One year after Daniella Gelman met her now husband, she moved from New York to Paris to complete her MBA.
The couple had always dreamed of setting up a creative workshop (in fact, it was something they discussed on their second date), and when they later became parents, suddenly it felt like their dream could turn into a reality. In 2016, luxury French baby brand Atelier Choux was created, inspired by the products they wanted to have for their son. "Like many first-time parents, we were very idealistic and wanted to design his nursery with our tastes in mind. We imagined a whimsical world inspired by the architecture we see on a daily basis in Paris – but adapted for kids," she reflects.
Your professional life had led you and your husband into “conventional” careers – when did the idea of an “atelier” begin?<p>Working in an "atelier" or creative workshop together was the topic that my now-husband and I instantly connected about on our second "date" in 2009, after meeting the evening before on the Lower East Side in New York. I was working in financial services but taking night classes at the School of Visual Arts in metalworking, focusing on large scale furniture. Nicolas was working as a consultant in Paris but was also enrolled in a continuing education class focused on woodworking. Exactly one year after we met, I moved to Paris to complete my MBA. We got married in 2012 while the "atelier" remained an "idealistic idea" until 2016! </p>
Have you always had a creative and entrepreneurial side?<p>Absolutely. I grew up in the early 90s following all the creativity in the beauty sector – when brands like Urban Decay, Hard Candy and so many others were just launching. I kept clippings of all the magazine articles and still have them today – I was and still am a "magazine clipper" and hoarder of visual inspiration. I'm sure many feel the same way – but wish I had had the insight then to create Pinterest! Entrepreneurship has always been my passion – it's amazing how early on in life one can feel these reflexes.</p>
You began your business at the beginning of your leap into parenthood – what was it like doing both at once?<p>The idea stage felt very natural since the inspiration behind Atelier Choux came about when we began thinking about products we wanted for our son before he was born in 2014. Like many first time parents, we were very idealistic and wanted to design his nursery with our tastes in mind. We imagined a whimsical world inspired by the architecture we see on a daily basis in Paris – but adapted for kids.</p><p>On the practical side, the stress of our conventional careers at the time we become parents pushed us to determine if we would ever be able to support ourselves with our own creative activities. This part is the hardest part of juggle – and my feeling is it's best done gradually. We did a lot of research from the idea stage before our son's birth and only officially launched Atelier Choux in early 2016, about 9 months before the birth of our daughter.</p>
You moved to Paris – a dream for so many – was it a dream? Can you share any of the challenges you faced relocating to a new city?<p>It was a dream in many ways but came with all the logistic challenges of immigrating to a foreign country. I am not a natural at new languages and it is still a challenge to deal with true administrative issues in French, although it does get easier over the years. Paris is a beautiful, romantic, touristy city but securing a visa, bank account, an apartment and navigating the healthcare system are all very un-romantic experiences! There are, of course, many daily pleasures that come with living in Paris – walking anywhere and taking in the incredible architecture and statues, Haussmannian apartments with high ceilings, fresh produce, charming shops and an amazing selection of activities for children – from intricate carousels everywhere to beautiful parks and museums. I don't take any of that for granted.</p>
What’s it like raising a child in Paris? How would you describe the French approach to parenting?<p>I believe French parenting has a reputation for being strict and discipline-oriented. Good manners, table etiquette and respect for elders are all important. I see this from my parents-in-law, sister-in-law and parents at school. I wish I knew the French approach better in practice as our household is a mix of parenting styles, with myself as a "softy" and my French husband as the one who "means-business". We are all "night-owls" and "dreamers" which can make schedules and bed-times difficult. I cannot blame our children too much for rebelling against schedules and early mornings as they get it from us. I do think a tough, disciplined, French approach can be very beneficial. I'm hoping to try it on our third, due at the end of this summer.</p>
How did you come to work with Mattias Adolfsson?<p>We were fans of Mattias' work well before starting Atelier Choux and had several of his books. We had once gotten in contact with him about purchasing a print for our living room. When we were expecting our first child in 2014, I imagined one of Mattias' prints (called Pedestrians*) on crib bedding. It's hard for me to let go of my "visions" and kept insisting how nice it would look. The idea for a baby and children's brand around Mattias' work evolved after that. During that 18-month research phase at some point, we jumped on a plane and went to meet Mattias in Sweden. The whole experience was thrilling, I'll never forget that feeling of possibility.</p>
