Dinner Party Spotlight: Kelley Estes

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I am excited to share the next Dinner Party Spotlight with my first Nashville Guest, the incredibly talented artist, Kelley Estes. Known for her life long work as a painter, and more recent work as a sculptor and interior designer, her home exudes “Southern Charm” on the outside but then has this whole aesthetic of “mod cool” on the inside. I was thrilled that she opened her home for us to capture her Fall dinner party in action, a pumpkin-perfect affair with endless rarities from her pottery plates to her bronze sculptures. And she even treated us to a sneak peek at her patio where she serves tea post- meal {such a Southern treat!}. Thanks Kelley inspiring us for Fall with this beautiful affair!

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Q & A:

FH: Tell me a quick bio of how you came to start Kelley Estes Interiors and Fine Art? Any fun details, awards, stories?

Kelley: I’ve been an artist my entire life, with a main focus on painting, particularly pastels. I became interested in sculpting 8 or 9 years ago and enjoy it as another art form in three dimensions. My interest in interior design grew out of working on my own home. We have lived in this house for the past 23 years and it has undergone many renovations and changes. It has really been my experimental lab, so to speak. We bought it from the original owners and it was built in 1936. We have raised our kids here and have a lot of memories but I am always making changes to the décor and experimenting, keeping it fresh, alive. My design business really took off word of mouth….a friend liked my house and asked me to do hers and a chain reaction began. I like to balance the design work with my sculpting and painting, as one involves people and the other is very solitary. This balance works best for me.

FH: What is your entertaining style? Traditional, Contemporary, Seasonal?

Kelley: I enjoy entertaining, and it is usually on the casual side. I do like to cook and improvise recipes. I tend to get inspired by the season and what is fresh locally in the way of seasonal produce. I originally planted a small orchard on the property (which is large for a city location) and had a vegetable garden but the rabbits and the squirrels usually beat us to the fruits of those labors. I grow quite a few flowers and flowering shrubs that I cut seasonally and use indoors. I always do my own table arrangements when entertaining.

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FH: How often do you entertain and for how many guests?

Kelley: I entertain fairly regularly, often impromptu. I usually prefer to host small dinner parties of 6-8 guests. I like to have a mix of interesting people at the table who may or may not know each other well. The evening is usually relaxed with a fire in the winter or on the terrace in the spring or fall, or maybe on the screen porch for a glass of wine and hors d’oeuvres. I’ve often hosted a morning coffee for friends to drop by and visit, as well as a holiday cocktail party, for which my daughters and I prepare the food and we usually hire a pianist for nice background music. I’ve also hosted a number of art exhibits in my home featuring my own work for sale.

FH: Do you have a go-to recipe or dish {or do you avoid cooking at all costs}?

Kelley: I cook so many different kinds of things it is hard to name one signature dish. For my family, I usually cook homemade pizza on Sunday nights. For small dinner parties I might make a marinated salmon, a beef roast, beef bourguignon, lamb shanks, or a seafood pasta, all accompanied by a green salad, seasonal vegetable dish, or a nice side dish of wild rice or potatoes. For desert, my two favorites to prepare for a dinner party are carrot cake or cheesecake with fresh fruit. For a coffee or tea gathering I will make homemade cookies, a coffee cake, or banana bread.

FH: Do you have a go-to cocktail?

Kelley: I am mainly a wine connoisseur. I love whites in the summer and reds in the winter. However, when we host our yearly holiday cocktail party my daughter Andie usually prepares a signature cocktail involving muddled fruit.

FH: Did something inspire you for todays table? A certain color, flower, plate? 

Kelley: I was inspired today by the fall bounty of beautiful heirloom pumpkins and squash available this time of year. I have a large collections of dishes, including antique china plates as well as casual handmade pottery. I love to mix them all in unexpected ways. My silver is vintage, inherited from my grandmother. My linens are a mix of inherited formal white damask napkins to casual prints from Provence. I have collected fine china patterns that I liked from the day I got engaged. Instead of registering for china, my mother and I scoured antique stores in Franklin and even the local flea market where I purchased an entire 10 place setting of Royal Copenhagen from a lady that had gone to Denmark, for only $400!! On an art commission trip to Birmingham, Alabama I found another British pattern of dishes that I love to use for fall and winter, an antique brown transferware—which I am using on the table today. Another favorite set of dishes that I love to collect and use are Mississippi Macardy dishes, made with a signature mark of Mississippi mud. They are quite rustic but beautiful! I have them on the table today as well.

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FH: Table top Share all the deets!!

  • Dining Table Plates:mix of vintage and pottery, including McCarty Pottery
  • Dining Table Salad Plates: Custom pottery from Atlanta
  • Dining Table Bowls: McCarty Pottery
  • Napkins: Vintage Damask
  • Placemats: William Sonoma
  • Water glasses:
  • Wine glass: Vintage
  • Champagne Flutes: William Sonoma
  • Silverware: Antique Sterling Silver
  • Centerpieces/ Vases/ Candle sticks: Candlesticks from Luminaire in Chicago, marble serving hot plates from Wilder, in Germantown.
  • Chairs & Dining Table {optional}Table, antique oak from France. Chairs, Max Mara
  • Any notable Pieces of art behind table : My own pastel painting of Dancers, which include my daughter Natalie when she danced with Nashville School of Ballet. Also in the room is a bronze torso of mine. There is a lot of my own art, paintings and sculptures in every room of the house.
  • Outdoor Patio Tea Set: China is by Royal Copenhagen, antique. The tea is Aix and Terra from Provence, France , flavor 13 Desserts. Tea by Harney & Sons called “Paris”. The glass tea pot is from Luminaire in Chicago. The cookies I made. They are owls and I make them every October, as my oldest daughter has a Halloween birthday.

Learn more about Kelley’s artwork on her website KelleyEstes.com and follow her social channels on Facebook and Instagram.