Decorating: Auntie Mame Style

By Kate Riley February 6, 2012

Did y’all ever see the movie Auntie Mame?  It’s one of my top ten favorite movies of all time, the book is hilarious too.  Rosalind Russell is so brilliant in this role as the eccentric yet glamorous Mame Dennis who is assigned the caretaker for her orphaned ten year old nephew Patrick in 1920’s New York City.  Auntie Mame is colorful and unconventional, a lover of art and theater, with a quick wit and a disdain for stuffy or snobbish society. 

auntie mame opening scene

The character is divine and the movie sets are magnificent.  The apartment Mame lives in takes on a completely new and different look every few years based on her iridescent theatrical personality.  During the movie, viewers get to see six separate and completely different designs, and to quote Jonathan Adler, “Watching Auntie Mame is a right of passage for every aspiring decorator”.  For a full tour of the six different makeovers during the movie in Mame’s apartment, visit Julia’s post on 3 Beekman Place.

So I have a neighbor named Tatiana and we met eight years ago at my annual garage sale. Tatiana is the closest person to Auntie Mame I know. Up my driveway eight years ago she walked with her husband Miguel and Tatiana and I became instant friends.  When I first met her, her name was Jennie, but then she decided she wanted her name to be Tatiana because she preferred Tatiana so she legally changed her name to Tatiana.  At the age of 45.  I love that.

Tatiana is my Auntie Mame, she eats and drinks and decorates as she pleases all with a zest for life that’s rare these days.  She lives around the corner from me and we meet for coffee from time to time to catch up. She always wants to come to my house because she finds it so soothing, and I always want to go to her house because I find it so inspiring, so we take turns.  But on our last coffee visit I won and got the pleasure of visiting with her in her home.  



eclectic collection

You can take in any room in my house in one glance, but hers? Oh my. It’s filled with her collection of precious things from the last twenty years scattered and displayed as she pleases. Walls painted in shades of saffron, muted turquoise, amethyst, and mustard yellow. Chinoiserie collections include everything from exotic screens to Chinese consoles, and she also displays eastern European objects from Turkish brass urns to Persian rugs, the list goes on.  She’s inherited some furniture from her grandmother, but acquired most of her collection through clever second hand shopping at thrift stores or flea markets.

tray and succulents

pooch on chair

Tatiana is a self taught artist too, and she showed me some of her recent pastel sketches, just beautiful.

tatiana art

Tatiana always makes me think about how important it is to decorate your home with what you love.  Even if it’s irreverent or unconventional, eccentric and colorful, if you love it, then do it, display it.  Life’s too short not to.

blue and yellow kitchen 2


I’ve collected even more images of what I consider “Auntie Mame Style”.  These are interiors that are filled with art, pattern, and color to reflect the tastes and personalities of the residents.  

miles redd interior

Miles Redd


jonathan adler sitting room office lonny nov dec 2011

Jonathan Adler in Lonny


auntie mame via interiors addictvia


pink velvet sofa via the lennoxx

via The Lennoxx


trendey living room

via Trendey


global red room via pinterest

via Pinterest


hutton wilkenson via harpers baazar

hutton wilkenson 2 via harpers baazar

via Harper’s Baazar

One of my favorite things to witness is when people decorate without care or concern for what others think and they mix pattern and color as they see fit. They decorate with wild abandon and to the beat of their own drum.  I applaud anyone who displays what he or she loves fearlessly, with no regard for what other’s think, by definition channeling their inner Auntie Mame. 

fishbowl in entry auntie mame


And shouldn’t we all?  Maybe not in the form of bright colors in every single space or layer upon layer of competing pattern or fishbowls hanging as fixtures in our entry. 

Instead, be inspired to fill your home with collections that are meaningful and important to you, irreverent or eccentric as they are.  Life’s too short not to. 



  1. I dream of one day having a staircase so I can have the “passage to India” painting up my wall.

    This is not just my favorite movie of all time, Auntie Mame is my muse. I don’t decorate so eclectically (I’m married to a detective after all), but I have a pierced nose, wear milkmaid braids, hipster glasses (all at 48) and try to throw in non sequiters like “Pipe down kid, your Auntie Mame’s hung” and “Patrick, I had no idea your aunt was literate” whenever possible.

    You are lucky for knowing Tatiana… Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.


    Now I’m off to enjoy a monkey gland, rather than horrendous daiquiri made with honey.

  2. Squeal! Auntie Mame is the most wonderful character ever! I have always adored her style! I am a conservative eclectic decorator and Mame Dennis is definatetly my inspiration! Thanks for making me smile by just seeing your title post! “Your Really Top Drawer!”