You buy all raw materials and make the finished products from A to Z – why was local manufacturing so important to you? And tell us about what you’ve achieved in terms of the production of your products? What prompted you to ensure the global organic textile standard (GOTS) and the oeko-tex standard 100 in your product?<p>We started manufacturing locally as a matter of necessity – no "large" factories would work with us in the beginning and we also wanted to work side by side with a team to ensure we could achieve the finished product we had in mind. A chemical-free, organic cotton base was essential, and luckily these days it is not terribly difficult to find partners who can provide this option. Product safety is paramount of course, and we use organic cotton whenever it is feasible.<br>We are now privileged to work with many small factories, from those who weave the fabric from raw cotton, a selection of printers and confectioners. We are really proud to support local factories and small sewing companies in France. The process is not always flawless and it is a challenge achieving perfection across many partners. It remains an artisanal process.</p>
Your Atelier Choux boutique was a dream come true – can you tell us about the store?<p>The small space gave us an opportunity to create a dreamy space to welcome our customers and partners. This was the moment where we could finally put our physical "Atelier" dreams on paper, by designing ornate cabinets with animal carvings and with clever trompe-l'œil spaces, including two hidden doors and an expandable "comptoir" (counter) to maximize the tiny space. The carvings are supposed to reflect the space's Renaissance influences, with a sense of humor. The pastel color palette, intricate carvings and colorful Murano chandelier have become part of our brand identity.</p>
Talk us through your product offering?<p>Our range has grown since we launched our first carrés (swaddles) in early 2016. At that time we didn't know anything about textile manufacturing and thought a 1 meter x 1 meter square of fabric (in organic cotton, complicated enough!) was an easy-enough canvass to showcase our prints. It took some time to get to where we are now in terms of print quality and softness, it was by no means an easy journey but working with local partners allowed us to learn and evolve quickly.</p><p>From our carrés we moved into bibs, bedding and wall decor, which established our point of view in the nursery and children's interior space. Clothing was a natural extension and we now offer a selective range of seasonless, gender-neutral clothing in many of our prints.</p><p>We see Atelier Choux as a playful, lifestyle brand and have since launched temporary tattoos and wall art. The new product launch path is based on our personal whims and the products we want to use at home as our children grow. New products in process include beach and bath towels, along with twin bedding. We are aiming to get parents more interested in our products too, with whimsical prints that work for the living room along with ceramic tableware. </p>
Finally, what’s it like being a parent in Paris right now – what has your COVID-19 experience been like?<p>COVID and the confinement experience has taught us so many things – about our priorities and of course all the little things in life to be grateful for. We were extremely fortunate not to know anyone with serious health complications, which of course changes everything.</p><p>Like for many parents, it was difficult to be confined with our two young children while managing home-school and our business, especially during my second-trimester which has been particularly tiring. We also had plans to open a second, lifestyle-oriented boutique but had to suddenly put that vision on hold.</p><p>Like many families, we really enjoyed the extra quality time we suddenly had together – baking with our children, gardening on the balcony, playing board games, etc. I believe this experience has somewhat "reset" our priorities, slowing us down a little and forcing us to be more present. Health and family are paramount, and COVID-19 has definitely reinforced that.</p>
Is there anything more inspirational than having a peek through the home of a celebrated interior designer? Working to their own brief and personal style, it's often the quickest way to dissect whether their aesthetic is on par with what you want for your own home. When it comes to Melissa Marshall, we can all undoubtedly agree that her classically-styled home is a reflection of her talent in more ways than one…
As a mother to two girls (with twins on the way!), her beautiful home is a lesson in both style and practicality. Tufted ottomans and textured stools are as useful for jumping as they are for sitting, while the perfectly made beds complete with coordinating linen are an invitation for play-time rumbles and family cuddles as well as a good night's sleep. "A home that can truly be lived in is a well-designed home.
