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Tamara Matthews-Stephenson

Tamara's Top 7 Holiday Host Tips for a Fabulous Soiree | Toma Clark Haines | The Antiques Diva

Impress Your Guests this Holiday Season – Set a Festive and Beautiful Table Decoration, Diva Style!

I have a special holiday gift for you! My dear friend (interior designer, style-setter and owner of Nest by Tamara and root cellar design and a US Diva Guide) Tamara Matthews-Stephenson is sharing her Top 7 Holiday Host Tips for a Fabulous Soiree. Tamara is often invited to speak at design industry events to share her expertise on the subjects of interior design, entertaining and the international design markets. Her Nest by Tamara blog was voted #1 design blog in Modenus’ TOP 100 DESIGN BLOGS. 

Tamara Matthews-Stephenson US Antiques Diva GuideA few weeks back I shared holiday decorating tips over on Trim Queen’s illustrious blog.  It seems “top of mind” this time of year because when we do take the leap to invite guests into our home and host a dinner party, we want it to be special and memorable. Unlike typical decorating concerns when incorporating antiques, furnishings, textiles, art in our homes, (we certainly want them to stand the test of time and through various seasons), when it comes to decorating a party table, we are free to channel our inner diva, and take it over the top (in a good way).

My tree sparkled in a Velveteen Rabbit theme at historic home, Bartow Pell Home

The Holidays are a perfect time of year to bring drama and whimsy to our homes and put everyone in a festive mood. Heck, even if we wind up ordering take-out and serving it on pretty platters, guests will be wow’d if we create a beautifully arranged table and decor. Today I am happy to share my Top Seven Holiday Host Tips to help you create a successful and beautiful soiree. I host often, both in my home and for charitable organizations, and over time I have learned some interesting time-saver and stylish tips. My friends have come to call me the “Tabletop Queen” because of my unique knack for entertaining. Now that I have added fabric and wallpaper designer to my resume as co-owner of root cellar designs, I have another vantage point in interior design. Textiles are a key way to bring beauty into your home and table.

You may know by following her on social media, that Toma (the Diva herself) is making the big move this month and relocating from Berlin to Venice, Italy. I can only imagine the Italian-style dinner parties she will plan in her new home. Hopefully we will all sip champagne together someplace exotic alongside Toma on her travels soon — perhaps at her infamous breakfast at the Paris Flea Market this coming January? Until then, I am happy to share my entertaining tips here today on the Antiques Diva blog.


Happy Holidays, 

and Happy Nesting

XO Tamara  


Tamara’s Top 7 Holiday Host Tips for a Fabulous Soiree 

1. Break Out Grandmother’s Fine Crystal and Silver
Yes, I know they are in the back of the linen closet packed away for that special occasion. Well, that special occasion is here! Today, it is perfectly acceptable to mix and match your everyday wares with your finest china and silver. The way we entertain today in a more casual setting, the antique tabletop items we own or inherited when juxtaposed with our modern, everyday items bring a fresh and appeal to your home and table.

This Thanksgiving I mixed in my mother’s Depression Glass with my reproduction Spode Holiday Plates.

2. Go Over The Top With Color
Whether it’s all one colorway in various hues, or a medley of vibrant colors, go bold. I like to take it away from the traditional red and green combination, and introduce pops of color like Tiffany blue, greens, ochre, silver and metals.  When we at root cellar design custom design table linens, we keep in mind that there are a plethora of white linens on the market, but very few colorful designs. So, naturally, we go bold and bright and festive. Although our fabric is sold by the yard to the design trade in designer showrooms, this season we started offering our table linens from our fabric collections on a custom basis!

We custom-colored our blue willow pattern in our “holiday orange” color and mixed it with antique blue willow plates in traditional blue and white.Then we added unexpected pattern and design with these pinwheels used as name card holders.

