Thursday, October 16, 2008

I'm the Barbara Walters of Interior Design

I had the absolute pleasure of getting one my favorite bloggers to answer some of my questions that I'm sure we are all dying to know the answers to. She was one of the reasons that I became inspired to write a blog of my own. I love that she had the courage to quit her day job and work on her own. A decision that has become completely successful and made her a happy lady. As a woman that is dying to go out on my own I found her blog full of inspiration and it has helped me realize that dreams really can come true. I'm in awe of her fabulous style (Not to toot my own horn, but I'm always on the same pages as her so to speak in design choices) So, without further ado my first interview is with, Erin Gates of Elements of Style AKA who I want to be for Halloween. :)

How did you get into the interior design field?

My dad is an architectural designer and does a bit of interior work as well- growing up surrounded by fabrics and paints and plans I think I was predestined to work in this field. My dad instilled a real respect and love for homes in us- from years of learning from him I can really appreciate so many aspects of creating a house inside and out. I worked for a award winning designer in Boston for a year which was eye opening as well and solidified my belief that I was cut out to do this.

What did you want to be when you were a little girl?

A princess/movie star/grocery checkout lady/ninja warrior. What I wanted to be depended on my mood each day! I did love going with my dad to his design office and sit at the big architects desk and drawing floor plans of my dream houses- with every little tiny detail, from bedding to little pebbled driveways! But the next day I' be knee deep in Barbie stuff declaring that I was going to be a movie star.

If you weren’t doing design what do you think you would be doing for a living?

Being a wedding planner, a writer or a dog walker. Nothing makes me happier than puppies!

Did you go to school for interior design or are you self-taught?

I went to school for fine art and took classes in interior design after graduating, but I am mostly self taught. I read a lot about design and find that learning as you go has been quite successful for me! I was tempted to get my masters degree in interior design, until I found out it was a 4 year long program. I could have been a doctor with that much schooling! Plus, my dad is self taught and very successful and he told me that either you "have it or you don't, and no amount of school can teach you to have a great eye. He claims I "have it", so I'm running with that! But I do wish I had better CAD skills- drawing floor plans by hand is tedious work.

When did you decide to branch out and work on your own?

After holding many jobs in which I felt unfulfilled and uninspired. I was scared to leave my very safe but boring job in order to try working for myself, so instead I started my blog while still working my day job in order to feed my creative side. It grew and I started getting small jobs and finally one day I said "There is no better time in my life than now to give this a shot." So with my husband's blessing, I quit. I freaked out and thought I'd never have any real clients, and now, a year later, I'm booked solid and so happy every morning when I get to wake up and do something I love. My next big goal is to open my own home store...

Do you work by yourself or with a partner?

Just me and Baxter, my Havanese. I need an assistant pretty badly, actually.

Where does your client base come from: Word of mouth, blog, advertising, etc?

The best thing I have ever done in my life is start my blog. Almost all my clients come from there, with some coming from word of mouth. I have met some of the most inspiring, awesome women from blogging and I hope to keep meeting more!

Do you do more residential design or commercial? Which do you prefer?

I only do residential right now, but have worked on restaurant projects at past jobs. I prefer residential hands down- but a part of me has always wanted to design a clothing boutique! I'd line the walls of the dressing rooms in Maya Romanoff's Bedazzled wallpaper- it would be like a jewelry box!

What do you consider your style to be?

Schizophrenic. My personal style is all over the map- traditional to modern, and everything in between. I love mixing it all together to create something a bit unique and I love broadening my sense of style by investigating new things and giving them a try in a space. I want my house (and my clients homes) to be filled with things that make them smile. I feel like if people only buy things they TRULY love and don't think about the grand plan, it tends to come together really well. The one design element I always love and never ever get sick of is zebra print anything- hide rugs, fabrics, you name it. It goes with everything and isn't too modern or too traditional- like me!

Who are your top 3 favorite interior designers and why?

Kelly Wearstler for her glamorous, bold style; Celerie Kemble for her stylish take on traditional decor and Jonathan Adler for his huge infusion of HUMOR in decorating. It's not rocket science after all. :)

What are the top 5 design books that either every professional or novice decorator should have in their library?

Modern Glamour by Kelly Wearstler
Houses, People, Gardens by Vogue
So Chic by Elle Decor
An Affair with A House by Bunny Williams
Rooms to Inspire by Annie Kelly
Domino book coming out, which I just KNOW will be a must have.

What books and/or magazine are on your night stand?

Eat, Pray, Love. I'm reading it for the third time. I am so madly in love with that book- it is so inspiring and comforting- like an old friend. Everyone needs to read it.

What magazines do you subscribe to?

Domino, Cottage Living, Elle Decor, Traditional Home, O at Home, House Beautiful, Real Simple, Sunset, Design New England, Elle, Vogue, InStyle, Allure, Vanity Fair.... I am seriously missing House & Garden and Blueprint. I pick up Living Etc. and World of Interiors every so often too.
Looking at this list i think I may have a problem.

What are your favorite stores for budget decorating?

JCPenney for lighting and window treatments, Target, Z Gallerie, IKEA, Ballard Designs, West Elm, Smart Bargains, Overstock, Home Goods. There are so many amazing budget friendly resources that I can barely keep up!

What is your favorite room in a house to decorate?

As far as fabrics go, living rooms are my favorite- throw pillows are a minor obsession for me. I also love bathrooms- picking out tile and little accessories- you also can be far more bold in powder rooms than in other rooms so it's fun to try bolder choices out in there. I also LOVE nurseries.

What is your favorite room in your home?

