Moving Abroad Influences Your Style
There are so many gorgeous ways to live and exciting ideas for interiors. Decorating is more fun than ever! I love the variety that exists and how much CHOICE we have. When I started blogging, even back when I was in design school before that, I remember nearly everything stylish being available only, “to the trade”. It was frustrating for the average consumer with style because you couldn’t walk into a West Elm (the store wasn’t even around then) to pick up a Moroccan-inspired rug at an affordable price or locate great wallpaper unless you had a designer friend or hired one to take you into the showrooms and purchase it for you. When Target came to New England and I was exposed to their Thomas O’Brien line I nearly leaped out of my skin with excitement. Remember those days? Going further back, my mother used to buy her wallpaper at paint and hardware stores, like Sherwin Williams, when I was growing up. We live in the best of times now and our only complaints, at least the ones I hear quite frequently online from bloggers and their readers, fluctuate between “Show us MORE options!” or the opposite, “There is TO MUCH inspiration, post less!”.
Peter Fehrentz – One of my all-time favorite German stylists! Note: His German book will soon be published in English by my publisher, Jacqui Small.
What are some of your favorite interiors lately? Do you tend to have your own personal style that has stayed with you for years or do you experiment a lot and steer away from a certain look? Are you into spaces with mixed styles (often dubbed ‘eclectic’) or do you head straight for monochromatic, country, Scandinavia, coastal, mid century modern, etc.?
I’ve always been a lover of neutrals punctuated with color but my style has definitely morphed over the years. I remember when I lived in New Hampshire in an 1870 carriage house that we rented (before that, we lived in a big barn near Boston), I had wall-to-wall berber carpet, wood-trimmed doorways, windows and moldings and wooden doors with matching kitchen cabinetry in my home. The walls were cream but my landlord broke down and allowed me to paint one in a very faint blue. My color palette was mostly blue, orange, olive and cream. Around 2005, I brought in more mid century pieces so I won a gorgeous $800 teak credenza from Sweden on eBay, invested in Eames chairs and a Saarinen tulip table, ordered a sofa from Room & Board with mid century lines and began my obsession with Jonathan Adler. I also started my blog. I had to make due with my interior space because I was a renter and wasn’t a fan of berber carpets and wood trim, but when you rent you have to work with what you have and accent the features you love. I loved my original beam ceilings, the history of the home, our large living room windows overlooking a gorgeous yard and pond and how warm and cozy the house felt – like something you’d see in a typical New England village. It was a nice space. But it wasn’t really me and I knew that. I grew up on the coast liked a very light and bright style of decor. I wanted to live in a larger, brighter space. I craved moving abroad to my husband’s homeland, especially after first seeing some of the city apartments in Germany on my first visit back in 1999. To have what I wanted and to start a family (we hoped to have our first child in Germany), we set our sights on relocating.
In August 2009, we moved to northern Germany. At first, we lived in a small boxy apartment while looking for more permanent housing. Then when the right place came along, we moved into our current city apartment with over 2,000 square feet and “floor through”, meaning we have the entire floor to ourselves. Rare but heavenly for a city space. It was built in 1900, so it’s in the Jugendstil style that old German city homes are prized for. To me, it’s one of my top 5 architectural styles in the world – it’s unmatched. You can google Jugendstil to see what I mean. It’s a real education and so many Americans have never heard of Jugendstil because we have nothing equivalent and mostly when people in the states think of Germany, they think of Bauhaus or Biedermeier. Our home has chevron-patterned original hardwood floors, white walls, gorgeous floral motifs carved into the ceiling, ceiling medallions, and a ceiling height around 3.5 meters high. We are blessed with massive windows and behind out house is a gorgeous forest given to the city by a former Duke once upon a time so it can never be developed – it’s twice the size of Central Park. How can I complain? Living like this is a dream come true and I feel so blessed. But moving abroad definitely influences your style. It influences everything from your taste buds to how you dress and act. I can barely eat sweets from the states anymore – everything taste TOO sweet. I recently had Quarker Apple & Cinnamon oatmeal and after one bite, it went into the trash. It was like eating pure sugar to me now. Again, everything changes – even what you least expect!
With interiors, I can say from my heart that my style has been influenced living in Germany, though it’s more than Germany that has influenced me – it’s Europe in general. Germany is just a small part of it and a fraction of what I am exposed to design-wise living here as I’m frequently traveled and find enormous inspiration at fairs and in cities like London. Your eye changes. I live in the north of the country so our weather patterns and lighting is very northern – and we border Denmark so we have tons of design influence from Scandinavia, especially Denmark. When I moved over, Germans were still a bit resistant to moving away from their typical love for Tuscan interiors, all things Italy!, and a very odd contemporary style that I just couldn’t relate to. But since my relocation, northern Germans are embracing Scandinavian style more than ever which means you can find Danish and “Nordic” design in general fairly easily and the magazines are always featuring Scandinavian homes so you really can’t NOT see it. This style morph has been lead, in my opinion, by bloggers and pressure from neighboring countries who are just doing interiors better. German magazines have also been swayed. I find it refreshing but it also has influenced me because when you are constantly seeing design from companies like Ferm Living, House Doctor, Tine K Home, RICE, Nordal, HAY, Muuto, Bo Concept, Bloomingville… You are naturally going to look at your own living space differently. Though honestly, I’m a bit bored with seeing the same styles on blogs over here and even now in the states and am trying to find a new way for myself that feels much more in tune with who I am. Decorating is really about taking everything you see, applying your own filter, personalizing it and developing a look that speaks to you. Not cut and paste from catalogs or design shows.
Lots of people ask why Scandinavians are so obsessed with light, bright interiors? In northern Europe, our days are shorter in the Fall and Winter months and sunlight isn’t as frequent, so it’s quite practical to use lots of white and color in your space to brighten things up and to cheer yourself. It’s very easy to get depressed in northern climates if your walls are dark with heavy indigo blues and deep greens and black. Some cultures find it cozy while others find it downright depressing. Years ago in Germany, homes had woodwork and deep, saturated colors – particularly around the time my home was built. Look at London in the 1800s and even New England, small windows and dark spaces. But since, at least where I live, interiors and stained woodwork have been uniformly painted bright white. It seems over time, people have given more thought to how color influences mood learned that dark interiors are quite moody and if you don’t have the personality for them, they can be a bit overwhelming. We also have modern heating and lighting and aren’t dependent on wood chip stoves and candles to heat and light our homes. Times have changes.
Photo/Styling: Peter Fehrentz
Lately, I’ve been a bit bored with the usual looks I’m seeing though. I find myself evolving yet again and I’m wondering where all of this will lead me. I will always have a red thread that runs through everything I do but still, change is in the wind. I’m not as excited with what I’m seeing as much as I was before – I feel “over it”. I keep thinking of what my next wave will be and I actually know what it is – much more moody and atmospheric, yet still very happy, and definitely more grown up and edited, yet very layered and lovely. I’m planning to work on my home for the next few months and give you a home tour when I have it all figured out for myself – I can’t wait to show you what I’m cooking up. Please note: I will never paint my walls in saturated colors – so don’t expect red or bold blue walls from me. I still need my interiors to be serene so I can think…
What are some of your interior inspirations lately? What do you see that is blowing your mind? What do you love at the moment? Any favorite brands? If you’ve recently moved to another part of your country or abroad, how has the local culture influenced your design? Are you currently going through design changes? Do share!
(images linked above)