  3. Wonderful collection of images, Kate. I love the playfulness of it all. You are so right, our homes should reflect who we are.

    I love that Kelly green bookcase.

    I have never seen Auntie Mame, I will add it to my must see list!

  4. i love love love that harpers bazaar orange light fixture. oh to have somewhere to hang that baby!

  5. What a neat, eclectic style! I know it doesn’t float everyone’s boat, but that’s not the point.

    Tatiana’s style reminds me an awful lot of my Great Aunt Norma- her house was filled with all sorts of collections from all over the world and her own artwork. She was known for everything from painting, sculpting, sewing, scrimshaw (ivory carving), etc. The “real” Dr. Seuss, Theodor Geisel, even owned some of her pieces here in California. I am the proud of owner of one of her strangest pieces- a dark painting of a girl and a snake. It doesn’t quite fit into my style of decor, but that’s why I hang it in my closet– my own private gallery! :)

    I think it’s great that so many different styles can exist, and that the two of you can appreciate each other’s style. Thanks for sharing.

  6. This is such a refreshing post! Sometimes, I lose sight of what I like when I read too many blogs telling me what I should like or even what’s in style. It can be confusing. Following the heart will always bring decorating success, if only in your eyes! We should all have an Auntie Mame in our lives; I’m lucky enough to have a few. I LOVE Tatiana’s home. I feel like I could hunker down in any corner or her house and be quite content.

  7. I love all of it and Auntie Mame was always a favorite movie. I love, clean, styled, edited rooms, but not for me. What would I do with all my stuff??????

  8. SUCH a great movie! I love the Southern fox hunting segment. I need to watch that on video again soon. Good music too. Thanks for reminding me about Mame.

  9. What a wonderful, well written post. You hit the nail on the head. Auntie Mame is a classic! I admit, I love timeless design, but I appreciate anyone who is expresses themselves through their own taste in decor.

  10. YES! LOVE LOVE LOVE this post! Decorate with wild abandon – is there any other way?! There’s nothing better than decorating however you want in your home!

    • Yes, ‘Mister Babcock, knowledge is power’ is one of the best lines! I especially love the look on Mame’s face as she delivers it!

  11. Great message! I know too many women who decorate their homes to look like pottery barn because they want other people to like it. I totally buy into Auntie Mame’s design theory :) If I don’t like it, I don’t buy, keep it, display it….

  12. I want a Tatiana to have coffee with! I’m just off to my good Friend (and my previous deputy interior stylist) Theoda’s house for tea and cakes and although she doesn’t have such an ecclectic mix her home is beautifully, effortlessly and calmingly styled. She has the perfect balance of collections and it’s always a pleasure to sit and enjoy being at her home.

    Thanks for another great read.

    EmmaMT X

  13. I love this post! Tatiana’s house looks like a European flea market…. and I mean that in the best way possible since I have heart palpitations and start salivating when finding one. :) With all the trends going viral in this internet age, it’s refreshing to see someone decorate with their own passionate style.

  14. Could you clone her please. I so want someone like her to be my neighbor.

    good for her , doing it “Her Way”

  15. Love that your neighbor surrounds herself with things she loves! It’s inspiring to meet someone who flys in the face of convention and is authentically ‘them’ We can all take a lesson from that!

  16. I’m always inspired by people who know exactly who they are and aren’t afraid to embrace that. Your friend is a wonderful testament to that. And P.S. I LOVE the shot of that adorable schnauzer! Too cute. :)

  17. I wholeheartedly agree. I have lots of mix and match stuff that I have collected in travels, brought back home from Turkey and acquired here. I always keep most of them in bins, because I feel like I have to have a plan and big decoration makeover one day that each piece will find its own place. This makes me rethink that approach and display them whereever I want.
    I have to admit I wish I could spend less time admiring the picture perfect rooms in the magazines. I think a part of it is just seeing those glossy pages and thinking your house will never look like this or you will never be able to pull it off, so why bother. Then I put everything in bins!

  18. I’ve never seen the movie…guess I need to!

    Love the rooms you presented in the post…very eclectic and unique. I like the idea that decor should say something about the person who lives there and not just be some random things slapped up on the wall.

    Speaking of, I need to go get to work on my walls!

  19. Absolutely one of the best movies of all time! So many fun lines: “Welcome to the Burnside Fireside”; “Don’t forget the maps and martinis” and “Books are awfully decorative, don’t you think?” Whenever my nephews visited me in Palo Alto I always tried to emulate Auntie Mame. It’s nice to see your post take the movie and make it personal. Well done.

  20. Heck yes!! I so believe that we should surround ourselves in things we love and feel comfortable to us. It’s easy to forget in this blogtastic world, but at the end of the day we are the ones in our own houses so we must love it! Even if others aren’t such fans. Cool post.