Describe the aesthetics of your new home?<p>This house was originally owned and built by the church almost 100 years ago. We have great old photos of the house with its long driveway and grass tennis court. It's since been sub-divided however the house had some historical elements that I wanted to keep and the architecture of a home is very important to me. As with every new project I try to take from the architecture of the house and bring it into the interior space. It has high ceilings and a lot of sandstone so I embraced those elements and in keeping with used natural finishes such as limestone, tumbled marbles and wide timber floorboards and kept with a fairly neutral palette when it came to the furniture. I would say it's a classic and comfortable aesthetic.</p>
Do you find your interior style changing over the years or has it been consistent?<p>My style is fairly timeless, with every new project I want it to be unique and different as is every client and I try to bring out something new with each collaboration with the client. I wouldn't say my style changes though , I would definitely say it is always evolving. I'm not into "trends" and I wouldn't want to feel I was designing to a particular time or era as such.</p>
What are some of your favourite pieces of furniture in your home.<p>My Italian Murano chandelier I bought in New York, I knew exactly what I wanted for the foyer and it took me a little while to find the exact one that was the right size and colour. Also the pedestal table that was custom designed to be under the chandelier. It's solid limestone and a one off piece by a sculpture in Melbourne called Den Holm. Another favourite is an antique dining table I use as a desk, I work from it in our living room, it was my husband's dining table he grew up eating around as a child.</p>
As an interior designer is it hard to stop changing and adding things in your home, how do you know when to stop?<p>I don't. I'm always moving things around. When you're sourcing new pieces all the time, sometimes I can't help have them end up in my own home. It's my absolute passion, if I stopped doing it myself I would worry I was over it!</p>
Tell us about your girls room, how do you come up with a space that encompasses your taste and style and inevitable whimsy childhood space?<p>My daughter Romy was very into a book on the amazon jungle at the time so she wanted a jungle themed room, I found a parrot lamp and I love leopard print, it's such a fantastic neutral, so when I found the pale blue leopard linen I just went from there. I think it's important to keep children's rooms simple, not too many colours, they acquire so many things that the simpler the better…and it always looks tidier!</p>
What are pieces you always splurge on, or save on?<p>Investing in good seating is always a good idea. Sofas, dining chairs, armchairs.</p>
Where do you find inspiration?<p>Travel, always.</p>
What is the last item you bought for you home?<p>My dining chairs which arrived in January were my latest purchase, currently here though it was the oval custom ottoman I upholstered in sheep's wool for my foyer. It's so textured the girls sit and read and play on it.</p>
Where are some of your favourite places to source furniture and homewares from?<p>I usually buy the majority of furniture in LA, London and Paris. I love Anna Charlsworth lighting and The Vault in Sydney is full of interesting pieces.</p>
How do you deal with the mess and clutter kids bring to living spaces?<p>I'm all about the less is more philosophy, I'm always going through the girls clothes and toys and culling. Also having large wicker baskets in living rooms and in the girls room with lids helps. And always tidying up before bed, I like to wake up to a clean house, it's something I've always done and helps when you need to be organised or I have meetings at home the next day.</p>
Texture and colour are having a moment in homes and design, what are the best ways to incorporate them into existing spaces?<p>When it comes to colour, I love collecting art and sculptures and items that can be moved around. I'm not a huge fan of bright colours for large staple items such as sofas as I feel they can date quickly. I do love different textures though even if everything is neutral with not a lot of colour, texture is everything. I also just painted my dining room a soft subtle green, everything else in the room is very neutral it has really enhanced the existing pieces of furniture. Also ceramics and vases are easy ones for quick results with colour. And of course fresh blooms!</p>
Over-styled homes can often lack warmth, how do you achieve the fine balance of a beautiful but lived-in space?<p>A home that can truly be lived in is a well designed home. Keeping everything minimal and everything having a place is how you keep a home organised and functioning well. Such as having a well designed and organised kitchen is paramount to easy entertaining. My house is always full of people, I am constantly entertaining friends and family and my house is completely designed around that. You can lie on the sofas and the kids all lie on the ottomans, while having 10 adults at the dining table for dinner. All the doors open and kids running in and out of the pool, a home needs to have a relaxed vibe, you don't want people to feel they can't sit on the sofas.</p>
When I first stumbled upon hygge:liv, it was as if the universe had stepped in to tell me something.
I'd been spending far too long pondering how to give my living room a lift (such is the curse of a breastfeeding, couch-bound mother), but this desire to decorate was met with extreme guilt over consumption. I couldn't help but recognise that my very best keep-cup and canvas bag ways could be undone by a quick fix decor update.
While I'm not suggesting that all soft furnishings are made unsustainably, there's an unquestionable queasy feeling I receive when perusing the aisles and aisles of cushions at a mass-market store.
