In this interview, I wanted to address some basic questions that I often get asked -- about the blog, and decor stuff in general.
I wanted it to feel like I was talking to my best friend. So, I talked to my best friend.
Here is Part 1 of her interview of me, conducted in Spring 2014.
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L: Ok, let’s start with our nicknames, it’ll say a lot about who you are, and our ridiculous dynamic for the past 20 years. Why don’t you explain where it comes from?
V: You mean right now? Right, ok, hold on now… Hang on... Nope. I got nothin’. I don’t actually remember where it comes from.
|My beautiful best friend Lindsay. Don't be fooled, she's always squatting down in photos with me.|
L: Oh. That’s touching. Ok fine, I’ll tell it. So...you know how I’m always finding small things that remind me of you, and I’ll call you up and say stuff like “If you were a graphic, you’d be a polka dot.”? Right?
V: (chuckle) Right.
L: If you were a food, you’d be…
V: I’ve been a button mushroom, and a miniature marshmallow.
L: One day, I said, “If you were a bone in the human body, you’d be the ear bone because it’s the smallest one.”
V: (cackles) Right, right, now I remember!
L: Readers, now is a good time to describe what we look like, so that you get an appreciation of the ludicrousness of what we look like together.
V: (giggling) Ok.
L: I am 5’11”, bespeckled, and… well.. I think the most common term my sweet friends use is...curvy? Val, is… what are you, anyway? 5’2”?
V: I am now. But I used to be 5’4”.
L: Hahahaha, yeah, never. So naturally, dear readers, I’ve been making fun of her height since we met 19 years ago. I’ll stand right in front of her, looking right over her head saying “Val? VAL?! Where did you go? You were just here a second ago…” She’ll respond by (lovingly) calling me an asshole, while jumping up in front of my face, waving frantically.
L: Well, it’s the truth. Ok, so now your readers know that you’re a tiny, sassy, hilarious thing. Mission accomplished.
V: When does the interview start?
L: It staaaarted!!! This is it!
V: Ok, awesome. What’s your next question?
L: Ok. Wait, what’s the point of this again?
V: Well, if you only knew me through my blog, and I said Ask Me Anything, what do you think people would want to ask me? Plus, we should cover some basics that I get asked all the time.
L: Riiiiight, right, right. Let's start at the beginning. What’s your favourite colour?
V: Nobody cares about my favourite color! Have you ever interviewed anyone?!
V: (Linds noted that I looked off into the distance, and whispered to myself) What is my favourite color?
L: SEE!? It’s a profound question! You’ve successfully interior-decorated your three last homes, with dramatic DIY transformations, making a bigger profit each time you sold.… so clearly you know your stuff. (PS, I never actually told you that I thought you were crazy each time, but now I give you serious props for recognizing a diamond in the rough.) You’ve used a similar aesthetic all three times - tell us about that.
V: Without following a specific plan, we’ve ended up using charcoal grey on our walls. The first two times as a very daring accent wall, and we were terrified of it. And then -- in this current house -- by this point we knew we liked it, so we used it on the entire main floor.
The key for us, so we don’t feel like we’re living inside a thunderstorm cloud, is that we offset it with tons of white.
L: Are there any other colors that you can do the same thing with? What’s so special about grey?
V: Grey the perfect backdrop to everything we own. It's modern and classic at the same time. The trick is finding one that’s not too blue, or red, or yellow. Just a perfect mix of black and white, as bold and dark -- or as soft and light -- as you like it. I never get tired of it - which has happened with a ton of other colors I've tried over the years like sage green, chocolate brown, champagne beige -- those are very lovely colors but I tend to get antsy to change them.
L: From my days studying color theory, I remember my prof telling us that grey is only colour that goes with every other color.
V: Yup. Exactly. It’s calming to me, it recedes into the background, it’s not vying for attention, so it lets other colors or other items take that spotlight and become the feature.
L: Ok, so what’s your best tip for choosing a wall color?
V: If we’re talking about living space and you’re not sure where to begin, I’d suggest to go for something neutral, that you find soothing and calming, so that your home is a calm and peaceful oasis where you can retreat from the world.
If you love colour, all the better, because your colorful belongings will look better on a neutral backdrop, rather than compete with the walls.
I will now contradict myself, and confess that our master bedroom is sort of a… I don’t know what to call it exactly, it’s a cross between teal, turquoise and blue, in that family… Louder than I'd usually go. And our daughter’s room is bright aqua. But in both those cases, I’m treating those colours as a backdrop for other things. And a bedroom is like a little world unto itself -- it doesn't need to match the color scheme in the rest of the public spaces in your home.
L: I’m just glad you’re not using beige.
V: Yes, I know! You hate beige! But I think the word beige means something different to everybody. What do you have in your mind when you think of beige?
L: I immediately think ‘boring’, and how hard it is to make it look fresh and clean, and to find any furniture -- that’s not white -- that goes with it.
