Chef-driven home-design lines have traditionally been the realm of culinary celebrities—the Marthas and Chrissies of the food world. But the pandemic has kicked up new interest in cooking and small-scale entertaining. And so, an increasing number of local restaurant industry names getting into the lifestyle game.
Chef Eric Ziebold and Célia Laurent, the husband-and-wife team behind Kinship and Metier in Shaw, just launched the Kinship Collection. The line of home goods—candles, soaps, linens, ceramics—channels the elegant minimalism of their Michelin-starred restaurants, and sometimes borrows directly from their tables. Diners might recognize the pristine, off-white ceramic plates and bowls designed by Ziebold and produced by Olivia DiBenigno of Alexandria’s Studio North Ceramics. The collection also features picnic blankets made with Los Angeles textile maker Via Verano. Ziebold and Laurent plan to add pantry items like spice rubs, jams, and oils soon.
The idea for a retail line was partially born out of necessity. Creative homemade parting gifts have always been part of the tasting-room experience at Metier. There, guests might leave with seasonal tokens like basil syrup or apple butter made from the bounty at the restaurant’s garden in Delaplane, Virginia. But during a year of temporary dining-room closures and pivots to comfort food, the garden’s wealth of herbs and flowers had threatened to go unused.
“We couldn’t keep up with harvesting. Stuff was blossoming and overgrown,” Ziebold says. So, he started making ferments and gallons of vinegar. And then, essential oils and lavender soaps.
Next came soy wax candles—a fragrant blend of lavender, yarrow, and rue—that were hand-poured at the restaurant during pandemic downtime. Now, the candles scent the restaurants’ bathrooms—and can be bought for $46.
“I walked in the bathroom and it smells so nice,” says Ziebold. “That’s the kind of thing we focus on at Kinship and Metier. How do you make someone happier coming back from the bathroom than they were when they left the table? The fact we were able to make it ourselves is very gratifying.”
While the Kinship Collection focuses more on decor, chef/restaurateur Spike Mendelsohn is channeling his expertise into a new home-design brand. The owner of fast-casual spots Good Stuff Eatery, We the Pizza, and Plnt Burger, has teamed up with Northern Virginia home builder Van Metre Homes for Spiked Kitchens, a chef-driven design service.
“I feel like there was a bubble in the industry a few years back and I’ve been on path towards diversifying my portfolio,” says Mendelsohn, who made a name for himself in the early Top Chef days.
Mendelsohn’s custom designs, which launched this past fall, incorporate elements from open restaurant kitchens into the home. Take, for example, an L-shaped island with chef-counter-style seating. Or a revamped pantry that looks more like a hospitality industry prep kitchen with a sink, refrigeration, and counter space. “It’s for all the nitty-gritty stuff you don’t want your guests to see, or have to clean up an hour before they come,” says Mendelsohn.
In addition to kitchen design, Mendelsohn says he plans to offer more at-home services for his clients—whether that means recommending chef-approved appliances, cooking videos, and more.
“Retail and design—I think we’ll see a lot of chefs getting into this category,” says Mendelsohn. “A lot of people are looking to reinvent themselves right now.”