Best known as Dee, Dinah Eke — of her namesake account, DeeDiARY — is known for her love of color, her way of mixing patterns, and for managing to make life in New York City with three young kids joyful, glamorous, and real. Her down-to-earth quality, plus her creativity with her own small space (it involves plenty of DEE-IY projects), inspires her readers and prompted her to start her own interior design business. Ahead, she gives us the lowdown on how she weaves it all together.
In our new series, “A Perfect Sunday,” we spotlight our favorite tastemakers and their ideal Sunday vibe, life advice, and beauty and style must-haves. Here, Dinah Eke shares her routine.
My Sunday (and every day!) starts around 6:00 a.m. when my 6-month-old baby wakes up. She’s still sleeping in our room in the Snoo which has been a Godsend — but the boys (ages 2 and 5) share a bedroom. The boys, thankfully, will stay in their room until about 7:30 a.m., and then the morning routine of breakfast and getting dressed starts.
Somewhere in there, I get my coffee; I always use coffee from Partners — a Brooklyn-based brand — to make a latte at home. I reach for the “Manhattan” blend, which has notes of dark chocolate, marzipan, and molasses. We have a Breville coffee machine, and it’s amazing. I use Lactaid because I am lactose intolerant but it really does taste like milk!
Most Sundays the kids’ dad makes big fluffy pancakes — always from scratch because they reject anything from a mix — and don’t even think about forgetting to add chocolate chips! I tried to put in bananas once too, and that definitely was a no. I’ll be honest, I rarely get warm pancakes these days. Once you have that second kid, cold pancakes become the norm.
Daily Beauty Ritual:
I only have time for a five-minute face most days but I’ve perfected it with just a handful of products. I use Benefit’s Gimme Brow and also their Benetint Cheek & Lip Stain, Victoria Beckham Satin Kajal Liner in Black, and Sephora Cream Lip Stain in African Violet, number 12). I hardly do foundation but when I do, I really like Bare Minerals Original Loose Powder Foundation, in Golden Tan. I usually will use M.A.C.’s Rose Prep + Prime Fix + Setting Spray to set it all in place. My favorite eye palette is Nude Tude from a brand called theBalm.
These days I’m so busy I am actually barely wearing makeup but I’m really enjoying dressing up my look with a jewelry brand from Hayet Rida, called The Koi Studio; it’s just so unique and fun and I get compliments all the time.
Color is the biggest thing that inspires my clothing. I do a lot of color blocking but generally, my outfits are super colorful and I think it just brightens everything up, including my mood; my closet has a lot of clothes by brands like Farm Rio, Karavan, Dissh. I’m 5’ 11” so I definitely gravitate towards maxi dresses — which aren’t ever that long on me. The funny thing is, I love color — just not in my space, which is very neutral with a lot of black, whites, and blues.
I tend to do all my shopping online, partly because of my busy schedule, but also just because as a really tall person — and someone with big feet — that’s where I can usually find my size online! I get a lot of my shoes from Stuart Weitzman because they have a lot of size 11s or 11.5. (My feet grew a half size after my last baby!)
Since we usually spend a lot of the morning at the park and playground near where we live in Long Island City, and for lunch, we usually go for pizza at this great local spot called Centro. It’s not fancy, because, kids — but there’s something for everyone.
We usually come home from the park around 12:30 p.m. or 1:00 p.m. because my 2-year-old turns into a maniac by like 1:00 p.m. Once they’re napping, it’s my time to check out and just do stuff for myself. A lot of the time I will just go and get my nails done. I go to a place called Emily Salon & Spa; I typically go with Big Apple Red from OPI. Sometimes I will do an at-home gel mani if I don’t have time to go to the salon; I love this kit I found online and it’s more gentle on my nails.