What inspired the launch of hygge:liv?<p>We have been friends for over 16 years and have a shared love for design and interiors. We've always wanted to create something really special together. We both love living on the coast and the lifestyle that it brings. We are also extremely passionate about the textile waste issue and wanted to develop a brand and product that reduces landfill fill and contributes to changing the world in a positive way.</p>
Can you talk us through the philosophy behind the brand and the collection?<p>We are so passionate about minimising our carbon footprint and reducing landfill, which is why it's so important that our processes are as sustainable, ethical and eco-friendly as possible.</p><p>hygge:liv cushions are designed to be timeless. Designed so you can add to your collection over time, from one season to another. As opposed to launching new collections based on seasonal trends that come and go, the range has been designed to be fluid and be able to work back together. hygge:liv cushions are something you can treasure and hold onto, providing a sense of comfort, warmth, familiarity and joy. – exactly what "hygge" is all about.</p>
Where do you source your gorgeous fabrics?<p>We source our gorgeous fabrics from Queen Of Raw and FabScrap in New York. Unfortunately, it's really difficult to get credible unused textiles here in Australia. We do a lot in recycling and reusing clothing, however not saving and giving new life to unused textiles that are sitting in warehouses on in companies inventory. We are working on some exciting projects and collaborations to help education in Australia.</p>
What inspires your selection? Are there particular styles/colours/textures you’re drawn to?<p>Our hygge:liv collections are inspired by the environment the coast has to offer. From the wide-open beaches and it's rugged landscape to the inspiration of travel and the culture each place has to offer. Our design process is based on the fabrics we have. We place all our fabrics into complementary colourways and start the design process from there. We then pair them with backs that create a unique and eclectic design. </p>
hygge:liv allows us to indulge in our love of interior design, while also contributing positively to the environment. Why was this so important to you?<p>We became aware of the global textile waste issues. We really wanted to be part of the education and the change. We wanted to develop luxe, beautiful products that also help with reducing landfill. People have a really incorrect perception that unused or dead stock textiles must be poor quality and are unappealing. This couldn't be further from the truth. It was important for us to create beautiful products and help people understand what we can make out of these incredible textiles.</p>
Can you tell us about some of the other ways you champion sustainability throughout your business?<p>Yes, we have also included keep cups in our collection to help with reducing the use of take away coffee cups. All of our products come with a high-quality hygge:liv tote bag. This can be used instead of a plastic bag for shopping or generally transposing things. All of our deliveries are sent out in 100% compostable satchels. All of our marketing collateral in on recyclable stock. These are just the starting point we are developing further ways to ensure we are doing everything we can to be sustainable and help with the education. We have some exciting things in the pipeline.</p>
Can you tell us about your relationship with Queen of Raw?<p>We have built an amazing relationship with Queen of Raw. The work Stephanie and Phil do is incredible and we've been so lucky to have aligned with them as we are all working towards the same goal.</p><p>We really feel like Queen of Raw gave us the opportunity to live out our dream. It allowed us to create a brand where we were able to purchase beautiful high-end fabrications, save them from landfill to then create our luxe collections.</p><p>It also empowered us to think bigger about who we are as a brand and the way we run our operations. It reinforced the idea that using existing fabrics is the only way to create a range of lifestyle products if we want to minimise our impact on the environment. Queen of Raw also highlighted the importance of education and the role we can play on educating Australians on the global waste issues we're facing.</p><p>Many Australians have no idea of the type of waste that goes on throughout the fashion supply chain. It has ignited a fire within us to spread the word and change people's perceptions. We want to show them they can make a difference, and it starts by being accountable for their actions, being more aware of what they are purchasing and how global supply chains work. Together we can make a huge difference and change the textile industry, and ultimately have a significant impact on the world.</p>
You both launched hygge:liv on the side of what are already quite demanding roles. What prompted you to start the business as a side-hustle?<p>We both naturally love to be busy and working on exciting projects. This came at a time where we were both ready to start a new and exciting project. We new that the textile waste issue was very real and only getting worse. 2019 was the time to start hygge:liv and embark on a new and fulfilling journey. hygge:liv compliments our lives and the things we are already doing. It made a lot of sense and we haven't looked back.</p>
What has been the biggest challenge in setting up the business?<p>Our biggest challenge when setting up the business was learning about textiles, textile construction and sewing. This is something we didn't have a heap of knowledge on going into hygge:liv. We have learnt so much about textile and sewing. We even did a sewing class, which reiterated to stick to what our strengths are…!</p><p>Understanding how fabrics react and what they are suited for has been a huge learning for us. The work that goes into sewing each product is so labour intensive. We are so excited for collection 2 as we know so much more going into the design and production process.</p>
