Are you ready to read a refreshingly honest interview with an interior decorator? I encourage you to read this interview that I had yesterday with interior decorator Jan Eleni Lemonedes from Jan Eleni Inc. in New York City. She speaks boldly and from an authentic place and I really value the time that I shared with her to develop this feature for you. I hope that you like it, too.
First, a bit of history about this talented lady. Jan once had a little shop in the 90’s in New York City’s east village also under her name. About her store she told me, “It was quaint with unique decorative pieces for the home and garden and became a creative outlet for me.” She offered an eclectic mix of early primitive with industrial pieces, along with garden and architectural elements. A lady who loves to “hunt”, she filled her shop with anything and everything that caught her eye and her husband also maintained a loft for her to keep her ever-rotating stock. She calls this period in her life, “A fun time.” But then she was approached by ABC Carpet + Home and went to work there. “It was a different ball game then I was used to. A sort of crazy arena – but where anything was possible – we had to fight for our ideas, it was wonderful to be part of a creative team,” Jan told me. She eventually left the company to spend more time with her little girl, “It was a hard decision – but one that I don’t think twice about.”
So now that you have some history, let’s talk to Jan about her work.
Holly: Why did you decide to decorate for a living?
Jan: I am a self taught designer and at a young age I always loved and appreciated beautiful things. I became obsessed with children’s spaces here in the U.S. because I felt like their were all these cookie cutter rooms that lacked any nourishment for an imagination – and so I started a business based around just that – creating spaces and really listening to what can nurture children in an everyday way.
Holly: I also noticed that in addition to decorating, you are also an artist. Can you tell us more?
Jan: While I was working on children’s spaces – I wanted to time capsule their moment in art – and I started making these beautiful art frames – a way to archive your child’s art in a modern way. It is a labor of love – a time consuming process – the end result is a grid of hand cut miniature images – a gathering of your child’s artwork. It is amazing if you think of how we can influence the next generation of artists and creative types.
Holly: You mentioned earlier that you do not have a formal design education but are self-taught. How do you think self-taught differs from someone with a degree when it comes to decorating and creativity?
Jan: We are born with visual senses – just like someone who excels in math – one can excel in the visual area and I have that gift. My daughter also has this. I also have an eye for products – I adore looking, finding and choosing. Not having a degree allows one to break the rules – and to come up with ideas off the book. One who holds a specialized degree is not necessary more creative – passion and creativity can not be taught. A piece of paper does not state that I have an A+ in creative ideas – although it probably should! Also when I was young, education was different – I am a product of NYC Public School, having grown up in upper Manhattan. Options back then weren’t available – the sky was not the limit – today children have so many choices and so many opportunities. My teachers did not encourage me – if you were not the smartest in the class then sadly you were not important. Our schools were over crowded though I did join a program in high school that instead of going to school – I worked at The Soho News for an entire semester. This was an amazing experience for me, to see the art world up close was a very special unique experience. Soho in the 70’s…
Holly: From a professional standpoint, what do you think needs to change about the interior design profession as a whole?
Jan: At the moment I think we are experiencing design overload – every where you turn – there is an ultra-designed home or a product more outrageous than the last. I think so much of it is silly. Too contrived. You can start to lose perspective on what is good design.
Holly: I’m delighted by how open you are, I feel so energized by your words. I think many feel these ways and appreciate hearing a professional with clearly so much talent, expressing them. Okay, so this leads me to my next question, living in such a highly competitive city such as New York, how do you manage to stay positive and on top in your field?
Jan: In all creative fields, everyone has a ego bigger then the next. I hate to play that game. I am a collaborator. I recently worked on a home – with architect Peter Himmelstein and it was a wonderful experience. The project was a brownstone – the home of a celebrity actor, his wife and their family. We all worked as a united team – there was a mutual respect across the board.
Holly: Can you share some of your thoughts on what works best when dealing with clients, any tips to share?
Jan: I love to work with my clients and get an understanding of what they like. There needs to be a mutual respect between the client and designer. Listening is key, as is confidence. My advice is to remain as honest and sincere if you truly don’t think something will work.
Holly: What is often a challenge in your profession?
Jan: What I realize in my experience is that many people are not educated in understanding the value of what we do. Often others take for granted and don’t understand the simple fact that ideas cost money. Time costs money. The value of a good eye – having a vision – it’s hard to put a price on.
Holly: Who has influenced your work?
Jan: A big influence was my grandmother – from Greece. When she was a young girl she would make raw silk from the cocoon – and make silk lace. Pillowcases, bedspreads, tablecloths – it is an incredible lost art. My love for textiles started early.
Holly: And what about your current inspirations, can you tell us a little about what inspires your creativity?
Jan: Much of my inspiration comes from my travels – I love Asia, I spend most of my summers abroad. In Bali there is a carefree feeling of the homes. They are inside out. I love the wood found in Indonesia. Europe holds me – having a Dutch husband we have spent much time traveling about. Absorbing an environment is the best learning tool. I am also an avid fan of the internet – picking up inspiration from all the excellent blogs out there as well as online magazines. Of course nothing beats picking up your favorite magazines – and letting your mind wander – watching your own ideas gain momentum. Pure inspiration is really all around us.
