Fall is a transformative season, heralding changes that inspire new adventures and projects alike. This issue of American Lifestyle is full of ideas to help you embrace all the coming months have to offer, including a list of Oktoberfests across the country, a look at a California home remodel, tips for redesigning your dining room, and two scrumptious recipes perfect for the season.
From Halloween to Thanksgiving, autumn is full of festive celebrations, but none are quite as vibrant as Oktoberfest, an old-world German tradition. This issue features a list of the nation's finest of these festivals, highlighting what makes each one unique, to help you plan your next fall adventure.
It's one thing to undertake a home remodel, and it's another to do it while also moving cross-country. Inside, discover how designer Marie Burgos handled the transition from New York to California and take a closer look at the remarkable transformation of her 1920s home.
Gone are the days when dining rooms served solely as formal spaces for meals. Today, they have evolved into versatile areas that also function as offices, game rooms, and much more. The guide in this issue is full of tips for reimagining your dining room to make it better align with your present lifestyle and needs.
Fall is a great time to gather loved ones and celebrate the beauty of the season. Whether you're preparing to host an elegant affair or an informal get-together, you won't want to miss the scrumptious recipes in this issue. Delight in the enticing flavors of stuffed figs and wild rice, ideal companions to elevate any festive celebration.
Here’s hoping you have a fantastic start to fall! As always, it’s a pleasure to send you this magazine.
As autumn leaves explode into vibrant hues, nature starts to resemble the yellow and red of the German flag. Heed this call to celebrate one of the world’s most famous fall festivals: Oktoberfest. For the more than forty million American citizens who claim German lineage, joining in the celebration is a tribute to their bloodline and a taste for certain old-world libations. Yet even without such ancestry, participants can don some lederhosen or a dirndl and raise a stein to the occasion—welcoming the return of Oktober.
Oktoberfest is inherently German in name and history, as it originated in the Bavarian city of Munich—or München, if you want to be truly authentic—in the year 1810. The first celebration was not, in fact, an ode to foamy drinks but a citywide wedding reception for Prince Regent Ludwig of Bavaria and his new bride, Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The festivities were so revered that the city held them again the following year, creating a tradition that continues to this day.
Modern Munich sees annual events running for more than two weeks from mid-September to early October. But even if you can’t board a flight to this host city, there are a whopping 150-plus North American locales that celebrate this beloved jamboree abounding with flavors, dances, and decorative themes handed down through ancestry. These are some of the finest American takes on Oktoberfest that are not to be missed.
Cincinnati, Ohio (September 14–17, 2023)
This industrial Rust Belt city hosts the United States’ largest Oktoberfest celebration. Hundreds of thousands of people flock to this festival each year to enjoy bratwurst, beverages, vendors, and a variety of notable entertainers. The region is so dedicated to the event that the town temporarily takes on the more Germanic name “Zinzinnati” and dresses up its downtown in authentic Bavarian decor like colorful flags and tents to mark the occasion. Be sure not to miss the annual dog race featuring dachshunds dressed as German sausages.
Washington, DC (September 15–17, 2023)
The Wharf, a popular waterfront district of restaurants, bars, and shops in our nation’s capital, plays host to the premier Oktoberfest celebration for both people and pups. The Weiner 500 Dachshund Dash, now in its eleventh year, is the highlight of the festival. Dachshunds don their best costumes and sprint to the finish in the event benefiting Rural Dog Rescue—a network of volunteers helping to save dogs from high-kill shelters around the region. You can also test your strength and pop in to one of the many restaurants hosting stein-hoisting contests, after which you can treat yourself to traditional Bavarian drinks and bites.
Denver, Colorado (September 22–24 and September 29–October 1, 2023)
It’s no wonder that the Mile High City, which boasts more than 150 breweries, would align its interests with this Bavarian tradition. Dating back to 1969, the annual Denver Oktoberfest is a local and tourist favorite that features events such as a brawny keg bowling contest and stein hoisting along with generous eats courtesy of vendors like Polidori Sausage. Live music offerings, meanwhile, are as traditional as polka and as contemporary as a silent disco. Embrace the celebration’s theme with impressive garb, especially if you plan on entering the costume contest, and book a VIP package to access exclusive venues like the Premium Beer Hall.
Puyallup, Washington (October 6–8, 2023)
This small Seattle suburb becomes a regional attraction every year when it kicks off Oktoberfest Northwest, a taste of home for German descendants located far away from their homeland. This particular celebration schedules an array of fascinating cultural events, including the Hammerschlagen (competitive nail hammering), keg rolling (a party game centered on a popular German drink), and the Stein Dash (a 5K run). Visitors can also partake in a large selection of beverages served in gorgeous German glass steins—and you can even keep the stein. Puyallup’s Oktoberfest officially opens with the Tapping of the Firkin, when the crowd gathers around the opening of the first keg and declares “Prost!”
