My home is my sanctuary, my little slice of peace and quiet. In true European spirit, I am a fan of smaller spaces (my apartment is about 1,300 square feet), I love anything old, including old buildings (the row house I live in was built in 1901) and antique furniture, and I am a minimalist, a true believer in the less is more philosophy. My friend and interior decorator, Tom Landry, has helped me over the years to make my house my home, make my office feel like my brand; his taste is completely in line with mine and he could be an adopted European, even though he is a New Orleanian.
AP: I hope you don’t mind that I am quintessentially European in my taste…
TL: On the contrary! Europeans embrace design in a less trendy way. In the most unsuspecting of environments, design is at the forefront yet always in an understated, but highly sophisticated manner. I believe this is due to Europeans’ significant history, homogenous population, minimal physical space. Europeans also seem more apt to embrace foreign influences in design (because travel is perhaps more accessible or part of your way of life). There are many simple things one can do to evoke a more European aesthetic in your surroundings, as the basis for most of today’s European homes is simplicity in color and formality.
AP: What are 5 things everyone should have in their home?
- One piece of art, you love no matter its origin, market value
- At least one beautiful mirror or many to reflect the energy of your home
- A family heirloom or antique
- Books (even if you don’t read)
- Someone you love
AP: What are 5 things everyone should throw away right now?
- Any object that is a replica of something living such as a plant or animal (yes, even if its 100% silk of a hide of another animal- like a Zebra printed cowhide)
- Ceiling Fans (have we not air conditioning systems in this day and age?!?!)
- Anything without a purpose (purpose however is not necessarily functional but can also be visual stimulation)
- Common trendy or reproduced objects are the epitome of poor taste!
- Potpourri (and yes, it does still exist)
AP: What are 5 affordable fixes to implement today?
- Painting (whether the walls, mill work or a large canvas painted a color that evokes your senses)
- Re-arranging of existing objects, furniture, art (can truly transform a space several times over with the same items); I have always said that our physical surroundings should never be sterile or immobile but should be much like that of our lives, in perpetual motion
- Lighting (the simple changing of a bulb type can transform a space, I love Reveal light bulbs for incandescent applications)
- Pillows (change colors at any time by bringing in fresh new color with a few solid accessory pillows)
- Changing cabinetry door fronts and/or hardware
AP: What are 5 splurges to save and enjoy for the rest of your life?
- A single piece of art, large or small that you obsess over after first encounter and begin to have an affair with in your mind
- A grand piano, even if you don’t play, lacquered ebony pianos are so incredibly beautiful
- A well designed sofa, of the Italian sort, one that can grow old with you and your surroundings, whether traditional or contemporary
- A mirror; mirrors reflect beauty not only of the human reflection but of the space that which surrounds the human reflection; how better can you enjoy your surroundings than to see yourself actually “in” them?
- A bookcase or shelving (to house all that you cherish, collect and wish to display over your lifetime); I can always tell so much about someone when I visit their shelving, it’s like a visual biography of the person’s life
AP: 5 tips to make any room look good?
TL: In order for a home to look good, it must feel good and smell good. It is essential for the dweller(s) to walk into a room and feel completely comfortable sitting on any surface, placing a drink or book on any surface and being able to stay in that room without feeling anxiousness. Once this this functional quality is achieved, the aesthetic qualities must be considered and should be relative to the specific dwellers. The old saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” comes to mind… If you feel relaxed, content and safe, the design of your home has reached its ultimate objective.
My favorite quote is by Jean Luc Godard …. “It’s not about where you take things from, but where you take them to.” Objects, furnishings and art can come from any source, whether it be a market in Paris, a corner store in San Antonio or in a pile of rubbish on the side of the road in Haiti, what is most relevant is the emotional connection you make with such things. This is highly personal and often times inexplicable. Where you take whatever it may be that you have purchased into your personal realm for aesthetic and at times, functional pleasure is essentially how you reincarnate it. A $2 bowl at a flea market may appear like a $500 bowl if placed atop the right table which matters to no one but seems to have relevance in today’s society; that same $2 bowl may give you a sense of joy each time you see it for no other reason but the feeling it invoked the first time your eye came upon it.
In general, here are some tips that work all around the house:
– Fresh flowers (or even just greenery cut from your own garden) in a clear vase or bottle brings life to any environment
– Low voltage lighting on dimmer (track or recessed) gives a clean clear light that brings life to the space even in the darkest of hours
– A scented candle (Tocca’s Grace or Stella are my favorites)
If you are looking for tips for specific rooms, here is my list.
- Keep the area clean and crisp, clutter-free, let the fruit, vegetables or food you are preparing take center stage
- Fresh fruit or herbs keeps the kitchen feeling warm and inviting
- Natural light brings the outdoors in; we consume fruits of the land and sea, we should prepare these in an light filled environment that is respectful of their origin
- If your sink faces a wall, place a mirror behind it to reflect the happenings behind you
- Always anchor the space with a single main focal point (view, fireplace, art or even media) and build outward from that focal
- Ambient lighting provides for a mood change and can either be used during the evening or when raining out
- A fireplace of some sort whether it be conventional wood burning, gas or an eco-fireplace, is essential: a flame brings a comforting intimacy to a space like no other element
- A dining room should be a place to share with family and guests; make it inviting by lessening the formality of the space and focusing on the how those who use the space are able to comfortably enjoy the space with one another (design the table without head chairs, lessen the width of the table allowing for more intimate conversing, provide sufficient and direct lighting over the table with ambient lighting at the surround)
- Ample ambient lighting (lamps), for soothing light
- Sumptuous bed linens that are to be used, rather than seen and removed before sleep
- Roll your bath towels for a spa like look
- If the ceilings are low, use a long slender mirror above your sink to give the illusion of height
- Keep counter surfaces clean and clutter free by storing your personal items away
- Don’t dismiss art’s relevance to this space, no matter how small
AP: What are your 5 favorite home organizational resources?