3. Combine Patterns and Textures, Old and New
I use the “something old, something new rule” from weddings to set a holiday dinner party bringing my antique accessories (obelisks, stars and gems) onto my table for a point of interest.

Just like traditional decorating, setting a table is about adding layers and textures– from natural rattan to silver to mercury glass.

4. Add Unexpected Details to Your Table

We custom designed our tortoiseshell pattern in a subtle grey and grown and here one of our clients set their
holiday table with them, then added pine cones, driftwood and other natural materials.

5. Use Placecards– It Feels Special
Here we put them next to the plates in tiny bird’s nests.

For our table at last year’s Lenox Hill Gala we wrapped chocolates for guests.

6. Leave a Little Gift for Your guests on the Table, or Send Them Home with a Goodie Bag
Either a small wrapped gift at the table or a small holiday gift to take home (maybe some homemade Christmas cookies), and it is such a special touch.

7. Offer a Specialty Cocktail
It feels special, and, it frees up your time. Make a big batch of champagne cocktail (just add the champagne at the last minute) or in this case a Lemonade Vodka Sparkling cocktail, and set up your bar cart with all the accoutrements. Now, you’ve created a self-serve holiday bar where guests can refresh their drinks as needed. Note–give your cocktail a name, guests will love it!



custom designed pinwheels

custom designed paper butterflies

root cellar designs’ fabric and wallpaper


Root Cellar Designs

Dear Diva Readers,

As a woman entrepreneur and blogger, I am fully aware of what it takes to start a business and then keep the momentum up. You have to truly love what you do in order to maintain an energy level that allows you to grow and expand your business. That’s why I’m always excited when girlfriends of mine are able to succeed in business! My friend Tamara Matthews Stephenson has a fabulous blog, Nest by Tamara which was one of the first blogs I started following online back in the beginning of the blogosphere.  She frequently writes about antiques and how they influence her interior design. I’ve had the privilege of taking Tamara on an Antiques Diva Tour in Milan in conjunction with Blog Tour Milan by Modenus and am always happy to paint the town red with her when in New York!

Root Cellar Designs, Tamara Matthews Stephenson, Nest by Tamara, Modenus, Blog Tour Milan, The Antiques Diva, Custom textiles, Susan Young,

Tamara and her friend Susan Young have recently launched Root Cellar Designs, a fabulous custom textile company, and I’m so proud of her and impressed by the Spring 2015 line that I want to feature it here on my blog! The pair of ladies have backgrounds in the fashion and interior design industries and have pulled from both of these arenas to create fabrics that are whimsical, stylish, and take cues from history, which I love of course!

Root Cellar Designs, Tamara Matthews Stephenson, Nest by Tamara, Modenus, Blog Tour Milan, The Antiques Diva, Custom textiles, Susan Young,

The fabrics are digitally created and printed on cotton/linen fabric which means they are durable and easy to live with. I love the fact that they are using new technology along with historical influences to create an innovative product! The team says, “We like playing with history and traditional elements then tweaking them so they are fresh and new, and we are excited to note that you most likely will not see our designs anywhere else in the home marketplace.”

Root Cellar Designs, Tamara Matthews Stephenson, Nest by Tamara, Modenus, Blog Tour Milan, The Antiques Diva, Custom textiles, Susan Young,

Their products have been featured in NY Social Diary, The Editor At Large, and New York Spaces, among others. They’ve used philanthropic causes to give back and promote the line this year including The Lenox Hill Neighborhood House Black Tie Tabletop Gala, Housingwork’s 11th Annual Design on a Dime Charity Showhouse and Sale, and the Third Annual IFDA NY Chapter’s Take A Seat Auction to benefit Habitat For Humanity. Come summer, Root Cellar Designs will begin selling at various design and art shows throughout the NYC metropolitan area, and they hope to offer products online by fall 2015.