Sunday is typically when I take the time to water all the plants in my apartment. I have a ton of plants — and I love them all! Sometimes the kids help me with this, which is a great activity to do together. I will say that most of them are not that high maintenance because in this household, they simply can’t be! Once the kids are up from naps and I am back from getting my nails done, it’s often craft time. I keep a lot of kits hanging around and we just will do anything that strikes our mood. Because we spend so much time on the floor and because we have three kids, we decided to use Flor tiles instead of area rugs — so that if they damage a square you only have to replace that one.
Lots of Sunday nights we’ll have another family over for dinner, and the kids will all play together while the adults cook and drink. My husband and I are both from Africa (I’m from Ghana and my husband is Nigerian), so typically we’ll make something with plantains and also a red stew and rice, but if you know any Africans you should know we cook with the “spirit of the ancestors” — as in, there really is nothing like a recipe. You just put in the spices as the spirit moves you!
After our company has left, it’s time to load everyone into the tub, with a bubble bath. We love the brand Pipette, which has a great eczema body lotion and body wash for kids who have eczema-prone skin. I also use the Mustela Cradle Cap Shampoo for my daughter, even though she’s now moved past the cradle cap stage. They all end up going to bed around the same time and by 8:00 p.m. the kids are asleep.
Finally, it’s time to catch up on our TV shows and movies. We love to watch stuff like Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon, or any of the Marvel movies — all total escape TV!
Most of my skincare happens at night because that’s when everyone is asleep and also when I take my shower and take care of my hair. The Sunday Riley Good Genes serum makes my heart sing. I love the Peter Thomas Roth 24K Gold Mask Pure Luxury Lift & Firm, and the Peter Thomas Roth 24K Gold Pure Luxury Lift & Firm Hydra-Gel Eye Patches for hydrating my skin and helping with fine lines.
For my hair, I love using Head & Shoulders Anti-Dandruff Shampoo, the clinical strength version which really helps clean my scalp and keep it from being dry and itchy. I use the Aussie Miracle Moist Conditioner. Then I follow up with some coconut oil — literally the stuff from my kitchen — and gel from Miss Jessie’s Jelly Soft Curls — which never leaves my hair crunchy so I love it.
If I have washed my hair (which is only a weekly thing and only at night) then I add SheaMoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strength & Restore Leave In Conditioner to my hair, put it in twists, and then in a bonnet to sleep. I have a big head, so finding one that works was a challenge! I like the Evolve Exotics brand. I go back and forth between having braids and wearing my hair in an Afro style. Braids do take a few hours to put in, which is a pain but otherwise they are so easy and last for at least two months. My favorite braider is named Essie, in Brooklyn. She is fantastic and FAST. I have a tender scalp but I don’t feel pain when she braids my hair. Plus she does a type of braid that is called a knotless braid. So it is much gentler on your roots and the overall look is more natural.
I try to tell myself that I am not Superwoman. I can’t win in all areas of life at the same time. So sometimes I’m a superstar at work and then I’m a crappy mom and that’s okay. And when I’m a wonderful mama, it’s likely that I’ve had to say no a few times at work. Allow yourself the grace to know that you are one person and you deserve to not be all things at all times. I think I was sort of hard on myself when I had my first kid but by number three, I’ve learned to give myself a lot of grace.
On What Inspires Her Creativity:
Color! I’m so inspired by the colors in nature. A lot of my design is inspired by what I see around me. It’s also why I love plants. if you look at plants long enough, a lightbulb goes off like, green goes with EVERYTHING! I once told a client that green was neutral and he laughed. Another thing that inspires me is a pattern. I’m forever playing Tetris in my head. I see how a lot of random patterns go together. It’s the reason I’m starting my wallpaper line. I just couldn’t find what I have in my head, especially since I live in a rental.
On the Design “Rules” She Lives By:
Experiment! Especially if you’re a renter. I feel very passionate that you don’t have to live with white walls and zero décor if you’re renting. There’s so much you can do with paint, peel-and-stick wallpaper, and other temporary changes. Plus, think about it this way: a lot of design is experimentation with your style. You might not know what you like but you will soon find out what you don’t like. Making that discovery in a house you own can be a very expensive mistake but doing it in a rental is just market research!
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