- apartmenttherapy.com (someone always, always has an idea that makes me wonder, how in the world did they think of that?)
- Never underestimate the power of Ikea when it comes to home organizational items and ideas on how to organize
- European design magazines, European design magazines and more European design magazines! My first design professor told me that there is no better text book than to learn or be inspired from what others have done and magazines are the best source of relevant information; if I had to live on $800 a month, I would budget $200 just for magazines. Find the Elle Decor from the country that which matches your own personal style (EDItaly is more clean and mod, EDGreat Britain tends to be more eclectic with spaces appearing more lived in, EDGermany is more serious, EDSpain has a tendency to focus on the outdoors). Ok, so maybe not just Europe…. The Australian Vogue Living is my single favorite. It is the perfect marriage between the European and American aesthetic. Living (the GB version) is a great magazine as well. I also have an obsession with Monocole, a British publication that combines fashion, interiors, architecture, politics, and design under one cover. As you can see, I am a magazine whore and do not hide it., you can find magazines in every room of my home. The Home Series, a paperback book collection that has been published annually by Le Figaro for Ma Déco (Or Beta Plus) and can be purchased online is an incredible source of inspiration for European home design. The series is broken into various titles such as Kitchens, Bathrooms, Living, Designer Spaces. While they are published annually, the imagery is timeless. These books are invaluable no matter how old the publication.
- Due to the many ideas that can come from a single magazine, dog tailing page edges proves frustrating and when searching for that one bedroom image, for instance, you love, so I take the pages from those magazines and place them into black sketch books, titled, bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, libraries, stairwells, etc. This is a great way to reference inspiration without having to go through 100 magazines in search of that one specific image. OK, perhaps it’s a bit like Pinterest, but I prefer to have the image in my hand… there is nothing like holding a book or a photo in hand for me.
- Another person: when faced with home organization dilemmas clients face, I believe having another set of completely objective eyes come in is the best way to come up with a solution. We bury ourselves in too many issues when dealing with organizing our personal items because of emotions attached to the organization of such items whereas someone who has no emotional bond to those can come up with a method and system that allows not only you but anyone to find an item in a simple logical way.
AP: What are your decorating pet peeves?
TL: Love this question, I am not going to hold back…
- The placing of objects of any sort on a surface diagonally
- A sofa designed so deep that you cannot comfortably sit without laying down (beds are for sleeping)
- A display of family photos all about a home (find one place or two, and if you can’t remember what the person looks like, then they aren’t that important to display); also the giant seemingly life-sized photographs of family- again, really?
- Head chairs; I like my guests to feel as if they are “at home” when dining with us, head chairs invoke an air of superiority
- Lamp shades that are not bright white (other than of course, Mooi’s use of black shades with gold liners)
- Use of fluorescent lighting (anywhere!)
- Inadequate (dim, yellow hue) lighting (reminds me of a funeral parlor)
- Double welting on upholstered pieces (if the fabric is too stiff for a single, then it doesn’t belong on furniture)
- Crown molding (I detest when a real estate agent mentions this, please)
- Rugs that are too small for a setting
- Wire hangers in a closet
- Bathroom: anything other than the color bright white for the water closet, sink
- Bathroom: printed shower curtains; use glass or use a simple white curtain
- Anything other than solid white dish ware
- Anything other than white towels, solid bright white (white invokes sense of cleanliness)
- Anything other than white sheets
- TVs hung over a fireplace (find another place or room, the fire should be the focal point, not a flat screen television!)
- Lack of seating in a bedroom (always a chair, at least to sit and put shoes on)
- Lack of mirror in each room (a reflected surface is perhaps the most important element to a room)
- Art that is hung too high (art should be hung so that the viewer is looking at the middle of the piece)
- Tchotskies on top of a grand piano (the piano itself is beautiful, why cover it?)
- Candles that which have not been burned once in candlesticks; at least give the appearance that the candlesticks are actually used!
- A theme to a room
- Thick drinking glasses (I don’t want to feel like I am at a gym when having a drink)
- Clutter on bathroom or kitchen counter (don’t display your “intimates” to your guests, they don’t need to know your regimen or lack thereof)
- OK, I am not sure if I even should mention, tab top curtains, sheers, furniture arm covers, colored matting on framed art, granite counter surfaces, 4″ splash in kitchen (surface to surface, don’t trip the eye!), anything other than chrome on plumbing fixtures (and no, do not match the plumbing fixtures to lighting fixtures), faux arches, vaulted ceilings (unless original to an old home), Berber carpet (so 90’s), carpet in bathrooms (gross)… and the list goes on but I must stop!