When lifestyle expert Kimberly Schlegel Whitman creates, people take notice. Her elevated point of view is flawless. Here, Lance Avery Morgan gets up close and personal about her brand, ShopKSW, and how she inspires others so beautifully.
Photography by John Cain Sargent
When Kimberly Schlegel Whitman creates, people take notice. The author of eight books devoted to entertaining, she leads a beautiful life in Dallas with her husband, Justin Whitman (the son of 50s and 60s movie star Stuart Whitman) and their two children. The life she leads is the perfect subject for her tomes devoted to well, living the good life. Not only is she a genuinely warm and caring friend, she is an inspiration with her tips and insight on how we can all live our best life. A delight to be around for decades, it’s a treat to see her on-going success due to the robust efforts she gives to all she endeavors and triumphs doing. In an exclusive to Society Texas, get to know this dynamic woman in her own words…
Lance Avery Morgan: Kim, I’ve known your great style as long as I’ve known you, for decades now–in fact, and you’ve always had great style. How did it all start?
Kimberly Schlegel Whitman: That is so sweet, but I’m not sure it is true. I know I have made style-mistakes before, but I like to try new things and experiment. I’m also “moody” in my style, so sometimes it changes. I’ve always been drawn to the classics…and I like to give them a little twist.
LAM: One thing that many other folks and I know is that your entire family has amazing style. How has that helped you hone your own stylish point of view?
KSW: This is what my next book is about–celebrating the things we learned from the women in our lives and thinking about how we incorporate those things into our entertaining and personal style in a modern way. We are featuring 25 women who embody this respect for tradition but have their own take on it. For me, it was all about being bold and vivacious. My mother, as you know, doesn’t shy away from bright colors or dramatic statements in her fashion and in the way she decorates and entertains. She is always looking for fun, festive, new ways to celebrate, yet has a great appreciation for the traditions that are meaningful to her. I’m so lucky that she remains a strong influence on my family and me.
LAM: You’ve been such a successful, entertaining author, and a busy wife and mother. Tell me why you decided to move into tableware and home goods?
KW: I love setting the table, and I wanted to make it fun and easy for everyone. My book, Tablescapes, was my favorite one to write and style because I find setting the table so relaxing and joyful. I posted photos of my simple family tablescapes almost every day during the early parts of the pandemic. Although it felt frilly when there was so much going on in the world, it gave me comfort to be a little bit creative every day and set a place for my family to sit down together. It was a small part of the day that I could control when so much seemed out of control.
I received so many questions on my social media about table settings and people asking if I could help them coordinate something to match things they had or help them pick out something new. It dawned on me, with some nudging from my husband, Justin, that I could be selling my favorite curated items directly. That’s when I launched the digital platform, ShopKSW, to make it simple to find a curated tablescape that could be ordered, collected, and set easily. My favorite thing about the site is that I get so many messages from viewers who send me a photo of a set of china or glassware or linen they inherited, and we work on finding them additional pieces to give those antique treasures a fresh look.
LAM: I love the heritage point of view you have incorporated, combining the older with the new. What are some of your personal favorite pieces?
KSW: Everything on ShopKSW is a favorite, or I wouldn’t have it on there! I will say that when a set of Herend multi-colored Chinese Bouquet Dinner Plates was shipped off to a client in New Orleans, I was a little bit sad to say goodbye to them, so I immediately ordered more. I have always loved linens from D. Porthault, and I’m thrilled to be able to offer their unique products on the site. I’m also crazy about the traditional patterns such as Tobacco Leaf, Blue Canton, and Famille Verte by Mottahedeh. I love setting them in unexpected ways. The resurgence of Gio Ponti’s design for Ginori, Oriente Italiano, has been so exciting too. It is so much fun to set a table with all of those wonderful colors at my fingertips. I could go on and on about my favorites, but, actually, I love it all.
LAM: Your taste certainly reflects how you live on a daily basis. I always love seeing the beautiful environments you create for yourself and your family. What are some of your personal favorite tableware themes?
KSW: I always love a blue and white table. It reminds me of home and my mother’s blue and white breakfast room that I find so very comforting.
LAM: Beyond color, does tableware have a seasonal theme?
KSW: Absolutely. I think that cold, weary winters call for cozy and comforting settings while the vibrancy of spring calls for a vivid and colorful mix.
LAM: For spring, so our readers can be inspired by you even more, what are you loving most within your product line offerings?
KSW: This spring, I’m planning some tablescapes that all seem to have a lot of green, which represents new life. I think we all long for a colorful, joyful, and refreshed season ahead. I have quite a bit of Bordallo Pinhero’s Cabbage Leaf, Mottahedeh’s Famille Verte, and all of the vibrant colors from D. Porthault and Ginori 1735.
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE
LAM: I know you also love and offer vintage pieces. Tell me about the appeal of pieces that have a story behind them and why this is attractive to buyers?
KSW: We have a wonderful exclusive with Opaline Atelier, two Canadian artists who describe their pieces as re-enhanced glass. I love that word for vintage and antique pieces, re-enhanced. Whether they are altered, as Opaline Atelier does or simply set in a new way, I love that we can bring new life to items that were treasured by someone before. We have an exquisite collection of vintage Gucci, Hermes, and Dior on the site as well. They are so unique and special, and I am thrilled to be able to offer them.
LAM: You really do offer an array of selections for anyone’s refined tastes. How do you source for new products to offer on your platform?
KSW: I only offer products that I do or would use, myself, so most of the products are from brands that I use regularly. When I find something unique that I want to try, I always give it a test run before purchasing it for ShopKSW.
