Friday, February 26, 2010

Are There Dahlias in the Garden?

Writing seems to take up more and more of my time these days, and happily so. Funny though, it feels more like coming around full circle than veering off in a different direction, for I realize that I have used the writer part of my brain throughout my career as an interior decorator.

Several years ago, at the close of a large renovation project for a couple of delightful clients, the wife pulled me aside and told me that one of the reasons I was hired was because of something their architect had told them about me. “She never does the same thing twice”, he had said. I had to laugh. He is right, I know. Although I love creating rooms for my clients, I have come to realize that I show up to the process as much like a writer as a designer, for I tend to create a narrative for each person with whom I work, a story written down in my mind from the myriad of clues I am given, an invisible book to refer to as I design a home for them and them alone. It is a method of working that has always been fairly unconscious with me, but one that has never yet failed. So many times, during the second meeting with a client when I show them my ideas, they have looked up and asked, “how did you know?”
There was the lovely emigre from Norway, she of the ice blonde colouring and love of the sea. The older couple who, despite their current ultra-conservatism, had obviously been hippies long ago in their youth. The affable lawyer with the octagonal library that was stocked floor to ceiling with science fiction and mysteries.
To follow a set formula for all of these wonderfully different individuals would have been a deeply misguided plan from which to work. They might have been presented with rooms that looked magazine ready, but they might never have felt at home inside them, and that is forever my ultimate goal.
Upon meeting a client for the first time, I always study them much more than I study the measurements of their rooms. Those can come later, I am busy observing other things. What shoes are they wearing, where were they born, where do they holiday? I notice their refrigerator magnets, their hairstyles, the books in their bookcases. I pay close attention to the names of their pets, the size of their earrings, the snacks on their counter.
Are there dahlias in the garden?
Is that jazz playing in the background?
Is there a bicycle on the porch?
When the time comes to renovate or redo our dwellings, we should all aspire to create beauty in our surroundings, for beauty is a quality that elevates the soul and enriches the spirit. Place some fresh flowers in a vase by your bedside and see what I mean. But that beauty should speak to us of our truest selves, envelop us with the things we hold dear. For no matter the decorating trends of the day, every home should be as individual as the people who live there. Then, and only then, can we be truly happy at home.

"To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition"
Samuel Johnson


  1. I am sure you know how to truly reflect people in their home, by looking at those tiny details that many in life tend to not notice. Soon I hope to create my own beautiful home and I can't wait :-)

  2. I would love to see some of those interiors. What did you prescribe for that couple I wonder?

    My own home is looking more shabby than chic, it badly needs a make over and so do its occupants!

  3. Dear Pamela, Never for one moment would I think that you would, or could, follow a specific formula in anything that you do. You are such an individual reflected in your appreciation of art, your choice of literature, your homemaking and, of course, in your writing.

    It is always a pleasure to visit your weblog.

  4. It must take lots of skill and imagination to create a space that is truly special and unique for so many clients. They must love you for it. It’s fascinating to hear your process; it’s a bit like mine in creating fictional characters for a novel.

  5. This is the reason for me not to want to do theme rooms...
    I like to reflect the inhabitants, not the trends or a theme...only soemtimes do they overlap.

    I can see on your senitive style and the imagination that moves you, that you could never build upon some simple profan pattern for a room! It's a story you are telling!

  6. Me too. It's always the odd things helping me design landscapes for clients.

    Typically the short silly sentence said with joy, mirth, intellect.

    I know gardening. I NEED to know them. How I would love to walk thru the rooms you've designed.

    Picture & quote, perfect.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  7. Edward is precious.

    This is going to sound strange - but although I am obviously older than you.. we look a lot alike..ha ha
    Adorable blog!! Enjoyed my visit.


  8. Pamela, reading your posts is always delightful; this was is especially so. It would have been si wonderful, back in the days when I could have afforded to redecorate, to have you to do my house -- and my garden. Alex, who is taking a late catnap, says "Meee-ooow" to Edward.

  9. Pamela, that's exactly what I was trying to say in a recent post of my own but, or course, could never have said it so beautifully. I've worked in the "narrative" way you describe ever since design school when I would make up detailed backstories for my imaginary clients, just for myself, to give my project direction. Once, after a presentation, a few classmates commented that they thought it was so unique and unusual that I described my "clients" while presenting my ideas for their home. I remember saying something like "how can I design their home if I don't know who they are?" Apparently, they were all just induging themselves and their own whims... something that hadn't even occurred to me until that moment. When I work for a client, it's their home and their needs that come first, not my desire to put my "stamp" on someone else's space. Thanks for this post. I'm going to save it to remind myself that someone as talented as you are thinks about design the same way I do. Very cool.

