It’s Mindy Kaling’s Colorful, Joy-Filled World and We’re Happy to Be Living in It

Better Homes & Gardens presents our “Outdoor Entertaining Issue.” Host your best summer gatherings yet with our tips and inspiration.

Mindy Kaling is a multihyphenate, a Hollywood heavy hitter, a busy single parent, and a design-lover who appreciates a well-set table for dinner on the patio. Here’s a glimpse into life at home for America’s favorite self-proclaimed nerd turned style icon.

Mindy Kaling holding bouquet of flowers

Andrew Eccles

Fans of The Office may be shocked to hear that it’s been nearly two decades since Mindy Kaling brought Kelly Kapoor—the shamelessly shallow and undeniably hilarious Dunder Mifflin customer service representative—into our lives. As a 24-year-old writer and actor on the show and an Indian American woman, she broke boundaries and established herself as a fresh new voice in American comedy. 

Since then, she’s used her success and her platform to shepherd female-driven stories by women of color from the page to the screen. In the years after The Office ended, Kaling has produced and starred in six seasons of The Mindy Project, created the Netflix hit Never Have I Ever based on her own teen years in the ’90s, voiced beloved animated characters, and written best-selling collections of autobiographical essays.

Time has flown. And in many ways, Mindy Kaling has grown up before our eyes. Today, she is a single mom raising a daughter, Kit, 5, and a son, Spencer, 2. During the pandemic lockdown, she established herself as a social media star by sharing lifestyle tips and favorite Bengali recipes on Instagram, all with her signature wit.

In her rare downtime, Mindy collects table linens and glassware, and fills her home with art and objects that speak to her affinity for color and pattern. Here, she shares some of her favorite summer entertaining tips, the parts of her Cambridge, MA, childhood she’s eager to re-create in her own home, her love of a great cookout after a long day at the pool, and how a recent trip to India reaffirmed her love of dressing up. 

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Mindy's Style

Straight from the source, this is how Mindy sums up her decorating style and her personal style.

Q: First, I want to ask you about your home in Los Angeles. How would you describe the decorating? 

When I moved into my home in Hancock Park, I was on my own show, The Mindy Project, and I had established my own look, both as my character on the show and as me, Mindy Kaling. It’s vibrant, feminine, and colorful. And I had so much fun doing that. I love color and pattern, and I love to dress up. So after the joy of discovering that look, I thought it would be fun to extend that to decorating a home. 

I found interior designer Katie Ridder on Instagram, and she has such beautiful, specific, colorful taste. It’s bold in terms of color, but she uses a lot of traditional furniture shapes, which I’m drawn to. It was a great match. 

I love my home, and as someone who is socially anxious, it surprises me how much I love having a party here. The more I do it, the more I realize I want to do it more. 

Mindy Kaling setting table for House Rules

Andrew Eccles

Q: Do you think growing up near Boston influenced your taste for more traditional home decor? 

My late mom, who was a gynecologist, always took so much pride in our home. It was a mix of pieces she brought from India and Africa when my parents lived there. Then she’d go to flea markets and antiques shops and collect furniture. I watched her do it with fascination. We didn’t have an interior designer or anything. There wasn’t money for that. So our home was traditional in its own way, and I would definitely say that I’m attracted to that more formal, traditional style. 

In L.A., the prevailing aesthetic everywhere is neutral with a pop of color. I was always drawn to more dramatic color because of my childhood home. My parents painted one of the smaller rooms in our house bright pink, and I loved it, and they upholstered furniture in beautiful damask fabric. The one way my taste is very different from my parents’ is that I love printed wallpaper, and I use a lot of it in my house.

Also, my dad’s an architect, so when I was growing up, he would tell us all about A. Quincy Jones and Frank Lloyd Wright and all of these amazing modern architects. There were times when I would see
a gorgeous midcentury house and think that’s what I wanted. But it doesn’t stick. I love print and pattern, teal and coral, and carnation yellow. I’m always going back to that.

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Q: How has your Indian heritage influenced your personal style?

It’s fascinating, because just a few weeks ago, I went back to India for the first time in 30 years. One of the most profound things I learned from the trip is how much my aesthetic matched the aesthetic of homes and museums we visited. We’d go to a dress shop, and I was struck by the design, thinking, Oh my gosh, this is very me. My taste is so in line with what’s happening there.

Another thing I liked about India was the boldness in the way people dress and the big swings they take with design and color. People dress up there. In L.A., especially as a comedy writer, you’ll go to work in ripped jeans and a white T-shirt. Maybe you tuck it in? It’s the vibe. And in some ways that’s a great thing, how casual and egalitarian it is. But when you’re in India, you get dressed. I dressed up every single day when I was there. Everyone is so put-together. I really like that. That felt refreshing. When I lived in New York, I was always that girl in high-heeled boots and tights and a skirt in 20-degree weather. I always felt more comfortable dressed up. I noticed it in India—everyone just brings it all the time, and I love it. 

Mindy Kaling seated at decorated table

Andrew Eccles

Life at Home

Parenting, cooking, and entertaining—Mindy juggles many of the same tasks we all handle.

Q: How has becoming a parent enriched the way you live at home?

