My Recipe For a Stress-Free Thanksgiving

As a cook, of course I love Thanksgiving, but that doesn’t mean I’m immune to the stress the holiday can bring. There is so much pressure, now more than ever, to create the perfect Thanksgiving. But I think we should relax more, stress less, and really enjoy our time with friends and family.

I’ve devised a strategy to make it a reality. It all comes down to planning and “cheating” where it makes sense, and the cornerstone of it all is this: Make. Buy. Bring.

Make the things you really enjoy, like a great sweet potato side dish, amazing stuffing, or a favorite family recipe.

Buy the items that stress you out, with the number one item being the turkey. Just go to a gourmet store like Agatha & Valentine, buy it already cooked and have it delivered. I’m sure you’re a great cook, but why torture yourself with preparing a turkey when it’s quite likely the professionals will make one even tastier.

Finally, ask guests to bring an item like dessert, however, be specific or you will end up with 10 apple pies.

The Right Tools
Having the right tools is critical. There are two appliances that I recommend to make Thanksgiving joyful, not a drudge.

Cuisinart Quick Prep stick hand blender is great for making sauces, soups and mixing gravy.

Another really helpful appliance is an induction cooktop. You can use it to keep a soup warm for hours on a low temperature without the risk of burning or the concern the kitchen will get too hot. They are light and easily portable, so just rent one for the holidays.

Give People Something To Do
There’s always one guest who insists on helping whether you want them to or not. Find an easy task and be ready to hand it over when they offer; it could be something as simple (and helpful) as slicing the bread and putting it in a lovely basket.

Set The Stage Early
Set the table two to three days ahead of time if you can, because you are going to be so busy the night before. Make it beautiful because it is the first thing people see when they come in and they will photograph and remember it. So be creative and have fun, really embellish it. Then simply set out flowers the night before.

Don’t Forget a Food Plan B
Always have one basic dish prepared for that finicky guest, the one person who doesn’t eat meat, or turkey, is a vegan or brings a small child. I find a simple pasta dish with vegetables works well; just keep it in the refrigerator until needed.

Stock Up
Have extra hand towels and toilet paper and light candles in your bathroom so you don’t have to think about it or run to refill during the meal.

Similarly, be prepared for that inevitable spill. Have your paper towels and cleaners ready for red wine, white wine, gravy, etc.

Breathe – And Enjoy!
Stop and take a breath before guests arrive. I always have fifteen minutes of meditation to get calm and centered.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

My Trip to Paris and La Cornue Part Two

While in Paris, I couldn’t resist a trip to the world-famous Les Puces flea market, where there’s a little piece of history for everyone, be it a charm with just the right patina, an objet d’art for the mantle or curiosity for your cabinet.  It’s a great place to soak up the character of Paris, both past and present.

Rue Montorgueil photo by Jean-Christophe Benoist

When I’m in Paris, I love to visit Rue Montorgueil, a pedestrian market

As a cook, I love shopping for food, which means I always drop in to Rue Montorgueil. This central city pedestrian street market is known for its fish and shellfish vendors, but everything, from the fresh produce in a rainbow of colors to the delectable looking baked goods make this a must-see for anyone who appreciates fine food.

One of my favorite stops on the trip was the Rodin Museum. A nice alternative to the somewhat overwhelming scope of the Louvre or Musée d’Orsay, this smaller museum features powerful works by the sculptor such as The Kiss and The Thinker, as well as additional pieces by Monet, Renoir and Van Gogh. Walking through the stunning courtyard filled with the artist’s work and luscious roses is a quintessential Parisian experience.

Thoumieux, chef Jean-Michel Piege’s brasserie located inside the Hotel Thoumiuex.

Highlights of my gastronomic tour included dinner at the trendy Thoumieux, the brasserie located inside the Hotel Thoumiuex. Jean-Michel Piege, former chef of the two-Michelin star Les Ambassadeurs oversees the kitchen here, and did not disappoint.

Other stops included Philippe Starck’s Ma Cocette, located in the center of Les Puces, chef Otis Lebert’s intimate and quintessentially French bistro featuring market cuisine, Le Taxi Jaune, and Le Cinq Mars, which serves classic French comfort food. I also enjoyed a dinner in the new (and larger) La Cornue showroom prepared by the company’s chef Patrick Laurent.

If you’ve ever been to Paris, you know there’s no shortage of day trip possibilities, from Versailles to Père Lachaise to Chartres cathedral. I hopped on a TGV train for Reims to spend a day in the Champagne region.