New Braunfels, Texas (November 3–12, 2023)
If you feel like your appetite isn’t quite whet at the end of the Oktoberfest season, get a second helping of bratwurst and foamy beverages in the central Texas town of New Braunfels, which was named after the hometown of its German immigrant founder. Some traditionalists may turn their nose at the fact that this celebration, cheekily titled Wurstfest, takes place in early November, but its dedication to German culture and flavors makes clear references to Oktoberfest, even if it runs a bit behind schedule. If you plan to spend the “wurst” week of your life in this town, set aside time to board vintage carnival rides in the Kinderhalle, and add a customized brick to the Wurstfest Marketplatz to become a part of this celebration’s history.
Intrigued by West Coast living and a slower pace of life, designer Marie Burgos bought and remodeled a ranch house in Los Angeles for her husband and kids.
What inspired you to buy a home on the opposite coast from where you had been living?
We bought this house as a second home but ended up living there for three years because of COVID before selling it and moving back to New York City. We wanted to try out a different lifestyle from Brooklyn and allow our children to experience the California dream. I was born and raised in Paris, but both my family and my husband’s family are from Martinique, which feels a lot more like California than New York. The city is fast-paced and has a lot of culture, while the West Coast is more easygoing and family oriented with more weekend barbeque and pool parties. I also had a lot of clients on the West Coast, so it was important to be there to establish relationships with vendors to ensure I had the right resources when I designed.
Why was this home a good choice?
For one, there is a huge twenty-by-forty-foot pool in the backyard that the previous family’s two teenagers used to practice for the high-school swim team. But the location was also a big plus. It’s a corner home five minutes from the shops in Calabasas and twenty minutes from the beach at Malibu, and the school district is great for kids. The area offered so many outdoor activities, a wonderful laid-back pace, and just a beautiful lifestyle.
How did this house look when you purchased it?
It was a fixer-upper from the 1920s that needed a lot of love. Aside from the original owner, it’d had only one owner before us and had never been remodeled. The bathrooms were tiny with original fixtures, the galley kitchen had a half wall dividing it from the living area, and the rooms were painted in green and yellow. The original wood flooring was in good condition, but it was hidden underneath thick carpeting. The yard was also overgrown, and the fencing needed to be replaced. It was traumatic. [Laughs] But I could tell it was a diamond in the rough.
What was your vision for the house?
We wanted something that kept the character of the house but had modern luxuries like a bath with a double vanity, a walk-in shower, and a soaking tub. The original kitchen was dark and overpowered by all-brown wood, so we opened it up by getting rid of the half wall that separated the breakfast nook from the kitchen and painting it white. Once we did that, the kitchen felt much more connected to the outdoors and drenched in sunshine. We then went with black cabinetry to add a midcentury modern feel to the space and installed walnut countertops to bring in a natural element.
The primary bathroom needed a similar transformation. We wanted it to be airy and clean but still warm, so we chose porcelain tile that has a little bit of gold in the accent for the shower. We also selected brass fixtures to add extra warmth.
Will you talk about the maximalist powder room?
The wallpaper was a wink to my Caribbean heritage with the tropical banana leaves design. I wanted a modern, inviting powder room for guests, so we revamped this little space in a fun way.
How did your lifestyle influence your design?
We ate outside frequently and spent a lot of time using the pool and terrace. It’s a ranch-style home, and the kids were constantly running around the whole house. We quickly realized that we had to swap out our original white sofa because the kids were always soaked with pool water and grass. We also bought easy-to-replace natural area rugs.
Were there any challenges when designing the home?
At the time, we wished we had a bigger budget to expand the house so we could add a home office and other areas. But it wasn’t a priority. Our goal was to create a temporary retreat away from the hustle and bustle of New York City life. If we had stayed, we would have renovated more.
Is it difficult to design a house for yourself?
They say the shoemaker always has the worst shoes. As a designer, you spend so much time doing drawings and creating for your clients that when it comes to your own home, you don’t give the same attention. While we did some plans and budgeting, it wasn’t to the full extent of what I’d do for my clients.
In what ways has your style evolved over the years?
Before, my style was simpler and minimalistic. I still pay attention to decluttering and feng shui, but I now tend toward richer elements, fabrics, and finishes. My designs have more elements of maximalism, including more texture and layering, and I’m bolder about paint colors and wallpaper; some recent projects even have wallpaper on the ceiling.
My style is also based on the type of properties I’m designing. For instance, for the hotel rooms I’m currently mapping out, I’m using a lot of heavy draperies and textures. On the other hand, the couple of beach homes I’m designing have textures in much lighter colors and fabrics like linen and floating drapery.
What is your design philosophy?
Typically, I think about how to incorporate feng shui’s key principles of balance. For example, if you have a very clean-lined rectangular sofa, you might want to pair it with a curvy coffee table. But if you have marble or wood elements, you should bring in plush rugs and silky fabrics to help balance them. And if you have darker walls, make sure you have lights that will create a mood and introduce the element of shine. I also pay attention to the orientation of the home so I can determine where the light shines in and how to integrate it. It’s all about creating spaces that feel “right” as soon as you walk in.