LAM: Do your travels inspire you? I recall you found some great pieces in Paris when we were there at the same time for Becca Cason Thrash’s American Friends of the Louvre gala.
KSW: Great memory, and yes, travel has always been an inspiration. When I was young, my parents took my siblings and me on a trip around the world. We learned so much and met so many wonderful people along the way. Among other things, we saw how others entertained and dined in different parts of the world, and that was very inspiring to me. I am sure it shaped the way I love to entertain more than I realized it would, even as a child.
LAM: Never underestimate the power of a stylish child, I say. What advice would you give to any budding lifestyle expert, based on what you have learned so far?
KSW: Don’t be afraid to try something unique, and remember that there is so much to learn from traditions. I think a mix of the two is always best.
LAM: I know how important philanthropy is to you and your family.
KSW: Working with NorthPark Center on their incredible Ambassador Program has been such an honor for me. The program has been an excellent way for NorthPark Center to make the most of its resources to help the community. As its chair for the last five years, I have had the privilege to work with so many inspiring community volunteers and non-profit professionals. Beyond the financial support that NorthPark Center often provides, there are so many other ways that they can lift up these worthy causes. From exhibitions in the shopping center to in-store events to hosting gatherings, the incredible team at NorthPark makes the most of the resources they are able to share.
This year, I also continue to serve on the Children’s Cancer Fund’s advisory board. We are working on ways to continue raising funds for support and research. As so many galas and fundraising events have been canceled, it is so heartwarming to see all of the creative ways that non-profits continue to meet the needs of their beneficiaries. I also am the owner, once again, of the RSVPCalendar.com. The previous owners returned the website to me in January of 2020, and I’m working on other ways to support the non-profits that we are designed to lift up through our blog and social media.
Plus, I am doing some corporate collaborations. The Kimberly Schlegel Whitman in collaboration with Antonio Melani for Dillard’s–the dress and footwear collaboration launched on May 14th.Then, there is the Kimberly Schlegel Whitman in collaboration with CasaMia. CasaMia curates tablescapes in a box. The is for a garden party and features the Bordallo Pinhiero plates.
LAM: Fantastic. Part of your entertaining finesse includes your cuisine that is such a crowd-pleaser. Any favorite recipes that you’d like to share?
KSW: I would be happy to share a couple. These have always been a success….
SIDEBAR: FROM KIM’S TABLE
Parties Around A Punch Bowl
I love to serve my guests comfort food, and this take on a tart is just that. I guess you could call it the cousin to a pizza, but the buttery and flaky phyllo dough makes it feel fancy!
1 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 sheets phyllo dough
1/3 cup melted butter or olive oil,
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese 1 cup grated Swiss cheese,
4 tomatoes, sliced 1 egg
1/4 cup milk
10 basil leaves
MAKES A 9 X 13-INCH TART
In a large skillet, sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil until onion is translucent. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 400° F. Layer the phyllo sheets flat in a jelly roll pan, brushing the top of each sheet with butter or olive oil. Sprinkle the mozzarella and Swiss cheeses over the pie crust, reserving 1/4 cup cheese. Next, spread on the onion and garlic mixture. Then place tomato slices side by side, covering the tart completely with tomatoes.
Whisk the egg and milk together and paint the edges of the tart with this mixture. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese over the tomatoes and bake for 18 to 20 minutes. Remove tart from the oven and sprinkle the basil leaves over the tart. Cut into mini squares.
- This tart is extremely easy and very versatile. At the end of a long week, when you don’t know what to do with your leftover tomatoes, this tart is the perfect answer for a supper at home.
- Don’t be afraid to try different cheeses if Swiss isn’t your favorite. • Use any variety of tomatoes with this tart.
- For an alternative that is more pick-up friendly, try filling phyllo shells with the ingredients instead of layering phyllo sheets.
I have many happy recollections of my grandmothers opening Tupperware containers filled with a variety of “squares” that they would set out on beautiful silver trays or tiered tea stands. I had so many favorites and loved their small size and precise cuts because I knew that I could sample a few! For an adult party, the rum glaze is a scrumptious alternative.
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup crushed pineapple 1/4 cup molasses
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar 3 tablespoons milk
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup confectioners’ sugar 1/4 cup dark rum
Grated zest of 1 lemon
MAKES A 9 X 13-INCH PAN, OR THINNER BARS IN A JELLY ROLL PAN
Preheat oven to 350° F.
In a bowl, cream the sugar and shortening together. Stir in the crushed pineapple and molasses. Add the egg, beating well.
Mix the soda, spices, flour, and salt together in a separate bowl, then add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. If your mixture appears too dry, add a scant amount of milk until just moistened. Spread batter into a
9 x 13-inch pan (for thicker bars) or a jelly roll pan (for thinner bites). Bake for 15 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove from oven and let cool about 1 hour before glazing with one of the two options.
For the glaze, melt the butter, brown sugar, and milk together over medium heat, whisking constantly until mixture begins to boil. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes. Add confectioners’ sugar and vanilla; whisk until smooth. Pour glaze over the cake, adjusting the thickness of the glaze by adding milk or confectioners’ sugar as needed.
For the rum glaze, mix all ingredients until you have a pourable glaze. Drizzle over the spice bars.
- For an extra flavor of the islands, try adding 2 teaspoons of dark rum to the bar recipe along with the wet ingredients.
- These bars are an easy transition into fall and Christmas if you substitute the pineapple for brown sugar.
- We like our bars extra soft. For a firmer bar, bake a bit longer.
- If you don’t have a strong sweet tooth, I recommend the thinner Rum Glaze alternative, which includes an extra kick.
- Flowers stuck into a leafy pineapple top makes a festive decoration.