In addition to being home to a stunning 12th century cathedral, Reims hosts Pommery, one of the most famous and largest French Champagne houses. Founded in 1858, the Pommery estate features lush landscapes, meticulously restored architecture, and of course, Champagne caves! After sampling the fruits of the house, we headed to Les Crayeres to enjoy the phenomenal cuisine of Grand Chef Philippe Mille. Nestled in a 2-½ acre park, the restaurant boasts a wine list that features more than four hundred Champagne labels. (When in Rome!)

The Entrance to Les Crayeres

I also went a little further afield with a jaunt to Denmark to visit Scanomat in Copenhagen. If you’re an espresso enthusiast, you’ll be pleased to know that Scanomat’s TopBrewer has just been introduced for the residential kitchen. I got to survey their latest products, which I can already picture as part of my designs.

I’m now back in New York and hard at work on several exciting projects. I really find that’s there’s nothing like a trip to Paris to get the creative juices flowing.

My recent trip to Paris and the La Cornue factory

Photo by Jean-Christophe Bendist

Aren’t the Tuileries Gardens just glorious in Spring?

As a designer, I find travel to be one of the most effective ways to get new ideas. I’ve just returned from an energizing trip to Paris — one of my favorite places to soak up creative inspiration — and wanted to share some of the highlights with you. It was full of food, fun, and fascinating people and places.

Envisioning and creating one-of-a-kind custom kitchens is a true labor of love for me. The process is as satisfying as seeing the final product installed in a client’s home. That’s why it is especially gratifying when I have the opportunity to visit and personally meet the suppliers and craftspeople around the world who create the individual elements of St. Charles of New York designs.

So you can imagine how thrilled I was to be invited for another tour of the 105 year-old factory of La Cornue, artisan manufacturers of exquisite kitchen ranges.

Located in the French countryside just 45 minutes outside of Paris in the town of Saint-Ouen-l’Aumone, La Cornue produces some of the finest kitchen ranges in the world. Owned and operated by the Dupuy family for three generations, the company employs just 60 people, who painstakingly craft each La Cornue range by hand.

Karen at the La Cornue Factory

Here I am at the La Cornue Factory

Of course, I’ve always thought La Cornue ranges were beautiful, but seeing them being created piece by piece by craftsmen in the French countryside makes me appreciate them all over again. La Cornue produces only a few hundred ranges a year, and each one is created by a single person from start to finish — like a true work of art. No assembly lines here! It was such a treat to see this wonderful tradition of excellence and attention to detail in action and up close.

Capping off the trip to the factory, we had delightful lunch at the historic Auberge Ravoux, or House of Van Gogh in Auvers-sur-Oise, where the influential artist spent his prolific last days. It’s easy to see why this region inspired the Dutch painter; the rustic charm, lush and pastoral landscapes, and vivid hues depicted in his work are still found here and I left brimming with notes and ideas.

Auberge Ravoux

Auberge Ravoux where Van Gogh spent his last days

And that was just the countryside. If you’ve ever been to Paris in the spring, you know it’s a magical time there.

More about that next week…

Kicking Off the Holidays with BiTTT

I’m so proud to be a supporter of BiTTT, Bring it to the Table, a leading networking group for women in design. The growth the group has experienced in the two years since its inception has been truly moving. Together, we are now hoping to make a difference in a young woman’s life. St Charles is delighted to be a sponsor of the Holiday Fundraising Party they are hosting on Thursday, November 15 to raise funds for a female, full-time BFA sophomore at NYSID. Eligible students applied by writing an essay describing what motivated them study interior design and submitting photos of a residential design project.

In addition to being presented with an award at the event by BiTTT founder Lana Lawrence and interior designer Alexa Hampton, the winning student will be mentored for the remaining three years of her study at NYSID by designers including myself, Katie Ridder, David Kleinberg, and others. As a parent, I know how important the proper guidance, mentoring and encouragement can be, and I am honored to be able to play such a significant role in the life of a student who represents the future of interior design. I absolutely cannot wait to meet this special young lady and I am looking forward to helping and watching her grow into a successful, devoted and inspiring designer!

~Karen Williams


Highlights from Taste of T

Last night was NY Times Style magazine’s much anticipated Taste of T event at the Architects and Designers building. The best part was that it supported God’s Love We Deliver, whose services in the area are needed now more than ever. Each year the St Charles showroom teams up with an amazing chef and joins in the multi-showroom celebration. This time around lobster rolls from Rebecca Charles of Pearl Oyster Bar did not disappoint! My colleague Bob Schwartz and I even got to play sous chefs to the talented Ms. Charles. Here are a few shots from the festive evening:

Bob and I with Chef Rebecca Charles

In good company with Chris Abbate, Novità Communications & Designer Brad Ford

Enjoy a Taste of T at A & D!