Root Cellar Designs, Tamara Matthews Stephenson, Nest by Tamara, Modenus, Blog Tour Milan, The Antiques Diva, Custom textiles, Susan Young,

I’m so proud of Tamara and Susan for following their dreams and starting this business! I love when women can take their experiences and pair them with their dreams. I look forward to seeing what the future holds for these women and Root Cellar Designs—I’m sure we’ll be seeing some wonderful creations this year!!! Congratulations ladies!


The Antiques Diva®   

(Seen here at my Antiques Diva Paris Flea Market Fete with Tamara – in the middle – and friends)
Root Cellar Designs, Tamara Matthews Stephenson, Nest by Tamara, Modenus, Blog Tour Milan, The Antiques Diva, Custom textiles, Susan Young, Toma Clark Haines, Paris Flea Market Party

Summer Antiquing in The Hamptons

Dear Diva Readers,

We’re delighted that Tamara Stephenson, interior designer and author of lifestyle blog Nest by Tamara is guest blogging today, sharing her favorite design sources with The Antiques Diva & Co.  Out on the East End of Long Island in the area known as The Hamptons there are many shows, flea markets and specialty shops.  Tamara sources vintage and antique pieces regularly for herself and her design clients and today shares one of her favorites stops with us.

Guest Blog: My favorite antique shopping in summer allows me to gain more knowledge about items I collect.

By Tamara Matthews-Stephenson

Photographs by Gabby Stephenson

It is no secret that the annual East Hampton Antique Show is my favorite in the area, and set on the bucolic and historic Mulford Farm it is a special place to pick up quality pieces from reliable dealers.  Drawing from some of the best shops around the east coast, this show offers something for everyone’s taste from mid-century to Victorian era furniture and accessories.  I have gotten to know many of the dealers personally in this informal setting, which is located every mid-July on James Lane in the heart of the village of East Hampton on 3.5 acres of historic land, complete with a restored 17th century farm house and several barns and outbuildings, some of the oldest in Long Island.  The farm is even home to a historic windmill built by Dutch settlers centuries ago here in eastern Long Island. The show is set up with large billowing white tents spread throughout the grassy, pretty farm giving visitors plenty of room to meander the property and inspect the goods.

Nest by Tamara, Tamara Matthews-Stephenson, Antiquing in The Hamptons, The Antiques Diva, East Hampton Antique Show, Mulford Farm, Gabby Stephenson

Over the years I have found a cornucopia of lovely antique textiles, outdoor garden sculptures, furniture, mirrors and lamps.   I have even added to my Majolica earthenware collection.  One of my favorite antique dealers hails from the north shore of Boston’s seaside town of Essex. Andrew Spindler hand picks items both locally and internationally for his shop and the shows where he exhibits.  His booth shows rare and unusual furnishings that he arranges together in a stylish manner.

Nest by Tamara, Tamara Matthews-Stephenson, Antiquing in The Hamptons, The Antiques Diva, East Hampton Antique Show, Mulford Farm, Gabby Stephenson, Majolica

Each summer while visiting this show I find pieces to add to my collections.  This year I found vintage hand towels and monogrammed linens from a local vendor to give as a hostess gift.  Last summer, I picked up a cute, Irish impish-looking painted cement garden gnome from a Vermont dealer, promising to bring good luck to my garden.  I also found a pair of Faux Bois metal outdoor chairs for under my client’s pergola.

Nest by Tamara, Tamara Matthews-Stephenson, Antiquing in The Hamptons, The Antiques Diva, East Hampton Antique Show, Mulford Farm, Gabby Stephenson, Majolica

Over the past few seasons, I have added to my collection of Majolica earthenware from this show where a few dealers bring select and unusual pieces.  Majolica is a very specific looking, unique pottery often adorned with flowers, crustacean, seashells, vegetables and fruit, all of which were applied as tiny sculptures layered on top.  It was first made in Staffordshire, England around 1850, and taken from earlier tin-glazed procedures made by craftsmen in Italy during the 15th century. It became very popular during the opulent Victorian era when entertaining in the home was popular.   Majolica is a lead and tin glaze process that creates an opaque white film that is painted on the surface of pottery. First the piece is fired then a tin enamel is applied that once dries forms a white opaque porous surface. The complicated process produces unique pieces that are often colorful and bold.  I learned much about Majolica at the East Hampton show, and while talking directly with the knowledgeable dealers.  The informal atmosphere at the show is a perfect environment to learn more about items you enjoy collecting.