Something many women looking to start a business wonder is how to fund it. How have you approached this?<p>This can be a challenge. I think in our situation we have really different strengths and skill sets meaning that we can do a lot of the business set up and running ourselves. Obviously you still have to have some dollars to contribute when starting a business. Fortunately as a partnership we've been able to both contribute our time and dollars into the business. When starting a business you really need to have a budget and a good plan to ensure you spend your dollars in the right areas. You have to really crawl before you walk when starting. We have also found having a 3 to 5 year plan has helped ensure we are achieving our goals and setting key objectives for our future.</p>
What is your dream for hygge:liv?<p>Our dream is to educate Australian's on the major global textile waste issue. We want to help people be aware and make changes.</p><p>We want to be a brand people choose to purchase from for our core values and what we represent as well as our luxe and high-quality products.</p><p>We want to end up aligning and working closely with a charity that aligns with our values.</p><p>We want to expand our product offering. We are starting to work closely with interior designers on custom making products for clients.</p><p>We will build on our interior service offering. Our passion is helping people select or design products for their spaces.</p>
How do you manage business and friendship?<p>Fortunately, we haven't had any issues in this area. We have a very similar personality, however, we do things in different ways that complement each other and our relationships personally and in business.</p><p>Our number one priority will always be our friendship. We love working on hygge:liv together and have a very similar work ethic which has helped when setting up and managing our business. We both have an energy that helps motivate each other and ensures we thrive.</p>
What are some of the most beautiful ways you’ve seen your cushions styled?<p>Our cushions have been designed to move from space to space, working as a piece of art and bringing life to any space. We love seeing our Euro cushions styled as floor cushions in peoples beautiful living spaces.</p><p>We love seeing our cushions styled on daybeds and cosy nooks in houses.</p>
Aside from hygge:liv, what are your favourite stores/sources for shopping for your home?<p>We love independent boutique Jarvis and Jarvis in Torquay, House of Orange, Ahoy Trader and beautiful stores we find when travelling or on holidays. Purchasing pieces that evoke memories of adventure and happiness we've experienced in places we visit.</p>
Erin, you have your full time job, hygge:liv and three children. What’s your secret!?<p>I'm not going to lie it is chaos and can be a real challenge. I think the key is planning and having a good support network in place. It is really important to our family unit that we are all living out our dreams and truly happy.</p><p>I strive to be a really good role model for my kids. I want them to know me as a mother and a successful business person. It is possible to be both, it's just important to have balance and know when to prioritise family and work life.</p><p>My husband is extremely supportive and we share the load when it comes to family life. It's taken time and a lot of hard work, however, we've finally worked out a way that works for us and our situation. The biggest challenge has been not getting wrapped up in what people think you should do or what they think makes you a good mother.</p><p>As long as everyone feels loved and happy that is all that matters. I feel so lucky to have the incredible family and be able to live out my dreams and not compromise either. Living in the moment is something that I'm learning to do and a challenge.</p>
How do you make the juggle work in your family?<p>Having a supportive family. Being extremely well planned it also really important in making the juggle work. My husband and I being a team and sharing the load. Knowing when things are challenging and hard and asking for help. Working really hard when it counts.</p>
What are your top time management tips for busy mothers?<ul><li>Having a plan at the beginning of each week</li><li>A great daily to-do list</li><li>Communication with your support network</li><li>Being patient and flexible when things go wrong</li></ul>
What tips do you have for women who might be looking to launch their own business?<p>Follow your dreams, anything is possible. Don't give up. Surround yourself with positive can-do people. Set goals for what you want to achieve. Don't be afraid to ask for help or surround yourself with support. Make sure you prioritise what makes you happy and go for it.</p>
Spend too much time in the home of interior and fashion stylist Kristin Rawson and you'll find yourself shopping online while you move from room to room. This girl knows how to edit and a visit to her spectacular home is like hanging out in your dream interior store. You want to buy everything. Located in Sydney's Northern Beaches, Rawson's abode is filled with a Scandi-meets-beachside mix of carefully curated pieces which she has collected over time...
"Make sure you think about purchasing for a lengthy time. Unlike fashion, homewares and furnishings set the tone of the lifestyle you wish to lead," says Rawson. Yet when it comes to fashion, she's not afraid of investing in a bold accessory (hello Gucci Princeton leather slippers). Read on to shop Rawson's look and also find out more about her interior tips, Mother's Day plans and her inspiring career.
