vacation with my family, but if I had to pick a favorite, it would be Paris. I have amazing memories of traveling there with my sister and parents as a kid, and now it’s wonderful to get to experience the same city with my husband, Andy, and our three girls.
No matter when we get to go, there are always incredible exhibits going on (on our last trip, we saw the Dior show), the parks are beautiful and we now have our own favorite places to visit, from bakeries to craft stores to chocolate shops. On the list are the Bois de Bologne (with the jardin declamacion), the chocolate shop Jadis and Gourmande, the bakery Poilane, and exploring Giverny and Monet’s gardens with our sketchbooks. Each trip is a chance to get to experience new things…like my nine-year-old eating escargot, or staying up late to watch the blinking Eiffel Tower, which lights up on the hour.
What is your favorite diy crafting activity to do at home with your girls?
Exactly what you’d expect from an illustrator—drawing! My girls and I love drawing together, and I enjoy sketching with them when we go on trips. When you draw something, you notice so much more about a building or scenery because you have to focus on the little details; that’s such a special experience to share with them.
At home, we love making welcome home signs for the door, cards for friends and family, decorating wrapping paper for presents, and making drawings for the breakfast table on special occasions like birthdays. We’re also big on making Valentines. I actually just asked Ella, my twelve-year-old, what some of her favorite things we do together are and she said, “anything for holidays, making place cards and cootie catchers—especially for Thanksgiving.”
Lately, the new hot crafting tool in our house, beyond the markers and colored pencils, is the Cricut Maker, which my daughters, especially my youngest LOVE. It makes cutting out cards and paper décor so much easier and more fun—they’re able to create designs that would have been almost impossible to create by hand (as seen here with our personalized Halloween bags).
But…if you want the honest answer of what my KIDS’ favorite crafting activity is to do at home, it’s to make slime!
What is on your holiday shopping list?
For me, the holiday challenge is always, how I can personalize a gift? This year for my husband’s Hanukkah present, I got a plain belt from Barney’s and had it stamped with my daughter’s artwork. My daughter also sewed my husband a dopp kit at Pins and Needles, which she personalized with her artwork. We’ve customized everything from pillows embroidered with handwriting from Etsy to cufflinks customized with artwork. I tell my husband and my kids I have a “no store-bought gift” policy for myself—that I only want cards or things they’ve made. I especially love my phone case with my kids’ artwork on it.
What are three of your top entertaining tips?
If I had to narrow it down to three, it would be:
1. Make it personal! By now, you probably guessed that would be number one! Using photos of the guest f honor or serving the food and playing the music they love makes the celebration that much more memorable.
2. Choose a theme or color palette. Coming up with décor, invitations, food and music is so much easier when you have a set theme or color palette. Choose something that the guest of honor would love‑‑for a crossword puzzle fan that means lots of black and white and checkboxes; for someone who is crazy about Paris, it’s red, white and blue, and berets‑-and weave it through everything in the party
3. Stay organized so that you can enjoy the party. When you’re planning an event, pretend the date is a week sooner than it actually is, so that you already have a built-in cushion there. Make lots of lists, track shipments, and stay organized so that you’ll know the plan backward and forward well in advance of the party. This not only keeps your stress level low, it also means you’ll be able to enjoy the event while you’re there! Stay in the moment, relax a little, and make it memorable by engaging with your guests at the event you worked so hard to plan.
What values do you hope to instill in your children?
So many! But the most important ones are to be grounded, hardworking, positive and not to get upset about things that don’t matter.
I also try to teach them that it’s important to care for others and to give back. From my oldest daughter who volunteers At a Hebrew Public Charter School , to the bake sales and lemonade stands we've held for hurricane victims and pediatrics at Memorial Sloan Kettering Caner center, it’s a way for us all to spend time together while giving back to those around us.
And of course…I want to make sure that at the end of the day, they live a well-balanced life and make the most of every day.
I try to instill the attitude of what the last line of my book is… “life is short…celebrate everything!”