Luxury Living by Design
For more than three decades, interior designer Melinda Ritz has transformed her clients’ homes into expertly crafted works of art. She credits her childhood spent in Las Vegas as the inspiration for those dramatic interiors, a design style that has landed her projects with Hollywood A-listers such as Ellen Degeneres and Ryan Seacrest. However, Ritz’s connection to Hollywood doesn’t stop there. In the entertainment industry, she is best known for her set design on the television show, Will & Grace, which earned her three Emmy awards and four additional nominations. Here, Ritz delves into the art of interior design and reveals simple ways to transform your home into an amazing stage for parties.
What’s your personal design style?
I love big, open, light-filled rooms with unstructured furniture arrangements and space for lots of interaction—rooms that are suitable for entertaining my friends in a completely casual, come-in-your-pajamas sort of fashion. I like my surroundings to be very natural, represented by trees and plants, stone and earth. I gravitate toward the essence of what the earth brings. That’s why I love candle light, neutral tones and representations of nature in my work. I prefer to allow the architecture and the outer world bring in the decorative elements. I also love to mix modern with ethnic and vintage styles.
Can you take us through your design process? How do you begin a new project?
I try to make every room a destination while telling a story about the people who live there. For example, I start by envisioning an area that could be a game table for kids during the day and transform into a dinner party for four at night. Gone are the days of formal living rooms that are used only for special occasions.
What is your design philosophy?
Everything needs to be complementary to the setting. What you build must have a storyline to create a level of comfort, but still be layered with enough evidence that it was designed for people. Designing homes for people is based on their personality, their dreams, and what makes them most comfortable.
How do you make a home feel welcoming?
There is nothing more welcoming than a roaring fire in the fireplace during cooler months, or candles burning when guests arrive. I love rearranging the furniture to create an intimate and conversational setting that makes people feel comfortable and social. A well-lit house is also a must. Lighting is what creates a mood.
What are some small changes that can transition a home from the colder months to the warmer ones?
There are small ways to take advantage of the change in light from winter to summer. You can replace the pillows on a sofa, move furniture around to create new seating arrangements, or do something as simple as opening up all the windows and letting some of the outside in. It’s also fun to lift the carpets and go barefoot in the house, change up your bedroom linens, or bring in fresh plants and seasonal blooms.
What are some tips to prepare a home for a party?
I like to create hospitable spaces and opportunities for relaxation throughout a home, inside and out. Making sure there is enough seating for all is also important but, keep in mind, too many pillows on a chair or sofa does not make for comfortable seating. The size of the group should relate to the space to keep everyone engaged and the energy concentrated.
When you host a party, what are some ways to really wow your guests and leave a lasting impression?
Lining the walkways with candles or hanging lanterns in the trees of the yard helps set the stage for your party even before anyone walks through the door. When guests first arrive, you want to awaken their senses with something delicious, whether it’s a scented candle or a drink in their hand. I also like to create action, like having a chef cook a portion of the meal in front of guests or inviting people to walk through the house, sampling food and drink in different areas.
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