For more info, visit marieburgosdesign.com
After falling out of fashion for a few years, dining rooms are in vogue once again. But they aren’t the strictly formal areas they were before—they’re now also being used as places to work, hang out with friends and family, and relax. If you’re interested in such a multipurpose space, follow these tips to create a dining room that best fits your needs.
First, determine how you want the room to look and feel—it can be formal, casual, or anything in between. For example, Bethany Crum of Crummy Designs converted her den into a fun, casual dining area to make her home more functional for her young family of six. She pulled up the carpeting, revealing beautiful hardwood floors beneath, and painted the walls a crisp white and the fireplace a happy yellow, which helped brighten up the space.
Meanwhile, content creator Caralyn Mirand Koch designed her dining room to double as an everyday eating area and a sophisticated workspace. She explains, “The dining room is just off the main entrance, so I wanted it to be welcoming and visually appealing but still be multifunctional.” Koch painted the walls in Benjamin Moore Jet Black and the wainscoting in Sherwin-Williams Pure White while incorporating beautiful artwork and gold-hued candlesticks to create a glamorous feel. She then added a round dining table and a luxurious buffet table, which also serves as storage space for office supplies.
If you don’t have a separate room you can designate as your dining area, you could simply use the eat-in area of a kitchen, the corner of an open floor plan, or another available space in your home. You’ll just need to define the space, such as by anchoring it with an area rug or by hanging an eye-catching chandelier above the table.
When designing your dining room, you should keep both form and function in mind, especially if you want it to serve several purposes. For instance, Crum, whose kids enjoy reading, put an upholstered IKEA Tullsta armchair in one corner of her dining area to create a cozy reading nook. “When you decide how a room should function instead of letting the space determine that, you’ll love and use it so much more,” she says.
The most important element in your dining room will be your table, so try to pick one that suits your needs and your desired look. The dimensions of the space will likely dictate the size of your table, but other considerations, such as your budget and how you plan use your room, will also factor in. Crum has a large farmhouse-style table handed down from her parents; its size and durability are perfect for the family’s sit-down dinners, game nights, and craft sessions. In contrast, Koch centered an Emerson Round Dining Table in her dining room that can be expanded when she needs a larger surface. While Crum’s naturally distressed table has a rustic look, the dark oak and brass detailing on Koch’s dining table makes her room feel more formal and elegant.
There are many ways to illuminate a dining space. For example, you could add recessed or pendant lighting or go with the traditional chandelier hung over the center of the table—what you decide on can set the mood for your entire dining area. Crum’s bright and modern dining room is decorated with a midcentury modern glass-bubble chandelier to bring in a fun pop of personality. Meanwhile, Koch’s dining room is accentuated with a luxurious bronze and crystal chandelier. The convention is to choose a chandelier that’s one-half to three-quarters the width of your table and hung about thirty to thirty-two inches above it, but you could also deviate from those guidelines to create a look all your own.
Selecting an appealing color scheme is a one way to make your dining room look brand-new. Once you’ve made your choice, you can paint your walls in your chosen hue and pick coordinating accessories like table linens, upholstery, and curtains. For example, if you want a light and airy feel, you could paint the walls white or beige and bring in pieces in soothing browns, creams, grays, whites, and blacks. Or if you’d prefer a deep color and drama in your space, you could select a jewel tone like emerald green for your walls and pair it with pops of bright yellow or purple.
Accessorizing your dining area with items that appeal to you is the ideal way to get the vibe you want in your space. Crum and her husband, who enjoy collecting artwork, created a colorful gallery wall in their dining room, while Koch hung delicate botanical prints and added gold-toned sculptural pieces, potted plants, and some of her favorite coffee-table books to accentuate her space. Whatever your interests, your dining room should represent you—after all, you’re the one who will be spending the most time in it.
Whether you want a cozy eating nook for two or a place to host holidays and parties, you’ll find an almost endless variety of options to choose from to create your perfect dining space.
Fall brings opportunities to gather loved ones together to savor the delicious flavors of the season and create memories that will last a lifetime. Whether you’re hosting an intimate dinner or a festive party, these recipes from Alex Hitz’s Occasions to Celebrate are the perfect complement to your celebrations.
These delicious mission figs are filled with a smooth mixture of goat cheese and butter and topped with almond slices and a drizzle of honey.
Bringing together wild rice, savory sautéed mushrooms, and sweet dried cranberries, this dish offers a perfect balance of flavors and textures that will leave you wanting more.
©Occasions to Celebrate by Alex Hitz, Rizzoli New York, 2022. Photographs ©Iain Bagwell.
recipe by alex hitz
photos by iain bagwell
Indulge in the exquisite combination of sweet and savory flavors in these stuffed figs, which can be whipped together in no time as delicious finger foods for fall gatherings.
Makes 18 small hors d’oeuvres
recipe by alex hitz
photos by iain bagwell
This recipe is the perfect fusion of earthy and nutty flavors and textures. Wild rice is sautéed with onions and mushrooms and then mixed with bacon, pecans, and cranberries. It’s an incredible combination that will leave you wanting more.
Makes 8 to 10 servings