  10. I love reading your blog & your taste in art is divine! Who is the artist on today's post?

  11. You are just the most amazing individual I've come across via the Internet. I almost think you cannot be real, you are so perfectly designed.

  12. Hear, hear! You are a true artist Pamela, you create homes like Rembrandt created people in his portraits. It is the soul we see in the other that we cater for, and you do it so well.

  13. Dear Pamela,
    I fear that you are very unique in your approach to interior design.
    I once bought some furniture from a very famous shop and, as a promotion, they sent an interior designer round to my house to discuss curtains. I love decorating my own house , so I would not have done this other than the fact that it was free !! Well, she was very young, really nice but, didn't have a clue. She could see what my taste was and that we had an old house, but suggested totally the wrong type of window dressings .
    I think that you are one in a million and, if I lived near you and ever needed an interior designer, I kow that you would be THE BEST. XXXX

  14. Thank you so much for your wonderful comment on my blog today - I totally agree!

    Your blog is stunning....I am off to explore it lovely to meet you :)

  15. I suppose, Pamela that interior designers and writers both need to be perceptive and creative and you seem to have both talents in huge quantities.

  16. I like the way you approach your work. I'd love to hear more about how you design their homes from your observations. For example, how did you incorporate the lawyer's love of science fiction into the style of his room?

  17. Ah! I'm in AWE! Lovely philosophy through and through. I love You.

  18. What a nice sentiment!
    Lovely, just lovely.

  19. Pamela from the moment I first saw your rooms, I fell in love with your tastes and vision. You really are one of a kind.

  20. You are such a talent! your posts are inspirational, I am sure your interiors are just as imaginative and beautiful as your way with words! Suzie. xxx

  21. This is absolutely beautiful! I love that you are so in tune to your clients by paying careful attention to detail in such a way...Oh, I am so glad I read this today. Your description is exactly how I think a home should be. I've been in far too many that have absolutely no reflection of the characters of the people who live in them. It's the same when people buy art. Buy it because you love it, and because it speaks to your soul, not merely because it color coordinates with your sofa:)

    Have a lovely weekend....

  22. Amen to that Pamela...I like your style!
    Very wise indeed...I once had a decorator come to our house and the first thing she said is that we would have to get rid of all our needlepoint pillows and rugs. I created most of the pillows she referred too! A big no no in my books.
    I think you would have seen things differently and come up with the perfect solution.
    I am off to pop flowers in a special vase and I will most certainly keep an eye out for dahlia's when the time comes. I have no idea!
    Have a good one!
    Jeanne :)

  23. Heck. I'd hire you.

    You're like the Columbo of the Interior Design world.

    Peace, love, X.

  24. What an interesting job and I too would love to see those interiors.
    I'm sure they are very beautiful.
    M x

  25. I have just dropped by and so enjoyed catching up on all your blogs since Feb 9. You are such a kindred spirit.
    The blog about counting sheep brought to mind Walter De la Mare's
    "Softly along the road of evening,
    In a twilight dim with rose,
    Wrinkled with age, and drenched with dew
    Old Nod,the shepherd,goes.

    His drowsy flock streams on before him,
    Their fleeces charged with gold,
    To where the sun's last beam leans low
    On Nod the shepherd's fold."

  26. Oh Pamela you can come and decorate my house any day!!

    It's a pity there isn't a rule that says anyone who is in a profession where they do things for other people should have a degree in such attention to the all important detail. (Hairdressers come to mind for some reason...)

    You must be such a reassuring breath of fresh air to anyone lucky enough to work with you!

  27. One of my favorite quotes. With the beaautiful stories you weave for us here, I can only imagine what your rooms are like. I think I must visit your site again to gather some inspiration for a little spring perk-up. Have a lovely weekend Pamela.

  28. I know that you have a talent for writing and (after reading today's post) I know that you have it for decorating homes too ! It's very wise words you're telling me. Thanks !!

    Have a nice weekend


  29. Because I know you from reading your blog I think of you more as a writer....and one of my favorite writers...rather than as an interior designer...Now I wish I could have you re-do my whole house! I am not creative with my house and it looks it:(

  30. What a intriguing glimpse inside of your "process." You have the most delightful imagination and it's always a joy to have a cup of tea (lemon-ginger) and a mental-wander here.

    (I've just been at my daughter's netball match and it was FREEZING cold and those muddy sidelines.)


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