Jan thank you so much for spending time with us here today on decor8, it’s been a pleasure and honor to have you!
(images: photographer Luc Roymans)
I’ve talked about Danish home brand Bloomingville by TrendKompagniet before, but it’s been awhile and with Spring and gardening on my mind a lot lately I’ve been looking for some inspiring products that bring a breath of fresh air into the home. Bloomingville is a brand that you can find in Germany, and it is gaining in popularity like many other Danish and Swedish labels that are starting to find many loyal customers here.
This is the time of the year that I enjoy because Winter melts into clear, warm days and slowly you begin to find clothes and home accessories that fill you with the promise of flirty sundresses and brightly-colored wellies. Over the weekend I bought the cutest pale gray shoes and visited Noa Noa where you can find some of the loveliest Spring fashion ever. My white narcissus also bloomed on my windowsill after waiting several weeks though the transformation from bulb to bloom is always a pleasure to watch… I think it is because of being a gentle reminder of the patience we need to have in order to grow and blossom – beauty does not come overnight!
Don’t you enjoy the product shots from Bloomingville above? I do, though they are a bit too country for my taste I see many that I can mix and match into a more modern home with clean lines and that is what I live about Bloomingville, there is something for everyone. Did you notice the dresser in the top left photo? It looks like it was painted with light grey chalkboard paint. I love the idea of pale gray chalkboard paint, many tend to go with black chalkboard paint on the walls which is lovely but upon seeing this I think gray appeals to me a bit more right now I think. What about you?
I need to run off to teach a class for a few hours, so I’ll be back a little later…
I love the Dutch brand Nooosugar! Have you heard of them? They wrote to me just yesterday to introduce themselves and the second I clicked over to their website it was insta-love because I find comfort in simplicity and balance these days and enjoy clean, modern design with a dash of bohemian ethnic style more and more. It’s very peaceful I think, it feels special — even a little luxurious and resort-like don’t you think? Nooosugar has all of that in one impressive shop. I was surprised to learn that they are decor8 readers, which came as a pleasant surprise because it’s really such a small world online, you know?
Anja Bas Backer told me about her company that she runs alongside partner Susanne Houx — they have had an online shop for only a year but they are growing and doing quite well. I learned that 90% of what you see on their site is their own designs and handmade by artisans in Morocco and all unique as there’s only a few of each product available in stock. These ladies are so talented with such a great eye for style. The cushions are handwoven striped cloth and one-of-a-kind for example. I love the striped curtains, I imagine them as a canopy over a bed or perhaps on the patio slung casually over a bamboo rod above a table for a laid-back lunch. So pretty!
If you are interested in ordering from them and you do not speak Dutch you can write to Anja via email in English and she’ll answer you – she is very nice and helpful (info AT nooosugar.nl).
(images: nooosugar, taken by photographer Brigitte Kroone)
Let’s dive into the week with the inspiring work of photographer Anitta Behrendt who lives in Copenhagen whom I found back in September 2008 in German decorating magazine Living & More (blogged here).
I recently saw her on someone’s tumblr site and now I cannot remember who… but anyway if you read design magazines in this part of the world chances are you may be quite familiar with her work already. And if not, perhaps seeing these photos today will be a fresh glimpse into some very lovely interiors shot by a talented lady who makes beautiful rooms even more radiant. While peeking through the photos shown please be on the look out for buttons hand sewn onto a sofa. You’ll want to run home and duplicate the look!
With turquoise being the “it” trend color for 2010, some of these rooms may even give you a few ideas on ways to introduce it into your home if you don’t already have this breezy blue… one of my favorite colors. Especially since you will likely find it readily available in most stores so if you’re out shopping it should be easy to find.
How can you bring turquoise into the home? You can paint an accent piece, like a cabinet, bookcase or table in turquoise, even something smaller like a picture frame or a stool. Or if you’d like to be subtle, paint the inside of a cabinet with glass doors and inside, place all of your china and/or white porcelain so that the white really jumps out from the turquoise background. You can add a print from Etsy to your walls which lots of turquoise in it, or look for solid or patterned throw pillows to toss on the sofa or bed. Even glass bottles and vases, or pots, turquoise is nice as a bold statement or as a simple accent. You can even use clothes, jewelry and handbags as decorative accessories so pull out those turquoise beads and place them on a hook over your dresser. It goes with so many other colors from red to black, yellow to green, and looks especially nice with chocolate brown though I tend to prefer it with white and black and a touch of lilac and pale lime. In my home, I use turquoise in all of my rooms as an accent, for instance my taper candles are a light shade and my candle holders are white and silver.
Aren’t these rooms beautiful? I hope that you’ll take a moment today to look at Anitta’s online portfolio where you can be exposed to more of her lush interiors. Some days I just want to move to Copenhagen because I’ve not been and for a small city it certainly seems to have a lot of talent living there… Perhaps I’ll drive up this Spring or take the ICE. I need a mini break and I just have to see this city to believe all the hype for myself. Since moving to northern Germany I’m exposed to Danish life + culture so much more, time to get up there and shake a tail feather! Ha ha! Does anyone even say that anymore? I feel so behind with American slang it isn’t even funny!
Anyway, enjoy Anitta and I’ll be back with more goodies in a few…
(images: anitta behrendt)