Wednesday, August 26, 2009

a conversation with jamie meares

by far, one of the best things about starting my blog has been the people i have "met" through the blogosphere and the sheer volume of talent i have gotten to know through other blogs, websites and people who love many of the things i do - parties, decorating, design, cooking, shopping, and of course all the details in life that make it worthwhile and fulfilling. check out my newly added blogroll feature (scroll down on the right) and get to know some of the blogs i read on a daily basis - i bet you'll like them. i've decided to try posting interviews from time to time with some of the talents i've come across. the general criteria for who i'd like to interview is if i think that their general message is something we can all employ in our own lives...i hope you enjoy this new feature, and if you do, i'll continue it!

one of these such discoveries has been jamie meares of furbish design and author of the popular blog i suwannee. i knew from reading about jamie's mission on the furbish website that she was a funny and important voice to be heard by anyone who takes an interest in design, entertaining and the evolution and progress of our lives and homes. i know her words have already started playing in my mind when i've been changing and rearranging at home, and i think you'll find them useful too.

the major tenets of jamie's philosophy are that a room should always be evolving, and in her design work she tries to leave her clients with the understanding and confidence to be able to always facilitate that evolution long after her work is done. also, she aims to make good design accessible to everyone, often using elements that already exist in the home. i definitely recommend checking out what she has to say about the design element of her business here, and the event element here, because it gives you a good sense of who she is. and because it's funny and fresh.

jamie was wonderful about answering some questions i thought we'd all like to know. dispersed throughout the interview are some "after" shots to the "before" shots shown above. to note: this whole job was done for $500.

what i love about her work here is that it is in no way matchy-matchy, and does not scream "A DECORATOR WAS HERE." it looks neat and pleasing, but lived in and natural which is, i think, what everyone would want for their home.


HL: how did you come to start your own design and event business? do your clients in the two areas often cross over?

JM: i unexpectedly found myself without a job early in the spring of this year, and decided to take a chance on doing what i love full time. having already created a presence online with my blog, i was lucky to have a captive audience for my new endeavor. luckily, starting a design business doesn't require a lot of investment, or overhead, like many small businesses do. a lot of my design work has been online, via email, whereas my event service mostly caters to local clients.

HL: you say on your website that you knew planning events was for you when you put a lot of planning into a party and weren't as interested in attending the party as you were in planning it - that's a funny observation, and one that has clearly served you very well. anything to add to that thought?

JM: i've planned many a party, and honestly, for me personally, i've always had much more fun creating the event, than actually participating in it. i love seeing people's reactions to the environment you've created. i'm a hands on person, so it's difficult for me to let go and enjoy myself once the guests have arrived. i continue to arrange, and orchestrate after the party is well underway - and unless i have one too many cocktails, it's impossible for me to let even the smallest of details fall by the wayside. once i realized this, i learned to harness this compulsion for good - which is planning spectacular events for other people to enjoy.

HL: i love the way your process with your clients, with events and design jobs, is so collaborative - it's obvious that you really value getting to know your clients so you can do the best work you can with them. do you really eat guacamole and cheese with your clients? i gathered you like cheese - what's your favorite kind?

JM: i really do, if they offer it! and i've walked into more than one consultation to find homemade guacamole waiting! and i've never really met a cheese i didn't like!

i think it's really important to establish a relationship with a client, and i've found the best way to do this is to become as friendly as possible right off the bat. as a designer, you're selling yourself essentially. you're hoping the client trusts your opinion enough to 1) pay you for it! and 2) take your advice when making changes to their most personal of spaces: their home.

if you've built up a comfortable rapport with a client, the process is more fun, you can be more honest with each other, and the results turn out better as well.

HL: i really really really love the part of your design philosophy that a room is never really done - it is always evolving and changing as the room's owner evolves and changes. i think that can actually be a harder concept to implement than it seems. are there a few tips you can give readers to help them assess their spaces and make adjustments with evolution in mind?

JM: there's a buddhist saying, that "if you find your buddha in the road, you're to kill him". what i take this to mean is life is constantly a search, so if you've happened upon IT, then you've gone terribly wrong, because then the search would be over!

my decorating philosophy is much the same. creating the look of a home is a process - a search for the perfect piece, tinkering until you get an arrangement just right, trying to cultivate a look that reflects who you are, and makes you happy everytime you walk into a room. the definition of "cultivate" is to promote or improve growth by labor and attention. a cultivated look doesn't come from a quick fix. and it's never stagnant.

i'd recommend others to learn just the basics of a few things:

  • scale
  • mixing patterns

  • recognizing the difference between form and function

  • once you've got a grasp of these, you'll be more confident making changes, rearranging and switching pieces out. you'll be able to edit what you have, and judge if potential pieces will work in your home.

    HL: you also talk about the power of moving things around - i think this is something that can be hard for people to visualize because it's a bit like a rubik's cube, but it can totally re-energize a space or several spaces. how do you go about starting to conceptualize moving things around? do you start with one piece you'd like to move and then think about what will replace it and go from there?

    JM: foremost i think about function of a room. i think about a few basics, like 1 sofa, two armchairs, 1 coffee table...and work from there. in a living room - are there comfortable places to sit? does each spot have access to a table or place to rest a drink? if there's a TV in the room, can everyone see it? are they staring at the back's of heads? i look at where the focal point is, and i see if the furniture is positioned to take advantage of it.

    HL: on your website, you talk about having pieces available to lend for events (serving pieces, linens, etc). you must have some collection. what do you look for when picking up new things, and where do you shop for those things?

    JM: i've found lots of my treasures at yard sales and estate sales. my mother, grandmother and aunt all scour sales for beautiful pieces, and i end up the recipient of lots of these. my friends know i like to throw parties, so usually i'm gifted things like a beautiful platter, or an interesting set of cocktail napkins. my mother in law gives me a monogrammed antique napkin ring every christmas, so i have a gorgeous collection of those. my mom is the ultimate gift giver - she always find something unique and special for my birthday or christmas. lots of my collection has been gifted.

    HL: if you could give one line of advice for planning and throwing parties, what would it be?

    JM: wear a fabulous dress and always stay up until the last guest has left. you'll have more fun.

    HL: and if you could give one line of advice for design and decorating, what would it be?

    JM: think about scale! AND... if you're redecorating just for the sake of changing, admit that. that's fine - but changing because something isn't working, and changing because you just want change are too entirely different things, and i think it's important for your decorator to know what you're after!
    WELL, already jamie's wise words about scale swooped in and saved me from leaving the amazing, yet ginormous ikea chandelier below in my too-small-for-it dining room and finding a piece more respectful of scale (more on that later). and i'm so happy i did. no matter how crestfallen i was that it didn't work, it simply didn't work, and jamie's words "think about scale" guided me through. thanks jamie.

    all furbish photos from and; ikea photo from


    Anonymous said...

    Not bad article, but I really miss that you didn't express your opinion, but ok you just have different approach

    honey living said...

    i know what you mean anon - with these interviews, i try to just let the interviewee's point of view come through...but i appreciate your point. thanks for reading!

    Anonymous said...

    Thought I would comment and say neat theme, did you make it for yourself? It's really awesome!

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