Neo-Trad of the Week


Carolyn James McDonough


Do we have to go there??? 43 (as of last Sunday) but I feel 35!


Pound Ridge, NY (a little hamlet 50 minutes from the city)

My cliff-note autobiography…

I’m an identical mirror-image twin born in New York but raised in the Belgian countryside. We moved back to the States in our early teens to New England where our French and Flemish floundered, but our Spanish improved. With travel and languages in my blood, I graduated from Georgetown University in the midst of the last recession and moved to Paris, where I put that degree in Foreign Service and my rusty French to work by baking cookies for an American store. I fell in love with my student guide when I visited Kellogg (Northwestern University’s business school) – we’ve been married 16 years and have two very adorable (most of the time!) boys and two very adorable (most of the time!) labradoodles (my girls!). After a number of interesting jobs including being the editorial assistant to Jackie Onassis at Doubleday, a paralegal in an eco-conscious French law firm and an investment banker in the film and oil and gas industries in New York, I’ve finally settled down and am running my mother’s business (Diane James Home) with my twin, Cynthia, and writing about all that inspires me in our blog, The Buzz.

Five things that make my heart flutter…

First and foremost, my boys (husband included!), sunrise or sunset on the Seine, the Aston Martin DBS Volante, vintage Balenciaga and Valentino couture, the song “Both Sides Now” by Joni Mitchell… and I could go on and on!

My dream dinner party…

My dream dinner party would take place in the gardens of the Musee Rodin in Paris (bien sur!), surrounded by beautiful flowers, sculptures and fountains. My guests would include Coco Chanel, Audrey Hepburn, Tony Duquette, George Cukor, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Nellie McKay and George Burns and Gracie Allen. Ina Garten and Alice Waters would combine their culinary skills to prepare a simple but delicious meal using seasonal and sustainable ingredients, and the lush peony and rose centerpieces would be designed by the mother-daughter team of Marilyn and Meredith Waga at Belle Fleur. We would dance under the stars to Sting singing classics from the Great American Songbook and the whole evening would be captured on film by the fabulous Slim Aarons.

In ten years I will be…

Enjoying the fruits of hard labor and running a much larger business, known the world over for beautiful faux flowers and botanically inspired home accessories (watch out Martha Stewart!) I would love to have the luxury of time to travel with my family to spiritual places like Machu Picchu, Bhutan and Jerusalem, and to build shelters for Women In Need. Our 1920’s home will finally be renovated with Michael Smith adding his signature style and a Christopher Peacock kitchen. After taking a myriad of cooking classes around the world, I will be an accomplished chef, regaling friends and family with cozy home-cooked meals served in a terraced garden designed by James Doyle. Above all, my home will always be source of warmth, comfort, laughter and love.

I am neo-traditional because…

I don’t think chivalry is dead; We use placemats and linen napkins at every meal (even if it’s a TV dinner!); I wake up the kids every day (much to their displeasure!) with on off-key rendition of the “Good Morning” song from “Singing in the Rain”; and while I haven’t yet mastered The Art of French Cooking (sorry Julia!), I have read Emily Post’s “Etiquette” and Genevieve Antoine Dariaux’s “A Guide to Elegance” cover to cover.

Above: a picture taken of me at my father-in-law’s birthday party – notice the real Claude Lalanne sheep by my side and the fake Monet in the background!

Thank you so very much Carolyn! From Jackie O. to Musee Rodin you’ve secured my life-long adoration! Isn’t she fabulous ladies? xx Katie

19 comments on “Neo-Trad of the Week

  1. Katie Armour Post author

    Brooke — I know, right? I nearly died reading her responses. What a life! Fingers crossed this is be you and me someday. XX

  2. Piper

    seriously fabulous – love what she said! i love that she goes all out for her meals…I always mean to do that so she’s inspired me to bring out the good china :)!

  3. Haydee

    What an inspiring post for a Friday morning! This was wonderful! I love that she would have George and Gracie at her dream dinner party. Please tell me that Ina would bring Jeffrey too, because they are just the cutest. Editorial assistant to Jackie O.? Wow, what an experience. And I love that her house would be done by Michael Smith. He had just completed a good friend of mines home before he had to whisk away to do the Oval office. Fabulous, right? Have a great weekend Katie! xoxo

  4. The Zhush

    Fabulous indeed! And I learned so much here as well! Gorgeous photo, thinking not a day over 30 by the looks of her! Great style, great dreams, great lady!

  5. Jennie

    Carolyn–I had the pleasure of meeting you at NYIGF in January (I am part of the Kuhl-Linscomb tribe), so it was such a surprise to see you this morning on one of my favorite blogs! So impressed as always!

  6. Katie Armour Post author

    Jennie — What a fun connection! Thank you for reading my little blog. Carolyn has been very kind to me and I’m so envious you had the opportunity to meet this lovely woman in person!

    XX katie

  7. Elizabeth Rose

    Wow! She’s already experienced so much, but still has so many more dreams. I love that! And while I was reading her responses ‘Both Sides Now’ suddenly came on from my ipod. Fate?

  8. Lauren

    My grandmother would wake me up singing “Good Morning” from “Singing in the Rain” when I was little. It’s now that I am an adult that I really appreciate those little things. Your boys are lucky to have you and your neo-trad influence, Carolyn!

  9. Habitually Chic

    I have had the pleasure of meeting both Carolyn and Cynthia and they are both wonderful and lovely! It was so nice to learn more about Carolyn! Thanks!

  10. Marija

    This is an amazing interview. The fact that it made me feel as though my life was completely boring aside. How wonderful is she?!

  11. The Shiny Pebble

    Yes she has lead a glam life, but what about her fabulous sense of humour and great writing style. I don’t know Carolyn personally, but I do love her blog. The Buzz always has the coolest and most unique entries. All original and inimitable. And as fabulous and gorgeous this lady is, she has always taken the time to leave sweet messages at her reader’s blogs.

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