How I Gather

Bringing people together around a table is our greatest passion in life and we believe food is one of the most powerful tools for connection. In our series, How I Gather we go behind the scenes with our favorite foodies to see how they do it. See All

Kennesha Buycks is a designer, creative, blogger, and author, but for me, the word that first comes to mind is storyteller. Whether she’s writing a blog post, setting a table, or decorating a room, Kennesha magically weaves a narrative thread that feels at once inspiring and approachable. As I followed her work online, it was her strong vision and passion for truth-telling that clearly set her apart from the influencer culture around her. Then, as we planned this shoot through pandemic-era Zoom calls, her easy laugh and graceful conversation invited me into instant friendship. Her site, Restoration House, says it best:

“Kennesha has yet to find anything more meaningful than peeling back the layers of life and pain to shine light on the hidden gifts and talents within each of us to reveal how, together, we can become a force to be reckoned with. What lies in the aftermath and in the midst of the ordinary, is that God takes what we consider normal and breathes on them to turn them into something extraordinary.”

It’s through this lens that she sees the beauty in everything, and invites each of us to do the same. So, of course, I was dying to see how this incredible woman gathers people in the home that she shares with her husband and four children–face-to-face, in real life. And I can’t wait to share it with you!

Step inside the beautiful Seattle home of Kennesha Buycks…

Tell us about the Restoration House blog. When and why did you start it?

Restoration House began back in 2009 as a furniture restoration business. It was somewhat of a hobby. Something I did to make myself feel like more than a mom. I had 3 kids under 5 at that time, graduated from college with a BA in Mass Comm/Public Relations and hadn’t really made much of my degree as I’d become pregnant with our first just three years into marriage. I’ve always been creative and have had a knack for design so picking up paintbrushes and vintage and antique furniture pieces seemed only natural to me.

What began as a way to pass time and expend some creative energy quickly became much more. I realized it was part of my purpose and passion in life to not only breathe new life back into long-forgotten pieces of furniture, but as I began to work with clients and customize pieces for their homes, I realized that would just be one way that I had the ability to help tell the story of their lives. Later on, I transitioned from furniture restoration to the creative outlet of writing and storytelling through that form of communication.

Today, I live to bring out the beauty in our lives through the one space that brings us all together and speaks to common needs as human beings—the need to be seen and known. To have our stories told in a way that is unique and compelling and that encourages and inspire those around us to do the same.

When it comes to anything I do—design, writing, creating—that goal stays the same.

Tell us about any rituals or routines that are part of your daily life.

No day’s typical around here, and most days have felt pretty chaotic over the past year with the change in schedules between work and school and the pandemic.

However, my daily rituals keep me focused, peace-filled and grounded. For me, morning stretches and dry brushing accompanied by walks, light exercise, and turmeric tea or matcha chase the anxiety away.

I also love listening to classical music while I work and through the night to settle my mind and the house.

These are all things I have found to keep me steady and enable me to navigate my day much more smoothly.

Your beautiful home is full of character and personality. Tell us about it.

We were military for 10 years, and then for seven years after, we rented. So this home that we are currently in is all the more special. It’s nowhere near perfect or the way I envision it, but for the first time in almost 20 years, we own our home. I am learning what abiding and being content looks like all over again in this space. We have a bit of a five-year plan for renovation which includes a lot of aesthetic upgrades, but also some structural ones. I am excited to continue dreaming of what it can and will be alongside our family (mostly my husband) and look forward to creating something that belongs to us.

What’s your favorite spot in the house?

Our living room. What I love about our home is that there isn’t really much extra space or rooms. It’s an extremely functional home and just right for us. Built in 1942 as a farmhouse, the practical use of the space is a far cry from its original purpose, but even in the renovations completed by previous owners, it still carries a bit of the original charm and the soul of the home is just perfect. We have these amazing windows in our living room where you view the entire backyard, and in the mornings it’s one of my favorite spots to sit and sip tea, read, or just “be”.

How did your book come to be?

Writing a book was actually never a goal. Being approached by HarperCollins in 2017 to write it was a bit of an anomaly of sorts, but the best kind. I’m thankful for the opportunity that the book has given me to reach far more people than I would have without it and to continue spreading the heart of the message of Restoration House.

Shop the book here—Restoration House: Creating a Space That Gives Life and Connection to All Who Enter

How are you staying healthy throughout the transitions of this past year?