V: That’s not necessarily the case. Some beiges can be a great backdrop, almost like pale sand. For furniture, lots of dark wood finishes and black work well - you just don’t want wood that’s too yellow. The problem is when you have a color like in my entryway, like a fleshtone. It's literally like the inside of my arm. In winter. It’s just all-around yuck. I’m going to be repainting that ASAP.
L: Oh I’m very glad to hear that! Ok, moving on…. What’s your favourite part of your home?
V: In this house, it's probably my office. It’s comfortable and functional and displays lots of odds and ends that I like. But I wouldn’t say I love it. More like a strong like. Like, more than friends, but we’re not going out.
L: Like, maybe some hand-holding at the movies, and some cheeky make-outs, but no under-the-shirt business?
V: Yes, exactly like that. Completely PG.
L: How would you describe your aesthetic?
V: Rustic modern. I finally figured out what it’s called. Or at least, what some people call it. Sort of like Pottery Barn - Restoration Hardware meets the thrift store down the street. Then I put my own twist on it by throwing in some Asian influences.
L: Where did your love of ‘Asian’ come from (giggles knowingly, because I married a guy of Vietnamese descent.)
V: I have no idea where it first came from, but I’ve always been drawn to it and loved so many things about it. The bold colors. The bold and unusual swoopy shapes of the lines. The details like ornate handles and door closures. And then I happened to meet and fall in love with a guy whose family comes from Vietnam. Funny how life works out. We’ve been planning a long stay in Asia for a while now. Hopefully someday soon.
L: What?! You secret-keeper.
V: It’s not a secret! I just told you! Haha. So, that love is always there in the back of my mind. Very exciting. And I love to travel, so I’m looking forward to that, and for my kids to learn a bit about where a part of them comes from.
L: What are your top three home decorating ‘rules’?
V: Rule #1. There are no rules. Every house is different, and every personality is different. What worked in our last house doesn’t work here. What worked for us 5 years ago doesn’t suit us anymore. You’ve got to consider where you are in life, what's convenient and comfortable for you, and the bones of the place.
Rule #2. If you like it, that’s what matters. If you’re not sure what you like, think of places where you are calm or find very beautiful, and feel most at home. Then, recreate those things. Don’t just follow the trends because you’ll get tired of those things. Get better acquainted with what kind of environment makes you feel good, deep down inside.
Rule #3. If it’s not beautiful to you or useful to you in any way, don’t have it in your house. That one’s paraphrased from William Morris. Bonus points for displaying things that express who you are and where you’ve been, like large black and white photos from your family collection and meaningful objects from places you’ve been in life.
L: Why did you start a blog? Sidebar: I know I’m personally glad you did because I feel that you make having a decorated, personal, classy home accessible to everybody... it’s no longer for the rich. Your ‘design’ rules have been extremely useful for me in creating a number of homes that I love. With your guidance, I’ve been able to turn my multiple homes into my sanctuaries. A comfortable home that reflects my own path is so important to me and feeds my soul. I do this every time I move. Which, let’s face it, is pretty often.
My favourite rules that I’ve learned from you are: Grey walls go with everything, use appropriately sized furniture for the space that you have, have a place for everything. Family photos in matching frames, and repurposing old furniture - I think you have a real knack for using what is already there, by re-thinking rather than tossing out and re-buying…being thrifty and.. what’s that word… when you’re into conservation and recycling?
L: Ew, no, I hate that word. So overused. You know, into conservation and stuff.
L: Yeah! But I think I prefer Earth-friendly.
V: Ok my Bone. We’ll use that one. That’s a good one.
L: What’s that other word for when you're patient with people and their ridiculous foibles?
V: Like 10 years ago when you decided you couldn’t stand hugs or tolerate any female singers?
V: (Cackles) I’m glad that phase is over.
L: What’s that term though, for “ok, dear...whatever you say, dear.”
L: No! In the sweet and kind way...
L: No, that’s not it either, but let’s go with patient and understanding for my point. I think that quality also really helps when you’re working with other people. It’s not just about re-doing their living space, you have to get to know their different personalities too, their likes and dislikes, and get to understand the kind of space they long for.
V: Which can get interesting when people aren’t on the same page!
L: Or have no idea what they like. You help them figure out the difficult stuff, and that may require them to spend money sometimes. Not much, but sometimes, a bit. I really like that you always try to be creative with your solutions rather than always wanting to buy new stuff. You’re gifted with people too. You make them feel understood and cared for even when they’re being ridiculous. (*ahem* ME for the past 19 years.) There’s a word for that. What is it?
V: The word is awesome.
Lindsay breaks into a fit of laughter that sends her into a wheezing tizzy, and we need to take a break.
V: OMG, you are the best interviewer ever. Part nonsense, part probing journalism. My first interview and hands-down, my best. I love you. And I also love every single flyaway wisp of hair on that head of yours.
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Want more of Val and Lindsay talking nonsense? We could do this all day.
Oh and one more thing: send me an email and ask me anything! Design dilemmas, color snafus, need ideas for your space? Ask me. You could end up in a future blog post! Drop me a note at zenshmenblog at gmail dot com