That’s a big subject, and a fun one. As I mentioned in another part of this web site, I studied fashion design at Parsons School of Design in New York, and it remains a big interest for me and eventually, I fell in love with Interior Design.
Because I work at home, my home has always been important to me. Very important. I spend a huge amount of time there. People who work outside the home, come back at the end of the day, barely catch their breath, eat, go to bed, and leave the next day. But I’m at home most of the time and work there. Even when I was young and struggling, I have always stretched to have a home I loved to be in. But it’s not just about the price of a home or apartment, it’s what you do inside it that really matters. I read a wonderful little book once about ‘gratitude’ (by Melody Beattie), where she talks about only being able to afford a really beat up old house that she hated. She spent a year crying over it, and then decided to be grateful for it, and got to work. Little by little, she turned every corner of the house into someplace beautiful, and came to love it. And eventually, she bought a house she liked much better, but being grateful for the house she had was an important lesson to her. I’ve always remembered that story when I’m in a situation I don’t like.
When I was at Parsons, I majored in fashion design, but took several courses at NYU on antiques, art history, and some on interior design. It didn’t really settle in with me until later. And the older I get, the braver I get about my decorating. I started out very traditional and have gotten bolder with color and more fun in my decorating today.
When I was married, I redid some apartment buildings, and had fun decorating the lobbies. I did a few apartments, and worked hard on my homes. My parents’ sense of décor did not include children. My nursery was black and white, which they thought chic (for a baby?), but I hated. And my childhood room was brown and beige. Yerghk. I hated it again. The one touch of magic was a navy blue ceiling where my father had lovingly glued gold stars of different sizes to represent the constellations, accurately. Definitely magic. The rest of the room looked like chocolate pudding. As a result, I have always turned my children’s rooms into fairylands, with ballerinas painted on the walls, murals, painted furniture that was whimsical. A train that ran around the ceiling of my son’s room when he was little. They had beds that were made to look like stage coaches, school buses, a tree house, a sports car. I wanted them to have the rooms I never had as a child. And as they got older, I’ve done their student apartments, and their first apartment as adults. After that, they’re on their own, but I have a great time doing it for them. And now they do a beautiful job of decorating by themselves, in a style all their own.
One of my favorite things in this setting is a rug made by an artist, as you come in. It has the Anne Frank quote on it that I love so much: “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are truly good at heart”.
One of the fun things about doing interior design for someone else is really listening to who they are. I know what I love, but it’s their home, not mine. My oldest daughter is conservative and traditional in her tastes. One of my younger daughters loves all things vintage. And while doing an apartment for her, I learned a lot from her. We dragged through some pretty awful neighborhoods and funky old stores, but we found great stuff! We found a black and white roll top desk from the 50’s that we turned into a bar. Some great Lucite furniture and light fixtures from the sixties. And a Victorian settee with torn upholstery and the stuffing falling out. I quickly reassured her that we could recover it, and she looked horrified. To her, the beauty of it was its disreputable state. And believe it or not, she was right. In her otherwise pristine, very eclectic apartment, the semi-wrecked settee looked terrific and very chic. I always learn from my decorating ‘clients’, even when they’re my children.
Nothing is more fun than putting together a home, even if it’s a tiny apartment. Finding the perfect object, even if it costs next to nothing, and putting the right things together. It always reminds me of writing. Instead of inventing a scene or a home in my books, in decorating I have to find the objects, not just invent them, and figure out how to put them together, like a puzzle. And the best feeling of all is when it all fits and comes together and really works. You can do it with things that don’t cost a lot of money, or beautiful antiques, found objects from junk stores, or things you had buried in a closet. The magic is putting it all together and seeing how it works. Colors play an important part, and above all comfort. You don’t want to have a place that looks great, but there is nowhere comfortable to sit, or you yourself don’t feel at home. I love playing with interior design, and my absolute favorite haunt in Paris is an auction house called Drouot, where they have 45 auctions a week. They turn over the auction rooms every two days. And you never know what you’ll find there. Old gardening equipment, ancient books, vintage clothes, or some real decorating treasures, or even expensive paintings. It’s a treasure hunt digging through those rooms before the auction the next day. I found a beautiful old brass trunk there and got it for $100.00. Some beautiful Napoleonic chairs with the original leather on them, and 8 hand painted Chinese panels for next to nothing. I love coming home with my treasures. My children tease me when during a conversation about something else, I suddenly think of where to put a chair or a couch, or need a table, or remember an object I saw somewhere that will pull a whole room together. Interior design is a huge amount of fun for me, and it’s not about how much you spend on it, it’s about your vision, and how you pull it together.
My other favorite haunt these days is IKEA. You can find some fantastic things there at amazing prices, and a lot of the design is really good. My current big find there was a red and white rug that looks great in my entrance hall in Paris, and for which I paid the equivalent of $70.00. I love decorating and everything about interior design. And I love doing it for others too. I’m always flattered when friends ask for my help.