There’s a certain elegance to the tabletop designs of Kim Seybert.
And that comes as no surprise to those familiar with her story.
Seybert, after all, began her career in the fashion industry, studying in both her home state of Illinois and New York on her way to becoming a dress designer.
It would be a time that found her focusing on sourcing and working closely with both factories and artisans who specialized in the couture techniques of hand beading and embroidery.
Soon, she shifted gears — the result of a frustration with finding “colorful, creative and fashion-inspired” tableware for her own use — and in 1998 launched her namesake firm that today is synonymous with elegance, opulence and glamour.
Around the world, on land and sea — her designs outfit many a yacht —Seybert has helped elevate home entertaining through signature hand-beaded runners and placemats, hand-knotted, hand-embroidered and hand-painted napkins and beaded, hand-painted sculptural napkin rings.
These statement-making luxury goods have also graced our pages, with WAG getting the chance to meet Seybert herself this spring when we were invited to her New York showroom for a collection preview.
There, we clearly saw the influence of fashion on her designs, from the detailed manner of production to the encouragement of layering a tabletop much in the way a one-of-a-kind ensemble comes to life.
Throughout her collections, Seybert reflects an ease with mixing and matching and promotes a look that reflects your own tastes, travels and influences.
It’s also a reflection of the way she lives, drawing design inspiration from frequent travel and entertaining friends and family at her homes in the city and East Hampton.
Seybert might interpret architectural elements, distinctive hues, elements ranging from landscapes to sea life or incorporate classic design styles, from Art Deco to Greek Revival.
With hand-blown glassware, decorative accessories and china all part of the mix, the Kim Seybert look continues to expand and evolve.
WAG checked back in with Seybert recently, and she graciously answered a handful of our questions, expanding our appreciation of both the designer and her most fashionable creations.
How did you go from being a fashion designer to becoming a noted designer in the tabletop and home accessories fields?
“It was one of those pivotal, a-ha, life-changing moments that came out of the blue when gracious spirits are looking down at you — and seeing a niche where I saw a lot of opportunity. I had established myself designing eveningwear for a high-end label in New York. I love glamour and embellishment, and I incorporated a lot of beading, sequins and embroideries in my work. The inspiration to apply my design sensibility to tabletop came while redecorating. I had just renovated my New York City apartment and was looking for linens and found it difficult to find the level of style and glamour I was looking for.
“Coming from the fashion world, I realized dressing a table is actually a very similar practice to dressing oneself and that’s what brought this notion into full focus for me — to bring my love for fashion, hand-beading and lavish adornment (almost everything in our collections is handcrafted in some way) — to create couture for the table. So I went home, sketched out what I wanted and had some samples made. With that first small collection (and an opening order from Bendel’s) a new business was born.”
What inspires you as you create your collections?
“I absolutely adore textiles and handicrafts from around the world, and I love to travel off-the-beaten path, especially in Asia. This past year I realized my dream of going to Myanmar, and it was breathtaking — so inspiring — the markets, the temples, the incredible glowing sunsets. There was such a palpable sense of serenity and calm there that’s so ancient and ‘right now’ all at the same time — just being there taking it all in was like a yoga in itself. It was a great place to put aside the craziness of New York life and take in new ideas, see new patterns, new colors, experience a new culture. Needless to say, I was sleepless on the flight home with excitement for all the possibilities, for thinking how I could put this newfound energy and beauty into the next collection (and panicking slightly trying to figure out where I would store all the textiles and other treasures from the trip).”
Who is your ideal customer — and what is she (or he) looking for these days?
“My customer is the person who looks for style and the luxurious in everything — who wants to be surrounded by that in some way every day. That can mean something as simple as putting a just-cut flower from the garden into a vintage vase just so — to admire its beauty at the breakfast table — to throwing a lavish dinner party for 24 on a yacht in the middle of the Mediterranean.
“I design what I love and am guided by what feels fresh and fashion forward, what essence of the inspiration can be brought to life in a placemat or a napkin ring. If I like it, I know our customers will.
“These days, I also find that people want that sense of fashion and luxury across all the ways they live their lives — from setting a casual, worry-free table on the deck at their summer house to full-on beads and bling for more opulent and formal entertaining. I also encourage our customers to be adventurous. So we’ve expanded our design approach in the last few seasons to offer even more flexibility to our customers — more ways to layer pieces that let each customer create their own looks and show off their own unique style.”
What is the most challenging part of your job — and the most rewarding?
“Well, of course, running a business is always challenging, but I have been blessed with many talented and dedicated artisans from around the world who bring the collection to life every season. And that’s the exciting part, too. Working with other fashion and design professionals — from the store buyers we work with to interior designers to individuals that ‘get’ what we do — is so gratifying. But ultimately, when a customer sends a photo and tells me how beautiful their dinner party or luncheon or wedding table was, that is the most gratifying thing any designer could ask for — being a little part of making beauty and style happen.”
What is your philosophy about home entertaining?
“As the phrase goes, ‘Life is a banquet.’ Setting a stylish, beautiful table is just one way to more fully savor the company of the people gathered around it. Enjoy.”
Kim Seybert designs are featured at high-end department stores and specialty boutiques worldwide, including Neiman Marcus Westchester in White Plains, Current Home in Scarsdale and Hoagland’s of Greenwich. For more, visit kimseybert.com.