Rashida Banks has her list and is checking it twice to get ready for the festive season. The interior design and DIY blogger is getting her Washington, DC home prepared for visiting loved ones, and she wants to make sure everything is just right. Rashida and her husband, Jasen, are thrilled to be hosting his family for holidays—and with a full house expected, they have put together a game plan to make everyone feel welcome. Banks first refreshed their living room, painting the walls in rich chocolate brown to contrast their decor and create a moody, cozy feel. After layering in a few Lulu and Georgia styles, like our Otti Rug, Arteriors Putney Floor Lamp, and decorations from our holiday shop, she created that list for hosting and entertaining needs. Rashida also generously invited us over for a brief tour, chatted about getting her home guest-ready, and gave us her golden rules for holiday entertaining. We also spoke about her decision to move into the interior design and DIY space, more on her at-home style, and what she's most looking forward to for her family's visit this season. Read below for more.
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We love that you mark January 12, 2017, as the day you started a new life. Was there a moment that led you to leave behind your high-paying yet unfulfilling role and move into the interior design and DIY world?
It will be five years on 1/12/2022 since I left my job. That was one of the most liberating and scariest moments of my life to date. Everyone thought that something bad had happened in my old position. It was quite the opposite. I LOVED the team I worked with, but I didn't love the job. My managers knew that I was creative, so they let me do fun things, like being in charge of the office events and decor, but it wasn't enough. I started to notice an unhealthy shift in my attitude, and I knew in my heart that if I didn't leave at that moment, I would never leave, and it could potentially have messed up my working relationships. I have this moral rule that I never stay in a space that would tarnish my character as a person. Nothing is ever worth that. So I gave my two months notice. It was so bittersweet—I definitely cried!
Tell us about teaching readers "how to become designers of your own home." What is the first step for homeowners to define their home's aesthetic?
I'm a person that much prefers to teach someone rather than do it for them. Although I am an interior designer, I can't help everyone who wants to work with me. So I decided to pass on the knowledge of why I make the decisions that I do and how I execute them. One of the first steps I recommend to homeowners to define their home's aesthetic is to think about the last hotel, restaurant, retail store, or resort that they've been to where they loved the design. Try pulling up photos of the design online and begin collecting images. Research the designer to see what else they've done. That helps you start exploring different design styles to see which one makes your heart light up. HGTV and networks alike are great, but sometimes they only showcase one type of design style. It's important to expose yourself to different aesthetics to know what you actually like versus falling into the same ole farmhouse or glam look. (And lol, I have nothing against those looks, just tired of seeing it everywhere!)
What about your own space—how would you define your at-home style, and how do you want people to feel when they walk into your home?
I define my style as Modern Classic Brooklyn Brownstone (even though I live in DC, lol). I grew up in a brownstone, and I just loved all the character and history that I saw throughout our home growing up. This is why when we decided to buy our first home, I knew I didn't want a new build. I needed something with history. So when people walk through the door, they say, "WOOOOW, I wasn't expecting it to look like this in here!" I want them to feel inspired at every turn, slow down and take in the intentionality of every design decision, and still feel invited to sit down and have some coffee, tea, or a cocktail with me without fear that they may break something. That is also why I like purchasing high-end pieces without the overly luxurious look.
What was the general look and feel you were going for with your living room seasonal refresh?
Our living room is one of the darkest areas of the house, even in the daytime, since there's only one window and it sits under the porch. Instead of fighting the dimness, I wanted to fully embrace it as a strength and make it our relaxation space. So I went with a neutral but deep chocolate brown color on the walls to make our cream sofa pop! I love a light and bright space, but a moody modern classic feel wins my heart more times than not.
This time of year, it's always easy to get caught up in the stress of entertaining. How are you getting guest-ready this season?
I'm making lists and checking it more than twice for sure! This year is really special for us because we have a lot of people coming from out of town. Jasen, my husband, and I are starting two weeks early to get the house in order before guests arrive and give ourselves time to pace and not rush. So we're making sure we have enough clean towels available, getting rugs cleaned, we're planning out meals and daily activities. We're talking through sleeping arrangements and ensuring we have enough linens and comforters for everyone. And we're also decluttering A LOT. We're making sure our bar cart is stocked with at least one drink that each person likes. I'm dusting off all my serving dishes and taking count of what I have versus what I may need to pick up. Also, this is your reminder to clean out that closet or room you keep closed all the time.
What are your three golden rules for holiday entertaining?
- Flow: Do you need to rearrange some furniture pieces to provide better flow for your guests? We did that by re-working our modular sectional into one long sofa instead.
- Nice tableware: Even if it's paper goods. People feel special when they notice that the tableware and table setting have some style. (Well, at least I do, lol.)
- Lively entertainment: You can have the prettiest looking setup, but if no one is having fun, people won't stay long. So, make sure to think of fun games and have good music going.
Bonus tip: Add some candles and turn on the fire. There's something about the fire element that just makes things extra special.
Friends are coming over this weekend—what items are on your holiday spread? Any suggestions for us?
Both of my parents are from the Caribbean. My mom is from Guyana, and my Dad is from Trinidad. So typically, people expect Caribbean food, and I don't blame them. So there would be roti, curry goat, peas and rice, jerk chicken, cabbage, and cod fish cakes. Now I do love a good taco! And there was a time I had oxtail tacos in Mexico, and it was the best of both worlds. Oh, and the best coffee! I'm a coffee snob.
Similarly, what do you need to prepare for guest sleeping accommodations for family visiting for the holidays?
This holiday will be special for us because my husband's family will be in town and they're all staying at our house. Including Jasen and I, there will be six adults, one teenager, and three dogs in our DC Row Home, lol. We already have a beautiful guest bedroom, but that can only hold two people. So we bought a twin size air mattress (The best quality we could find) and a queen size air mattress. We'll have two towels per guest and plenty of washcloths. I like having the beds set, with a candle going in each sleeping area just so that everyone feels invited in. I'll be printing the wifi password and just putting it on the nightstand. It's those small touches that are so important.
You've layered a few Lulu and Georgia pieces into your living room. Is there one style you've fallen for and how it looks in your space?
Ugggh, this is a tough one because the rug is just divine. I don't have a lot of wall space, so I wanted to bring art, shapes, and colors in with the rug choice. But the sculptural nature of the floor lamp takes my breath away every time I glance over at it, especially against the chocolate walls. The gold ornaments and the glass tree ornament set make me feel like the holidays but in a non-traditional way which is what I was going for.
'Tis the season! What is one holiday tradition you're looking forward to the most with your family this year?
Playing games on Christmas! It's truly an event and what everyone looks forward to every year. I'm in charge of the games every year, and I like to make things very interactive. That means lots of yelling, laughter, and good prizes. I want our holiday family gatherings to be the spot where you tell your friends and neighbors to stop by because there's always good food, and everyone is having a really good time.
What's next for you and the blog?
Good question! I will continue showcasing my makeover projects in our home, but this time I really want to give back to my audience through education around design and helping them with their burning design questions. I have some social activations that I want to try out and hopefully help me be more engaged with my audience. I'm moving away from just reveals, to here's the science behind paint finishes and why you would choose one over the other, to what's the best size rug for a space, to helping them become better and more confident with making design decisions. It's not enough to just reveal; I really want everyone to love the home they designed and understand why. And, of course, more room makeovers. I'm currently putting together a list of design projects for 2022.
Photography provided by Rashida Banks, shot by Antwon Maxwell