Nest by Tamara, Tamara Matthews-Stephenson, Antiquing in The Hamptons, The Antiques Diva, East Hampton Antique Show, Mulford Farm, Gabby Stephenson, Majolica

Each year the opening of the show is marked by a celebratory cocktail evening/gala where champagne and delicious food is served and provided by local caterer Brent Newsom.   Renowned interior designer Celerie Kemble hosted this year’s gala with live music performed by Jane Hastay and Peter Martin Weiss. Sponsors of the antique show include BNY Mellon Wealth Management, House Beautiful magazine, Channing Daughters Winery and Charlie Whitmore Gardens. The show is managed by Ferguson & D’Arruda of Providence, Rhode Island.

Nest by Tamara, Tamara Matthews-Stephenson, Antiquing in The Hamptons, The Antiques Diva, East Hampton Antique Show, Mulford Farm, Gabby Stephenson, Majolica

Thanks Tamara for sharing an insiders glimpse on antiquing in The Hamptons!

The Antiques Diva®

Meet the Bloggers of Blog Tour Milan

Dear Diva Readers,

One thing I love most about my job is getting to meet industry leaders and experts.  That’s why I’m so excited to be leading a tour in Italy this week for Blog Tour Milan.  The tour will coincide with Salone del Mobile, Milan’s annual design week.  So before I jet off to Italy, I wanted to introduce you to the bloggers I’ll be with there…Meet the bloggers who will be blogging!


Award winning interior designer Pamela Copeman is noted for her posh panache and timeless designs that unite classic style with a modern, often colorful twist.  With over 20 years of experience in the design world, her Posh Palettes Blog is definitely a valuable resource for information on the latest and greatest products and trends in interior design.

kandrac and kole

The nationally recognized interior design firm Kandrac Kole will be represented by none other than founding principal designers Joann Kandrac and Kelly Kole!  Voted one of Atlanta’s Top 20 Residential Interior Designers in 2013 by the Atlanta Business Chronicle, their work has been featured on HGTV, The New York Times, House, Southern Lady Magazine, Atlanta Home Improvement and  These ladies’ love and commitment to the power of interior design is exhibited in their charity work throughout the U.S. and Guatemala and through their blog which was established in 2009.

Carmen Natschke

Carmen Maria Natschke is a new media entrepreneur, freelance writer, social media diva, speaker and the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the internationally acclaimed design blog, The Decorating Diva. Carmen travels the world over as a lifestyle and design expert sharing her love of art, architecture, design, and trends with thousands of Decorating Diva fans from around the globe.


As the Founder of SketchThis.Net, Eric Schimelpfenig has taken pencil and paper operations and converted them to 3D, worked with Google on Sketchup’s development, created 3D content for companies large and small, and taught Sketchup to countless students all over the country.  He is also an active columnist in Kitchen & Bath Design News, and often speaks on emerging technologies for the design field.

Holly Hollingsworth Phillips

Holly Hollingsworth Phillips is a residential interior designer and owner of The English Room in Charlotte, North Carolina.  With an elegant, eclectic and colorful style, she has completed homes all over the East coast that have ranged in style.  Her love of color, pattern and layering of old and new can be seen in all her work, which has been published in many print and digital publications.

Tamara Matthews Stephenson

Tamara Matthews Stephenson was inspired to start her lifestyle blog, Nest by Tamara, by her busy life as a NYC interior designer.  Tamara has written for Traditional Home Magazine, Venu Magazine, Today’s Equestrian and New York Spaces Magazine.  She hopes to help her clients and readers create a stylish yet well-lived in home while putting it all into perspective.