How would you describe your home?<p>Relaxed modern Scandi with a beachside Australian twist.</p>
What’s your favourite room in your home?<p>Each room has its own mood. The kitchen/living for fun and chaos. The open plan is fantastic for all eyes on the bubs, which is still so necessary with Billie being three and Jackson five. The kids' bedroom for a touch of colour and creativity. My bedroom is my sanctuary and bed linen is my investment. Diving into double stone washed linen at the end of the day is heaven!</p>
What are your top tips for a beautiful home?<p>For a family home, it's best to keep the interior colour scheme clean and simple – my children add the vibrancy! We have fun with things such as art, clothes, toys – these elements have a high turnover. When you're purchasing new pieces, make a wish list and Pinterest mood board first. Make sure you think about purchasing for a lengthy time. Unlike fashion, homewares and furnishings set the tone of the lifestyle you wish to lead. My local go-to for weekly interior inspiration is <a href="https://www.smithmade.com.au/" target="_blank">Smith Made.</a></p>
What are some easy interior updates to make a home look fresh?<p>Paint! I'm obsessed. A friend of mine is a colour consultant and we talk daily about mixing colours to find our dream colour. Currently I'm trying to source a deep jade colour for my front door. Porters Paints is my go-to, for the kids and myself. We collect sample pots, bring them home and splash the side walls of the house that are unseen.</p>
What kind of colour palettes do you like to work with?<p>I always start with a neutral and natural base, adding tones of grey, greens and blues in soft furnishings. Bronze pendant lights was a touch of wicked for me.</p>
What has motherhood taught you?<p>Patience and thriving to find the best balance for us all in love, affection and health.</p>
How will you be spending Mother’s Day?<p>With my mother, grandmother and three siblings (and their families). Everyone is coming over for lunch! So fun.</p>
What does a typical day at work involve for you?<p>I am one of the lucky ones who loves what they do! Monday–Wednesday I work in a Northern Beaches based interiors firm <a href="http://amazema.com/" target="_blank">Amazema.</a> Our specialty is fitting out properties for investment and sale. Collaborating with all the females in the office is a dream job. Thursday and Friday are put aside for personal clients, projects and shooting for interior magazines.</p>
How would you describe your parenting style?<p>I am blessed to have beautiful children. They move around a lot between homes – mine, their dads and grandparents who all live nearby. Due to this movement, they have been so adaptive and flexible. I admire them. I try to be as relaxed, cool and calm as possible. To understand their point of view and if they are tired, angry or hungry, I help them to explain their emotions. We are only human!</p>
What about your fashion style?<p>My style is quite basic, with some special additions. In summer, I live in Mamapapa linen dresses with Ancient Greek Sandals. Seed and Country Road are my go-tos! I just purchased a beautiful cable knit sweater to wear with leather leggings and loafers from Country Road (<a href="https://www.westfield.com.au/products/country-road/curve-hem-cable-knit/f1de48bc-852e-4995-9062-983e0e6d5709?utm_source=gracetales&utm_medium=display&utm_campaign=aw17-thegracetales-mothersday" target="_blank">to shop the sweater, click here)</a>.</p>
For Danish-born and LA-based designer Anine Bing, fashion and interiors are an extension of her own personal style and brand aesthetic. With two small children, Bianca, aged 6, and Benjamin, aged 4, a fashion empire (there are 8 Anine Bing stores around the world as well as a thriving online business) and a collection of fashion, accessories and even a newly-launched fragrance under her belt, things are understandably non-stop, which is why her home-life looks as tranquil as it is beautiful...
"My approach to interiors is unfussy and laid-back… I have two young kids and while I love good design, I also want it to feel like a warm, comfy home for them and all of us. I think what makes the happiest homes is a personal, lived-in feel. It isn't a museum gallery and doesn't have to feel perfect," explains Bing who recently underwent a huge renovation of her abode. The Spanish-style, LA home she shares with her husband Nico and children is a mixture of traditional and modern, with a lived-in feel that's reminiscent of one of her iconic leather jackets or lace slips, a notion which is as intentional as it is practical. Favouring "forever" pieces over disposable trends, Anine's approach to fashion can easily be translated to her choice in furniture and furnishings, where monochrome, marble and a hint of colour (hello, dreamy pink couch) feature throughout. We caught up with the inspiring designer, businesswoman and mother to talk about her recent home transformation, her debut fragrance Savage Rose Perfume Oil and how she juggles motherhood with an ever-growing lifestyle brand.
Where did your love of interiors begin? And how has it evolved over the years?<p>I've loved home and the idea of home since as long as I can remember. As a visual person, it's always been important to me to create a space I love to live in and look at, with personal touches and memories, no matter where I've lived, the size of the space, or the budget. It can be as simple as personal photographs that mean something to you and your favourite jewellery displayed a certain way, it doesn't have to cost a lot. My taste has gotten more sophisticated in a natural way that happens as you get older, but I've always loved black and white photography, clean spaces, the colour white (for bedding and curtains, etc.), light, and greenery, especially succulents in Los Angeles, which are very much part of the desert environment here.</p>
How would you describe the style of LA homes?<p>LA homes are such a beautiful mix of old Spanish architecture and 1930's or '40s Hollywood glam. The original homes are BEAUTIFUL. Big arches, Spanish tile, gorgeous staircases….so many of the original elements of old homes here are an interiors dream. What's unique about them is that Spanish influence… verandas, patios, kitchen and floor tiling, barrel tile roofing. You really feel like you could be in Spain in many of the houses here.</p>