To answer that, I have to define what “healthy” means to me right now. Sometimes healthy is just making it through the end of the day or making it to the next breath and sometimes “healthy” looks like waking up early enough, moving my body, drinking water, and minding my business. So, I guess one of the ways I’m staying healthy, for me, is finding new ways every day to feel good about what I give to myself, my family, and to the world around me. These days, sometimes, rest is the best way to give to each of those groups and to thrive.

What are your beauty must-haves?

Good face wipes, a good moisturizer, and a serum.

Honest Wipes

Dr. Hauschka Skin Care Revitalizing Day Cream

Acure Brightening Glowing Serum

What would we always find in your refrigerator?

Crystal brand hot sauce cause, duh, I’m Southern (and no, Tabasco isn’t hot sauce just so we are clear.) Also, always some kind of flavored sparkling water.

You have four kids! What does “family dinner” look like for you?

Growing up, our family dinners looked a little different from those who may have had a more traditional experience. Sundays were big days. My memaw would start cooking for Sunday on Saturday, and I recall it being a really big deal. Fresh veggies pickled and cut from our garden or from the local farmer’s market, and meats that could only taste good if they’d simmered and cooked for at least 12 hours. It was the best. After church, it was rarely just our family. It wasn’t come one come all, but it sure felt like it as neighbors and friends from the community were nearly always a part of the good food and laughs that were certain to be had on any given Sunday. My memaw had the best laugh. It wasn’t soft or cute. It was heavy and hearty and had ‘soul’. Just like her.

Today’s family dinners don’t always look the way mine did, but what they do offer is a bit of laughing and a whole lot of soul. As our kids transition into adulthood, it’s become increasingly more difficult to gather around the table as frequently as Larry or I would like. But when we do, even through tough seasons, it always fills our need to connect with one another.

What’s your best tip for entertaining on a budget?

Instead of new flatware and dinnerware, shop vintage and antique shops for those eclectic and one of a kind platters and dishes. Not only are you saving money this way; you’re also bringing a story to the table. And who doesn’t love a good story? Pieces that are timeless and have a bit of history are always on-trend.

What’s your must-have cooking tool?

My cast-iron skillets! I’m Southern. (I’m not sure we need more of an explanation, ha!)

I can’t remember the last time I used any of my stainless skillets or cookware. I have about five to six cast iron skillets in a variety of sizes and they are on daily heavy rotation in the Buycks household.

Does your upbringing in the South influence the way you cook?

The way I live is heavily influenced by my upbringing and steeped in Black Southern tradition and culture-specifically. The sense of community and gathering and offering what you have to those around you is an ideal I grew up with. This was taught from a very young age.

I watched my grandmother offer what little she had to a lot of people around her, and she taught me that you don’t have to have much to live a generous life.

What’s your signature cocktail?

Whiskey sour.

Your go-to centerpiece solution?

Simple is best, but it always needs character. So, a vintage, or antique vessel holding lots of fresh greenery is always a win in my playbook.

Click here to get the recipe for Kennesha’s Pea Salad with Mint and Microgreens.

Give me 3 of your favorite items for setting a table.

  1. Nice but not too fancy linens. They add texture and can also add personality depending on the design.
  2. A good set of glasses that can serve just about any type of beverage.
  3. A variety of vintage vessels for a “put together” centerpiece. No one needs to know your “put together” is composed of foraged branches and florals from your yard or yesterday’s nature walk. Clustering vessels in the center of your table will give guests the feel of something greater and sometimes it is even more beautiful than what you’d get if you spent a lot on a professional arrangement.

Favorite conversation starters:

DEEP: What are you currently most passionate about/interested in?

SHALLOW: How do you know [the host’s name]?

The perfect dinner party playlist includes:

A good playlist always has a mix of classic/modern jazz and alternative R+B from Herbie Hancock and Coltrane and Sault.

Click here to listen to Kennesha’s “Perfect Playlist” on Spotify. 

Click here to get the recipe for Kennesha’s Roasted Mushrooms with Thyme and Smoked Salt. 

Who are your dream dinner party guests?

Anyone who can make me laugh until my stomach hurts isn’t afraid of acting young forever and won’t judge me for not caring too much about stuff that doesn’t matter—like paper plates or cheap wine. Blame it on the Southerner in me.

Standard hostess outfit:

Cozy is queen.

The secret to a great meal is __________.

People you love and lots of soul. The food should also be well seasoned and taste really good.

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