  21. Sigh…I was Auntie Mame in our high school musical my senior year. Life IS a banquet, and most poor SOBs ARE starving to death! (My Facebook quote.) Thanks for prompting a great memory, and for reminding us to be true to what we love.

  22. The Best Post …Those who live it get validated in a fun way, those who love it but can’t live it can giggle with discovery of eccentricity and delight in others. My mom “collected” Auntie Mames whom we loved to visit. These wonderful flamboyant ladies – all leave an indelible mark to enjoy, to cherish or to emulate. You always manage to bring the best sharing ever!

  23. I must watch this movie immediately! Sounds ilke so much fun! I might have enough things to create an Auntie Mame bathroom!
    PS – your relationship with Tatiana sounds lovely :)

  24. I am an Auntie Mame fan too Kate..I also loved Lucy’s portrayal of her..As I told you before..I don’t worry about what is “in”..I buy and decorate with what I like..

  25. I love Auntie Mame, one of the best movies of all time. Luckily my sister is pretty close in character to Mamie haha. The last two pics you posted are spot on! “Patrick, I shall open doors for you. Doors you never dreamed existed.”

  26. I grew up watching that movie, but I never knew the title since Mom recorded it off the TV! I always wanted a chair that could elevate. Thanks for bringing back some wonderful memories!

  27. I absolutely LOVE this. In a design world where places like pottery barn, crate and barrel, and zgallerie seem to set the standard for acceptable design, it’s so wonderful to see otherwise. My personal design style is contemporary ecclectic so when I see spaces rich in texture and pieces that have a history it makes me instantly happy. This was a feast for my eyes. Thanks for sharing.

  28. I will be finding this movie stat. Thank you for the recommendation! The decor reminds me a bit of “Great Expectations”. New New Years Resolution: to be more like Auntie Mame.

  29. Oh boy, how wonderful that people can express their own personalities through decorating. Much to busy for my personal taste; I guess I’m too conservative. But I love the post. As always; its a great read. I think I want to see the movie too.

  30. Auntie Mame is one of my alll time favorite moives and the book is also great. I own both and I do not own very many movies. Have been enjoying your blog and just had to comment when I saw the Auntie Mame reference. Your neighbor sounds like a hoot!

  31. Hey Kate,

    I was wondering if you knew that at Target right now they have boxes that look EXACTLY the same as your DIY laquer boxes. I saw them yesterday and almost thought they were the same ones!

  32. When you search Auntie Mame your site is one of the top results :) That’s awesome! I am a huge movie buff especially the classics, and the cover of Auntie Mame never struck my fancy so it was moved very far down my “to watch” list; but as a result of your post will be the next on my list! :) It sounds like a divine film :)

  33. I think it is VERY clever that she put her spice rack on the outside of her cabinet. There is probably a way to do it with a more updated look, but what a space saver and time saver when you are busy cooking. Great post! Thanks for sharing her playful home.

  34. I’m sending this post to my daughter who complains that nothing in our family room “matches”.

  35. LOVE that movie. I just recorded it a few weeks ago and have completely bored my family with it!

  36. A perfect movie recommendation! I haven’t watched this in a looong time, and since we just moved to a new place, it’s the perfect one to get inspired to decorate w/o worrying about things too much… THANKS!

  37. I think I saw that movie as a kid. I am defintely going to rent it! Aunt Mame is who the (used-to-be- twenty-year-old-me) would dream of being! Thanks for the inspiration – I’m about to move into a new home. Your post came just in time – I think I need to channel Aunt Mame for my new family nest!

  38. I have never heard of another person who loves that movie! My husband searched and searched for it and finally had to special order it for me…one Valentines day. It sounds like your neighbour is a keeper, lucky you!

  39. I love you for doing this post – what a great collection here! Auntie Mame is a gem – I am not ashamed to admit we watch it quarterly (at least) in our house.

  40. I lived with Auntie Mame – she was my mom.
    Every square pace of wall was covered – including a picasso sketch similar to yours above. It was eclectic to the point of being chaotic – and I really disliked it.

    But, I respected it.
    Because it was very much her.
    Full of whimsy, rule-breaking, and living life to the fullest!

    My home…is much more subdued.
    (Except for the crazy chaotic Jimmy John’s kitchen we just made!)
    Mom would have LOVED it!

  41. Kate -I have a lot of fun reading your posts -Thanks!
    and about the movie- I’ll have to watch it..something to look forward to :-)

  42. Love that Movie! I haven’t seen it in ages, though, I forgot how colorful and layered the interiors were. I must watch again this time with a designers eye! You have found some other great “Auntie Mame” rooms together!

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