How would you describe your unique approach to interiors? How do you incorporate your signature style into your home?<p>My approach to interiors is unfussy and laid-back… I have two young kids and while I love good design, I also want it to feel like a warm, comfy home for them and all of us. I think what makes the happiest homes is a personal, lived-in feel. It isn't a museum gallery and doesn't have to feel perfect. My signature style is laid-back and casual with strong statements. For instance, big black and white photography or a custom pink velvet sofa can be the statement, while there are undone elements like kid's artwork leaning against the walls. I love the look of tons of art propped against the wall and not hung perfectly.</p>
Do you think interior design is innate – do you walk into a space and know instantly how you’ll transform it?<p>I do to an extent. Sometimes spaces have "potential" as they say, and you can make some architectural changes that enhance what's already there. But yes I do know instantly what I'll do with a space when I walk in! That's part of learning as you get older..you get better and better with those instincts.</p>
Talk us through your home transformation...<p>The home transformation took a couple of months. We knew it was the house for us the *minute* we saw it, so it was definitely a "you know when you know" feeling. But then we re-did the backyard to make it more entertaining-friendly and worked on the master bathroom to make it our dream room.</p>
Do you approach interiors the same way you approach fashion?<p>Yes I do! Simple, classic… impactful statements and thoughtful details. Crisp and casual. It's exactly the same.</p>
Fashion moves fast - do you like to keep changing an interior?<p>Not as much! We have our core furniture pieces, the art and photography we've collected over the years, and I definitely don't add to it as much as with fashion, but I'll bring smaller things in, like a new coffee table book or vase.</p>
Talk us through surviving a renovation with children – what are your tips?<p>Just keeping them busy and spending one-on-one time to connect personally! I'll take them to get smoothies, brunch, or just take a walk together. We also tried to get them as excited about the future as possible. Kids love having things to look forward to, like their birthday or the anticipation of Christmas, so it was fun to talk about what their room would look like or how much fun we'd have together when the house was ready for us.</p>
What is your favourite room in the house and why?<p>I love our living room with the pink sofa, and our bedroom is SO serene.</p>
Where did you source the interiors/homewares from?<p>I am obsessed with vintage so I collect vintage glassware and ceramics from my travels and the flea market, and eBay. I collect Royal Copenhagen's Blue Fluted porcelain from the flagship store in Copenhagen – I stop in every time I'm back and that's what we use for daily meals and dinner parties. We worked with an LA-based furniture vendor to design our custom pink sofa, and buy our photography from local galleries and online! I'm a big online shopper.</p>
Are you messy or tidy – how do you keep your home in order?<p>I'm very tidy. With kids, things are always going to be a bit messy but it's okay, at night we just try to put things back in their place before bed so it never gets too out of hand.</p>
What inspired the launch of your new fragrance Savage Rose Perfume Oil and can you tell us about it?<p>Yes! The smell makes me so happy. It was a long time coming. I was always into fragrance as a kid and would mix my own scents like a chemist…. trying to create my own rose perfume out of my grandmother's garden. It was the perfect extension of our clothing brand, because every day that I get dressed, the last thing I do before stepping out the door is apply a scent. So I wanted our customer to be able to put on her ANINE BING denim and leather jacket and then finish her look with this signature smell. We made it a roller-ball so she can apply on-the-go and touch up whenever.</p>
What are your time management tips – how do you juggle it all? Do you ever feel overwhelmed?<p>There's no easy answer but trying your best and getting lots of sleep. I definitely don't juggle it all and do feel overwhelmed, but Nico (my husband) and I are great partners and I feel so lucky to have a dream team at work who support our goals and are amazing at their jobs. It really does take a village and no one can do it alone. Helping one another is so important and it comes back around. Everyone has those moments where they feel like they can't do it, and it's those times that your friends and loved ones help lift you back up and remind you it will all be okay. Sometimes you need to step back and assess and make changes if things just aren't working, but it's helpful to remember there are always options and the most important thing is health and taking care of yourself.</p>
What was the most memorable moment of your recent renovation/home transformation?<p>When our bathroom was finally done and I got to take the first shower! It definitely felt like being on vacation.</p>
The Grace Tales is a global lifestyle platform for mothers searching for style, substance, and solidarity. Driven by creating content, community and connection, we celebrate the paradox of modern motherhood; the struggle and the beauty, the joy and the relentlessness.
Tulle angel wings. Paper chandeliers, laden with blossoms. Dragon capes, glittering crowns, garlands festooned with tassels and fringing. This is the magical world of Meredithe Stuart-Smith, founder of Meri Meri. It's a world of party and play, though its founder is surprisingly pragmatic."You know what they say about having your own business", she tell us. "You can work whatever 12 hours a day you want."
Indeed, beyond the confetti and confections, Meri Meri has survived two recessions, a digital revolution, multiple pivots, and some tough lessons. In its fledgling days as a greeting card company in the 80s, Meredithe recalls, "I was living in Los Angeles at the time and was selling my cards door to door. So many shops said: 'no one would ever buy these.'" 'Someone' did – Bergdorf Goodman placed an enormous order at her stand at a 1987 trade show, and Meri Meri was on its way.