Krista Nye Schwartz and Tami Ramsay

Krista Nye Schwartz and Tami Ramsay are the duo behind the boutique interior design firm, Cloth & Kind with offices in Ann Arbor, MI and Athens, GA.  They have a passion for textiles and cultured spaces, and like to tell a story through their interiors.

Robin Plaskoff Horton

Robin Plaskoff Horton’s award-winning and Webby-nominated blog, Urban Gardens, is a lifestyle story told from the ground up.  Encompassing urban style, design, and nature, Urban Gardens focusses on the whole picture.  Robin has been a featured speaker at the Garden Bloggers Conference, Woman at Woodstock, and the Garden Writers Association Annual Meeting.  She is a contributor to and has been a featured curator for social commerce sites Pickie and Luvocracy.  Mashable named Urban Gardens “One of the Top 10 Must-Follow Home and Garden Twitter Accounts.”

Lisa Smith

Interior designer Lisa Smith is also author and publisher of  As owner and visionary behind Interior Design Factory, Ltd. , a boutique design firm where they devise everything from furniture to light fixtures, Lisa lives by her words, “do it once, do it right.”

Looking forward to taking all of these wonderful design enthusiasts on an abbreviated Antiques Diva tour in Milan!  Until then…

Ciao Bella!
The Antiques Diva®

NYC Design Event The Art of Collecting

Dear Diva Readers,

Antiques Diva at DDB in New York City

Last week I was delighted to speak in NYC on a panel on The Accessibility of Sourcing Antiques in Europe at the Decoration and Design Building. In this discussion intended for an interior designer audience we answered a slew of questions from where to go, to what to buy, to how much it actually costs and – most importantly – how to get it home once you buy it, sharing insider knowledge and secret hints and tips.   Held in the D&D Building’s newest and hottest showroom, our host was the Bespoke by Luigi Gentile Showroom which specializes in custom, fine, hand-crafted furniture exclusively for the interior design community.  During our Panel Discussion my cohorts and I were able to linger on perhaps the most comfortably chic, custom-made sofa I’ve ever sat on… and whilst discussing European antiques at one point I found my mind pondering Bespoke’s sectionals.  What I love about this showroom is they make custom as easy as buying one off the showroom floor.  They assist in all phases of the specifying process, from the initial conceptual selection of the basic style to the direction of the fabric application.

D&D Building NYC Antiques Diva 3 - use

The event was moderated by the effervescent Tamara Matthews Stephenson, the blogess behind  “Nest by Tamara” blog.  I first met Tamara when on #BlogTourNYC several  years ago and was immediately charmed by her wit, her savvy style and chic design sense combined with fabulous personality.  Needless to say I’m not the only one who has been charmed by here – her blog has been voted #1 out of the Top 100 Design Blogs by ModenusShe is a mover and shaker in the design world – Dot & Bo listed Tamara as one of the TOP 50 Home Influencers inspiring us in how we live today.  She started the event by sharing how her own father worked in antiques and telling stories of growing up going to auctions… should I ever decide to start Antiques Diva New York, Tamara would be the first person I’d call to help me leap the Atlantic.

DDB NYC Antiques Diva 6 - use

In addition to me participating on the panel several famed interior designers  also shared their stories of buying abroad. I was joined by  interior design maven Justin Shaulis, Jon Call of Mr Call Designs and Philip Gorrivan who divides his time between NYC and London and whose work has graced some of the top shelter publications from Elle Décor to House Beautiful.  Philip Gorrivan owns the eponymously named multi-disciplinary design firm incorporating interior design, architecture and product design. The firm brings its wide expertise and tailored modern taste to high-end private residences, commercial properties, yachts and hospitality projects in the United States and abroad; creating spaces, furniture and fabrics that are at once fresh and new, yet elegant and classic. His carefully edited aesthetic stems from his passion and study of the decorative arts and the history of architecture juxtaposed with contemporary art and new techniques and finishes.