Sandy cannot prevent the New York Times Style Magazine and the Architects & Designers Building from their mission to raise money for God’s Love We Deliver, and we are excited to be part of it!  This charitable organization is the tri-state area’s leading provider of nutritious, individually-tailored meals for those who are too sick to shop or cook for themselves. Tackling the crises hunger and illness, they generously deliver “food as medicine.”

We are inviting you through our doors and into our kitchen to celebrate an evening of food, design, and health!

Joining you in our showroom will be esteemed chef Rebecca Charles of Pearl Oyster Bar with her deliciously unreal lobster rolls. Also offering his taste will be Simpson Wong of Wong, who has won over the taste buds of fellow artistic visionary Martha Stewart with his delicious pan-Asian cuisine.

New York’s premier food and design event will take place on Thursday, November 8, 2012 from 6 to 8:30 PM.  Bring your appetite!

Click here for tickets and to see a full list of participants.



American Cancer Society’s DreamBall After Dark

Last night was the American Cancer Society’s Dream Ball After Dark gala in NYC at Cipriani 42nd street. Benefitting the organization’s “Look Good, Feel Better” program,  St Charles thought it was a great cause to support. As a woman business owner, I know that confidence is one of  the keys to success; this program helps women to gain that confidence needed to fulfill life goals.

The popular event is known for going into the wee hours, so we thought gala-goers would enjoy the sweet treats we provided in their swag bags. For the silent auction, we created the “Ultimate Luxe Kitchen Package” by partnering with kitchen & bath manufacturer Axor. St Charles’ elegant custom cutting board was a great pairing with their Axor Starck faucet. We hear the high-end “kitchen kit” went home to a happy (and eager) bidder!

Have a great weekend!

~Karen Williams






































A Day of Epicurean Proportions

Even with a new weekend just around the corner, I still keep thinking about what a great time I had in the Hamptons on Saturday. Fellow Principal & Designer of St Charles, Robert Schwartz, accompanied me to James Beard Foundation’s Chefs & Champagne® event at the Wölffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack. I love the culinary arts and admire chefs that have perfected their methods, so this event was a must! With a wide offering of excellent food and fine wine and champagne, I was completely in my element. I even mingled with some world-renowned chefs, including the gastronomic masters from Daniel Boulud’s DB Moderne restaurant. Check out the pic below.

Cheers to health, happiness and the occasional indulgence!

~ Karen Williams

Do Fancy Kitchens Make Us Fat? More thoughts from Karen Williams

Here are some more thoughts and design ideas I’d like to share, after reading the Daily Mail article alleging that fancy kitchens making us fat. (You can read the article at

Rather than hiding appliances like blenders and juicers used to prepare healthy foods, I prefer to design kitchens with plenty of room for them on the counter, ready to go.

One of my favorite appliances is a steam oven or even better, a combo steam/convection oven. In minutes you can prepare fish, vegetables, even eggs, with no added fat.

Another one I use all the time is a La Cornue built-in rotisserie. I can cook fish or chicken without adding any fat. It’s easy, the food is absolutely moist and delicious, and there’s no mess.  I even do holiday turkey on it.

fish on rotisserie

A built-in rotisserie makes it easy to prepare moist and delicious fish and poultry.

When designing kitchens and planning storage with clients, we can designate hard-to-reach top shelves for snack foods and occasional treats, while storing healthier options close by on lower shelves.  And we can devote glass-front cabinets or open shelving to decorative objects, dishes or glassware, rather than snacks.

As for the TV, you might consider placing it where you can watch it while cooking, but not have it visible from the casual dining area, as I did in my kitchen.

Lighting and color can affect how we eat, so I carefully plan lighting that can be lowered for a more relaxed meal. That and a comfortable casual dining area can facilitate the slow, mindful eating that nutritionists recommend, rather than settling for stand-up eat-and-run meals.

We know that red stimulates the senses, so I’m often inclined to use cooler tones in kitchens.

As for closing down the kitchen, it’s not what my mother used to do. But I design breakfast centers or snack centers that can be contained within a cabinet or closed off with a switch-operated sliding door. Out of sight, out of mind.

breakfast bar kips bay

This breakfast bar I designed for the Kips Bay Show House kitchen can be closed at the touch of a switch. Glass-door cabinets house dishes and glasses, rather than tempting snack foods.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on whether today’s kitchens are making us fat.