It’s nice that you say enriched [laughs]. You know, when you have little kids, making the home safe for them is a thing. It’s not pretty. I’ve had white plastic childproofing gates up in the house for about five years. My son is 2, so I’ll probably have them for another year and a half. These aesthetic sacrifices you make when you have children are necessary. Those are not my favorite. But I do like that my home doesn’t feel too precious. It’s not like my children can’t go into any room. There’s a lot of piling the nicer things up high. There’s not, like, a priceless ottoman on the ground anymore. The truth is that I don’t have a priceless anything. I refuse to live in a way where I have anything so expensive that if it got stolen or broken, I’d be devastated. 

Q: Which of the recipes you’ve shared on Instagram sparked the most feedback? 

Any Indian dish I make gets a lot of attention. I don’t know whether that’s just because it’s anthropologically interesting or not. There was one time when I approximated this recipe from this show called The Bear. They served a house meal, a spaghetti dish, that they made on the show in detail. I sourced that recipe online and made it, and it was actually amazing. People really liked that because it was tied to a popular show. What people love is any recipe that has a story to it. I grew up eating Indian food about 50% of the time, so whenever I find an easier, faster version of something my mom used to make, I think people like to learn about it. People want a little insight into how I grew up and how I’m trying to approximate that now even though I have a busy schedule and am a single parent. I love to find any cheats that save time but still make it possible to put a home-cooked meal on the table. If I have to buy prechopped onions, I will do it if it means I can save a few minutes. Chefs will frown on that, but I don’t.

Q: What’s your approach to cooking for your family, and what do they like to eat?

The trickiest thing for me is portion size. I have a small family, and all of these recipes I find are for a ton of eaters. I can make a big meal when my dad and stepmom are here or if the kids’ nanny stays for dinner. I’m not the biggest fan of leftovers. It’s one of my worst qualities. The minute I put it away in the fridge it becomes 90% less interesting to me. I’m trying to change that in 2023 and get into leftovers. My son eats anything, which is such a refreshing quality. My daughter is very picky. If I’m making a Bengali egg curry or a dal, I have to make a version of it that’s less spicy and then spice it up for me and my dad. I love cooking for my friends too. Almost all of my friends love Indian food. It’s kind of a prerequisite for friendship with me. 

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Q: What does summer entertaining look like for you? 

There are so many different styles of entertaining I’m really drawn to. If I’m having a girls’ night in, I’ll invite my great friends Tracey Wigfield and Lang Fisher from The Mindy Project, who are also writers, or my mom friends from my kids’ school, who have become dear friends. I like having everyone come over, and we get a little dressed up. We’ll start with a cocktail, like a Moscow mule, and we’ll go outside on the patio for hors d’oeuvres. 

But there is a side of me that will always think summer means eating a great meal outside after a long swim. There was no meal more satisfying than the one you’d have after being in the pool all day. I remember as a kid, I’d jump out of the pool, my hair was still wet, there was a towel wrapped around me, and I’d sit down at the table to hot dogs and hamburgers and a big yummy salad with feta and tomatoes. That is such a summertime feeling—the unfancy, unfussy, yummy ingredients. You’re wearing your swimsuit and eating corn on the cob smothered in butter, Indian spices, and lime. So it’s that family-style pool party or that ladies-who-lunch version of dinner where everyone’s wearing a cute outfit, and we’re having cocktails. 

Working in the Entertainment Business

While most recognized for her on-camera work, Mindy has her hands in many kinds of projects.

Q: You have a publishing project aimed at shining a light on underrepresented voices. Can you tell us about that?

I have an imprint with Amazon, which has been so fun. One of my great joys that is not my full-time job—but sometimes I wish it were—is writing books and essays. I have so much respect for people who can write fiction. It’s something I could never do. Writing dialogue for TV shows is very different. I love finding authors who write in a way that appeals to my very specific tastes. I love reading; I love very juicy stories of romance and murder mysteries. To be able to find these can’t-put-them-down-type books from perspectives we haven’t seen before is really appealing to me. 

Mindy Kaling pouring drink into glass

Andrew Eccles

Q: You’ve grown up in the public eye, become a mom, and now run your own production company. Do you feel a responsibility to fans who have grown up with you? 

Totally. Representation is something I think about all the time, even more so now that I’m producing shows. I’ve been lucky enough to have this platform to write about my lived experience, which is by no means the Indian American experience for all people.

I can write about being the nerdy, overachieving Indian American girl with insecurities and questionable judgment growing up in the ’90s, loving romantic comedies. I love writing about that and writing what’s personal to me. What’s most exciting to me is finding people who can write what’s personal to them, particularly women of color, so they can tell their stories. If I can look back on my career, whenever I’m at the end of it, and say that I was able to elevate other people to do it, that would be a great feeling. I’d feel like I really was successful. 

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Talent: Mindy Kaling

Text By: Christine Lennon

Photos By: Andrew Eccles

Produced By: Jessica Thomas

Prop Stylist: Courtney de Wet

Wardrobe: Molly Dickson

Hair Stylist: Marc Mena

Makeup: Eva Kim

Manicure: Thuy Nguyen

Video: Brandon Scott Smith, Wes Films, Joan Yeam

Booking: Talent Connect Group

Digital Lead: Sheena Chihak

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