Toma Haines New York

Both Justin Shaulis and Jon Call of Mr Call Designs have been on recent Antiques Diva tours and both say the accessibility of sourcing in Europe has changed the way they as designers will do their business in the future.   Justin Shaulis, who is quite possibly the most charming lad in Manhattan, has over 15 years of experience in architecture and interior design, working with some notable names in the industry.   If his name sounds familiar it might be because you’ve seen him on HGTVJustin starred as the Design Host for a philanthropic-based series called “Home Rules” where he and Lifecoach, Fran Harris, worked on changing the life of a family inside and out in one week.   Additionally he has worked with leading furniture manufacturers to create industry showcases, provided architectural and design services for financial firms and large-scale offices in major corporate spaces while maintaining a boutique-styled approach. His experience with special projects, including development of houses, homes, estates, museums, showrooms and offices, has allowed Shaulis to make major contributions to a variety of different design outcomes. Shaulis’ perspective on design is drawn from diversity: a blue-collar upbringing, a Big 10 University education and his home in New York City. In 2002, Shaulis founded Justin Shaulis, Inc. creating a studio environment and utilizing holistic design methodologies based on context and quality of life in realizing Emotive Design.

DDB NYC Antiques Diva

Meanwhile designer Jon Call is simply dashing and adoreable and everytime I turn around I keep seeing his name popping up in the press.   He studied architecture in Seattle before moving to New York to work for Diamond Baratta, where he was immersed in their world of vivid color, custom furniture, and storied tradition. After that, he worked for Shawn Henderson, another young designer, before striking out on his own in 2010. The name of the firm, a somewhat cheeky reference to the days when designers were known by Mr. or Mrs., embodies Call’s spirit: he winks, rather than nods, at the past. Clients say he is smart, professional, energetic and that he listens well but will be firm in “preventing you from making a bad choice.”  Those looking for a rubber stamper with access to the D&D or a dusty Park Avenue institution are advised to keep looking. Those in search of a fun, fresh designer with classic taste would do well to pay a visit to Mr. Call.

Mr Call is both the past and the future of interior design; he is equally comfortable sketching plans for custom casegoods as he is posting fabric options for clients on Pinterest. A young designer with a savvy clientele, Call is embraced by the downtown (and Brooklyn) crowd, but his is not a sleek loft look. Rather, Call achieves a tailored take on classic style that is American in the broad, free-spirited sense of the word. It’s a palette that includes everything from Federal pieces to Mad Men Midcentury to clever details that conjure a wry smile. Above all, Call aims to give his clients spaces that balance comfort with “the luxury of a room with personality.” 

Design Champions

It was such an absolute pleasure to be able share insight with the NYC Design Community into the Accessibility of Sourcing in Europe.  Having panel members with profiles such as these greats of design made the event even more special.

If you’re bummed to have missed the event in NYC – don’t worry – we’re taking this gig on the road.  Stay tuned for this Panel Series to come to a city near you.  Next up: Chicago on Tuesday!

The Antiques Diva®

You’re Invited! Join me in New York City on Nov 5th

Dear Diva Readers,

Save the Date!  Come join me in NYC on Nov 5th at the beautiful Decoration & Design Building!

I’ll be on a panel along with interior design maven Justin Shaulis (of HGTV fame) and famed designers Philip Gorrivan and Jon Call of Mr. Call Designs.  Plus, we have the good fortune of having esteemed blogger and interior designer Tamara Matthews-Stephenson of Nest By Tamara as our guest panelist and moderator!

The topic du jour will be the Art of Collecting and the Accessibility of Sourcing Antiques in Europe.

Come!  Listen!  Learn!  ENJOY!!

Antiques Diva at DDB in New York City

See you soon in The Big Apple,
The Antiques Diva®


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