Thursday, May 8, 2014

In Honor of Mother's Day, 10 Favorite Design Lessons from Mom...

I recently discovered a heart-warming article from Domaine Home, "The Best Style Lessons 12 Top Designers Learned From Mom" by Julia Millay Walsh (copied below).  It made me realize that ALL mothers likely have a larger impact on our sense of style and design than we may realize. This particularly made me laugh since my own mother was just visiting this weekend, and she joked, "I am sure you are glad I am leaving, so I will stop telling you how to rearrange your furniture, what needs fixing, and how to work (or what NOT to do) in your garden."  

Well, Mom, if you are reading, this couldn't be further from the truth!  I always love it when you come and never want you to leave!  I am sure we all have those eye-roll moments when we have heard enough subtle critique or 'suggestions' from our mothers.  But, the truth is, I really DO have my Mom to thank when it comes to teaching me so much about design.  Growing up, we lived in a very humble, ranch-style home, but my Mom always loved to entertain and mix things up with interiors.

So, although I still have A LOT to learn (I am certainly no expert), there are MANY lessons I have learned along the way from you, Mom!  The following are simple yet useful tips...

Here are my favorite 10:

1.) You can find fabulous furniture/art/lamp gems at estate sales, antique shops, and auctions (i.e. remember the old Selkirk auctions in STL) usually for a better quality and price than any current retail source.

2.) My love of old Persian rugs...My Mom has several throughout her home, and I have grown to appreciate these beautiful, one-of-a-kind works of art, for their history, color, pattern, and durability.

3.) Remember to pick up a piece of artwork during your travels.  It will always remind you of memories from your trip, and it will add an interesting, 'travel' element to your home.

4.) When choosing light fixtures, try to find one with easy-access to the light bulb, since you-know-who will likely be the one changing them ; )

5.) Look for things in PAIRS, or when appropriate, in THREES (lamps, chairs, mirrors, artwork).

6.) ALWAYS take a pragmatic approach (with comfort and functionality in mind) when selecting fabrics, chair silhouettes, end table heights, window treatments...

7.) The mahogany 'bachelor's chest' is a highly versatile piece of furniture to place in an entry way, foyer, end of a hallway, corner of room, etc...Arrange with a lamp and mirror or art hanging above.  I can vouch for this as our little chests have served as the Jose Oquendo of furniture in 6 different houses in the past decade.

8.) Her love for traditional English furniture, but also a love for other cultural sources in design (often mixing it up in small doses), including Chinoiserie, French, German, African, and Southwest U.S.

9.) USE your fine china, crystal, and flatware. It is pretty and festive, so why not!?

10.) Fresh FLOWERS always add life, beauty, and color to a room.  Remember to cut the stems at an angle, error on cutting them shorter rather than longer, and nothing too fussy!  Often, a simple arrangement of all one flower with some greenery makes for the most beautiful design.

Included below, is the Domaine Home article..Enjoy!

By Julia Millay Walsh (

From Kelly Wearstler to Miles Redd, some of the best interior designers thank their moms for influencing their style.

We’re firm believers that great taste can be learned — it’s never too late! But if you were lucky enough to have a stylish mother figure in your life, you may have developed an eye for art and design at a young age. So to celebrate Mother’s Day, we asked some of the world’s leading interior designers — from edgy Californian Kelly Wearstler to maximalist New Yorker Miles Redd to free-spirited Londoner Brit Abigail Ahern — to share how their own moms influenced their style. Read on for touching tales will tug at your heartstrings.

“My mother always took my sister and I to auctions and antique shows. That experience trained my eye from a young age to appreciate anomalies, soulful details, and important design. Mixing pieces from different eras and movements in history is inherent to my aesthetic.” – Kelly Wearstler



“Whether it was her personal style, entertaining, or decorating, less was always more for my mother. Classic, timeless, easy, and refined are words that come to mind when I think of her — that’s how I’d like my work defined.” – Mark D. Sikes



"Believe it or not, my mother is more minimal than maximal, but she always allowed me to be exactly who I am. The best piece of advice she ever gave me was to go upstairs and take one thing off. Elegance is refusal.” – Miles Redd



“My grandmother liked to rearrange and redecorate quite a bit. I remember when the living room became very ‘70s modern with orange and yellow bean bags, plastic Parsons tables, and macramé wall hangings. She taught me to live in style but not take it too seriously.” – Jeff Andrews



"My mother taught me to follow my dreams and let my taste rule my decisions. She also instilled in me the sense that dining is theatrical. It’s not literally about the food; it’s about the whole experience and the key component is design.” – Vicente Wolf



"My stepmother, Jane Langley, had a very strong influence on my design aesthetic because she was a very early proponent of the importance of mixing styles, textures, and periods in order to make a room feel more interesting, layered, and timeless.” – Timothy Corrigan



“My mother’s carefree attitude towards design is the best lesson I’ve learnt. She was an artist, and one year we might have white walls, and the next, the deepest darkest red. She taught me was not to be tentative about anything: color, scale, pattern, anything. Through her, I let go of niggling doubts about fitting in and followed my own path.” – Abigail Ahern



“My mother knew how to make a home comfortable. Growing up in Virginia, I would help her with all the dinner preparations, from setting the table for guests to cutting carrots. She also loved to garden, and grew all kinds of vegetables and flowers. I never thought I would grow up to be a gardener and a person who made a career of making homes comfortable for other people, but I realize now how much I loved those tasks and how much I took from them.” – Bunny Williams



“From all three I have learned one basic thing: appreciation for the collected heirloom. My grandmother filled her home with paintings, sculpture, photos, jade ashtrays, and wonderful English highboys that made her house so elegantly rich. Both my mom and stepmom have done the same and feature old family furniture pieces, art, and portraits that make a room. Good energy follows great family pieces.” – Will Wick



“My mother traveled internationally for work constantly, and I had a globe in my bedroom growing up that I looked at to see where she was traveling. I recently designed this kid’s bedroom with a map on the wall. Their parents recently traveled to Paris, and I just had visions of the twins reading it, much like I did as a kid.” – Grant K. Gibson



"I have my mother to thank for exposing me to simple, timeless design elements. Things like solid slipcovers with contrast piping, white sheets with scalloped edges, ceramic table lamps, and blue and white asian pottery. She wasn’t into trends, but our house was classically tasteful. I didn’t get it growing up but now I appreciate that so much.” – Betsy Burnham



"My mother had an amazing sense of style, and she gave me complete artistic license to do what I wanted in my own room. She got all the house mags monthly, and was always thumbing through them, leaving notes and tearing pages out. Having just lost her, I really see the influence she had on me. In hindsight, her style and sense of unpretentiousness has left a lasting impression. She made life look easy and having fun a must.” – Kathryn Ireland



Photographs: Courtesy of Vicente Wolf, Andrew Arthur for Domaine (Kelly Wearstler portrait), Sukio (Wearstler room), Courtesy of Mark D. Sikes (portrait), Amy Neunsinger for House Beautiful (Sikes room), Assouline (Redd portrait), Courtesy of Miles Redd (room), Courtesy of Jeff Andrews (portrait), Grey Crawford for Jeff Andrews Design (rooms, Courtesy of Vicente Wolf (portrait and room), Roger Davies for Architectural Digest (Corrigan portrait and room), Courtesy of Abigail Ahern, John Bessler (Bunny Williams portrait), Courtesy of Bunny Williams (room), Courtesy of Will Wick (portrait and room), Courtesy of Betsy Burnham (portrait and room), Jose Leon for Domaine (Ireland portrait), Courtesy of Kathryn Ireland (room)

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