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Home Design with Kevin Sharkey

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On the Radio: Alexa Hampton

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My longtime friend Alexa Hampton stopped by the show this week to talk about the world-renowned interior design business founded by her late father, Mark Hampton. Alexa is the ultimate entrepreneur; she has her own fabric, lighting, furniture, and carpeting product lines and oversees design projects around the world.

Catch my show every Wednesday on Sirius channel 110.

You’ve said that "The biggest mistake clients make is not trusting themselves to know what they don’t like." How can people become more attuned to their own tastes?

Your entire life you’ve been looking, you have a point of view; learn to rely on yourself a little bit more. For example a friend of mine was redoing her house in the Hamptons and she had hired an architect but it was more just to get things done, so every decision she made was fraught with such anxiety. I told her: 'Calm down. You have traveled a lot of places, you have seen a lot of things, there are things that you know and understand without extrapolating them from their context and understanding the theory.' So, remember that you have not lived in a bubble.

Also, understand that there’s an intuitive aspect to a lot of design decisions, for example where you put a switch and why a baseboard is the height that a baseboard is. There are lots of things that are the result of actual, practical issues.

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What advice would you give to a couple or roommate who are trying to merge two different design preferences into one space?

Good luck! No, I’m kidding. It’s like T'ai Chi right? Each person is exerting a force and you have to absorb it and give it back. It’s always a negotiation. I was lucky with my husband that I met him early enough I could manhandle is sensibilities. He’s a graduate of the Hampton school of design philosophy. He wisely ceded control.

Sometimes I see rooms so beautiful, I can’t imagine someone actually living in them. How do you find that balance between aesthetics and practicality?

I think if your ultimate takeaway of any space is “This cannot be lived in” then it’s a failure, or it’s a stage set or museum or something. The balance is in its inhabitant.

So I have…it’s almost like a litmus test or a Richter scale, so I will sometimes say “On a scale of one to 10, how formal do you want to be?” and try to find that happy spot for the inhabitant, understanding that there is no universal answer to this. We all have subjective sensibilities and we have to live in the space that we’re going to like.

I’m an extremely informal personality, but I got to tell you, I like a little fancy, not going to lie.

On the Radio: Darcy Miller

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This week my radio guest was Darcy Miller, editorial director of Martha Stewart Weddings magazine and entertainer extraordinaire. Before the show, we sat down for a blog-exclusive interview about her new curated OpenSky shop and her tips for busy entertainers.

Listen to my show every Wednesday on Sirius channel 110.

Tell us a little bit about your OpenSky party.

When they asked me to start curating some sales, I thought it was important to not just put up a couple party products but to have it be something that came together as a theme. My hope is that everyone interprets it differently; great if you buy everything in the whole sale and throw a big summer bash with a water slide and paddle, but even if you just buy a pack of the Martha Stewart stickers and make some thank you notes, or a birthday party invitation, or you decorate the front of a notebook with them. There are so many different levels you can take it and I think that what I’ve tried to do in the sale is give you a lot of inspiration but then give you supplies so that you can also interpret it however you want. I think it’s really up to you to have fun with it.

When you’re entertaining, it’s important to not feel the pressure of having to do everything or have it be elaborate and kind of pick your priorities. There are these great paper daisy fans that you hang and if you did nothing else but buy a pack of those and string them over your dining room table or put them on your front door, it would be fun. You can do as much or as little as you want.

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Your daughter inspired your current OpenSky daisy-themed party. Where else do you find inspiration for party themes?

It was my daughter Daisy's first birthday and also, one of the first weddings we ever planned at Martha Stewart Weddings was a daisy wedding, so I would definitely say that I find inspiration from the people that I am hosting the party for. I think that’s really important, you have to think about what’s right for them, what they love, what’s appropriate for their age and for the occasion and go from there.

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Even when I was throwing a birthday party for Martha last year, I was like “Oh my gosh, what do you do for Martha Stewart?” and then I thought “ You know what? I’m just going to think about all the things Martha loves.” It was her favorite food and she loves lemon so I served drinks out of lemons and she loves Scrabble so [we had] petit four Scrabble letters and made gardlands that said "Happy Birthday Martha" but looked like Scrabble letters. Once you start really thinking about the person then everything else falls into place.

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My Guest on Today's Show: Arash Yaraghi from Safavieh

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Rugs By Martha Stewart for Safavieh: Can you believe this selection?

Martha Stewart's line of Safavieh area rugs is one of my favorite products to discuss. Unique, elegant, and polished, these designs are the perfect complement to so many room arrangements.

On today's Radio Show, I'm hosting Safaveieh owner Arash Yaraghi. The company Safavieh was founded by Arash's grandfather in the cultural center of Isfahan, Iran in 1914, with a focus on providing authentic and vibrant Oriental rugs.  In 1979, the Iran Revolution debilitated the Safavieh store in Iran, and Arash was called upon to set up a storefront in New York so that business could resume selling antique Persian rugs. This original US showroom at 153 Madison Avenue and 32nd Street in New York City still stands.

The company prevailed, and Safavieh now operates 10 retail stores that offer both antique and reproduction Persian rugs that are manufactured and imported from four countries. All images are courtesy Martha Stewart for Safavieh.

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The pattern on this rug is so intricate. The darker shade brings an imperative contrast to the pastels of the room, proving area rugs can be as much a statement piece as a background color.

1 The pattern on this rug is so intricate. The darker shade brings an imperative contrast to the pastels of the room, proving area rugs can be as much a statement piece as a background color.

This soft sunburst pattern begs to be walked on barefoot. I love the idea of putting a lighter rug on a dark tiled floor.

2 This soft sunburst pattern begs to be walked on barefoot. I love the idea of putting a lighter rug on a dark tiled floor.

The weathered look of this full-bleed pattern brings an almost tarnished metal luxury to an elegant space.

3 The weathered look of this full-bleed pattern brings an almost tarnished metal luxury to an elegant space.

Faux animal prints bring instant fashion to a space, and they work as both a neutral canvas for furniture and also an identifiable pattern.

4 Faux animal prints bring instant fashion to a space, and they work as both a neutral canvas for furniture and also an identifiable pattern.

This bordered rug brings clean lines and color tones into a room without being boring or flat in design.

5 This bordered rug brings clean lines and color tones into a room without being boring or flat in design.

The pattern on this rug, especially against the corals of the room, has a nautical whimsy to it.

6 The pattern on this rug, especially against the corals of the room, has a nautical whimsy to it.

The relief texture of this rug is appealing for both feel and aesthetics.

7 The relief texture of this rug is appealing for both feel and aesthetics.

After Arash and I speak, I'll be talking to Brent Ridge about the Thanksgiving Heirloom Photo Contest that I'll be judging soon! Tune in at 4pm today to hear it all.