My butler's pantry. When I saw it I wanted to buy our condo- The glass doors are all original from the 30's and I wallpapered the backs of the cabinets in Jonathan Adler's metallic bamboo trellis paper, which looks amazing with my china and turquoise milk glass. I designed and built in a wine fridge and wine rack and replaced all the hardware with new nickel antique reproductions, as well as added a vintage schoolhoouse pendant light. There is nothing in there I would change- which is VERY RARE for me. We just finished painting all our rooms and I am starting over from the first room with new colors because now I hate them all. It must be so frustrating to be married to me! :)

What is your favorite decade for design inspiration?

RIGHT NOW! Seriously, I love the variety of looks that are going on right now and how people are not afraid to combine them and make something of their own.

What is your favorite all-time movie that you would have loved to have been the set decorator for?

The Holiday! Hands down, because it speaks to both my traditional and modern design senses- Cameron's house is one of my all time favorites and Kate's english cottage looks like the perfect cozy country getaway! Runner up- As Good As It Gets- that beach house is perfection. Oh and Carrie's apartment reno in Sex and the City!!!!!

What is a typical day for you?

I get up at 7 and blog first thing (after checking my gossip sites of course) and then I ponder working out and occasionally do, then I walk Baxter and then finally get dressed. I either then go to a meeting with a client, go to the design center to look for a client or spend time cyber shopping for clients. I do all of these repeatedly all day until Oprah, for whom I always break. :)

What is your favorite part of your day?

Blogging with my coffee in my pajamas in the morning. I am so enthralled with blogging and sharing my ideas, and the fact that I get to do it from home with one of many cups of coffee makes it ever sweeter.

What is your must have decorating indulgence? Artwork, furniture, lighting etc?

If I had lots of money right now I'd indulge in a Weinrib rug or one of the Rug Company rugs- so fabulous. I also think spending good money on great light fixtures is a great bet.

What are your top 10 design commandments?

1) Be true to who you are and what you REALLY like, not what's trendy.
2) Allow yourself to change your mind.
3) Always hang curtains 2-3" below the ceiling/molding. This heightens a room like no one's business.
4) Just say no to fake flowers.
5) Dark colors and oversized pieces of furniture actually make rooms feel bigger, not smaller.
6) Do not underestimate what a coat of paint and new hardware can do for something vintage with great lines.
7) Make sure your lighting is on various "levels" in each room (i.e can lights and table lamps / floor lamps)
8) If you have a very specific style try adding something from another style to give new life to a space (i.e if you have very traditional decor, throw in a modern side table and see how great it can look!)
9) Lucite is not hideous or "Miami Vice"-ish.
10) My 1/3rd principle- a room should be 1/3 antique/vintage, 1/3 bargain buys and 1/3 quality, luxury goods.

What trend do you look back on now and think, “Oh god why did I like that?

When I was a teenager it looked like Laura Ashley threw up in my room- to frilly for me.
A color scheme I don't think I'll ever like again would be cranberry and sage green.

Since we both adore Rachel Zoe I want to know what some of your favorite sayings are when you find something that you must have?

I completely use RZ's lines now- lame but really, I think that saying something is "bananas" is the best way to describe my adoration. I am also always saying things are "to die for". Always.

Some pics of Erin's work:

For more pictures of Erin's work go to:

I would like to Thank Erin again for this opportunity. I loved learning more about what she does and how she got there.

P.S. Would love to be your virtual assistant! We would shut it down! Plus I'm a bargin. Will work for Design Mentoring!


Blogger Courtney said...

I just love Erin!! LOVE LOVE LOVE HER! She's such a warm spirit and can we talk about her beauty?! She's certainly a little looker!

Not only does she have great talent, but she's always willing to share her secrets and tricks of the trade with others. Which makes her especially loved amongst us creative folk! Great interview.

October 16, 2008 at 11:52 AM  
Blogger Maegan said...

great interview! I love her blog!

October 16, 2008 at 12:49 PM  
Blogger Elements of Style said...

Aw shucks! You are TOO kind!

October 16, 2008 at 1:13 PM  
Blogger elle said...

great little interview! i always welcome the chance to find out more about this style maven. i love her blog

October 16, 2008 at 5:18 PM  
Blogger Kwana said...

Wonderful interview! Thanks for introducing me to Erin. I'm now smitten.

October 16, 2008 at 7:45 PM  
Blogger Katie said...

so awesome! I'm definitely checking Erin's site out. :)

October 16, 2008 at 8:32 PM  
Blogger Kathryn said...

I hired Erin over the summer to spruce up my little rental. I stayed on budget, and I feel so happy every day when I come home. People ooh and aah over the little details, like $17 Urban Outfitters lamps or a JC Penney mirror -- stuff I NEVER would have known about if not for Erin. I can't wait to buy a "real" house some day and have her decorate the whole thing. Oh, and I found Erin because I am obsessed with her blog, too!

October 17, 2008 at 4:57 PM  
Blogger Mizz Jenna said...

Any idea where the sofa came from in the pics? I have been shopping around for that style! THANKS! :)

October 20, 2008 at 7:33 PM  
Blogger ZenadiaDesign said...

Great interview! I love Erin's blog, and this was so fun to get to know her a little bit more!

October 21, 2008 at 6:19 PM  
Blogger Shirley said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

October 25, 2008 at 7:46 AM  
Blogger No.35style said...

Great interview1 Love Erin's blog and style!

November 8, 2008 at 11:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Curtains and draperies don't really keep out all the sunlight that they should. The solution is to install interior shutters as well.
Interior shutters come in a wide variety of styles and materials, from traditional wooden louvered shutters to those made of PVC or vinyl. Whatever the decor of the interior of your room, you can find a shutter to complement it - and one which will perform those other, vital services of providing privacy, sun protection, and even extra insulation should you live in a cold climate. Virginia Interior shutters

December 13, 2008 at 4:54 PM  

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