You grew up down the street from Hallmark’s head offices in Kansas. As a child you would hand make cards and tape them to the windows hoping someone from Hallmark would walk by and see them – can you take us back to this memory and who that little girl was and what her dreams were? Were you an imaginative child?<p>I spent most of my childhood in a fantasy world, I created it all with drawing, cutting and pasting. While I was always sporty, I loved making things most. From a young age I was drawing girls like me and dressing them in clothes inspired by trends. As a child of the 60's with a mother and grandmother that loved fashion, it was always a part of my life. When I wasn't making things, or running around outside, I was playing dress up in my mother's closet. Visiting my grandmother was the most fun. She had a walk-in closet just for her shoes. When I was older, we wore the same size. She used to say "would you like to go shopping in my shoe closet?" I sure did!</p>
You began your business at your kitchen table in 1985 – tell us about your vision for Meri Meri back then. What was on the market back then in terms of party décor?<p>Meri Meri actually started as a hand-made greeting card company. The original cards were not so very different from the ones I made as a child.</p>
How did you get the business off the ground and how did you handle any knockbacks or criticism you got when you first started (many entrepreneurs talk about hearing “no” again and again before they get a “yes”)…<p>When I started there really were no hand made greeting cards in the market. I was living in Los Angeles at the time and was selling my cards (door to door). So many shops said: "no one would ever buy these". Fortunately, enough people did to get us off the ground. I exhibited at our first trade show in NYC the 1987. Bergdorf Goodman came onto my stand and ordered a huge amount of Christmas cards, I knew I was on my way.</p>
How did the digital revolution change your business?<p>It had a huge negative impact on the sale of greeting cards, however, in adversity creativity can flourish. I could see that there was a big gap in the children's party market for more inspiring and better-designed party products. As a creative studio and a team of top-notch illustrators, we are great working with paper. We designed 6 collections and having children, I knew well what the best themes would be. We introduced them, again at the Stationery Show in NYC in 2008. They were a success. This really carried us through the recession.</p>
You met your English husband in NY at the Stationery Show. He also had a greeting card company and he convinced you to move to England. How did you find the move from LA to England?<p>It took me a minute to fall in love with my husband and another to fall in love with England. I love so much of the culture, the architecture, the countryside dress code, the celebration of intellectuals and the importance of education. I loved that the English will have a picnic in the rain. My husband gave me the book "Love in a Cold Climate" by Nancy Mitford when I first arrived. He thought it would help me better understand his world. I went on to read almost everything she wrote.</p>
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?<p>I would have embraced the importance of branding from the beginning. A few years ago, I met with a Big Fish, a top creative agency in London. Perry Hayden Taylor said, "Meredithe, everyone knows your products, just no-one knows they are yours". I had always shied away from putting our logo on the front of our packaging. I didn't want to be too shouty (subscribing to the theory, when your own initials are enough). Perry went on to say, whatever store has them, takes them as their own. When they are on the shelves in Selfridges it looks like they belong to Selfridges. The next day I went back to the studio and changed all guidelines to put our logo on the front, the side, the back.</p>
What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learnt which you’d like to pass on to other creative entrepreneurs?<p>Hire people that are better than you and help them flourish. A list people like to work with A list people. You are only as good as your team.</p>
You strive to add magic to children’s worlds. Tell us about your love and passion for this and why it drives you?<p>A box of fancy dress and a few props help create the environment for never-ending imaginative and expressive play. I believe that is when the magic happens. We love to help facilitate that.</p>
Right now, we need magic in our lives more than ever – how are you navigating this challenging period in business and at home?<p>My husband recently sent me an article from the BBC 'Coronavirus: The good that can come out of an upside-down world.' It is all about thinking in the opposite way about business. It cited an example, if you wanted to start a taxi company, the first thing you need is cars… the opposite being how do I start a taxi company without cars. Meri Meri makes things, what would we do if we didn't make things. The opposite being, we stop making things. That idea made me gasp but I stayed with the thought. A few days later I had a lot of fun ideas…</p>
You’ve said of growing your business: “I wanted to pick my children up for school. I didn’t want miss out on anything!” How did you do both – did you work after they went to bed or work early in the morning?<p>You know what they say about having your own business "you can work whatever 12 hours a day you want".</p>
Do your children get involved in your work/company?<p>They are both far too sensible.</p>
What makes you happy?<p>Being on the water in my little sailing dinghy.</p>
Tell us about your work space – what’s the atmosphere like? How have you decorated it?<p>Our studio is in a converted Victorian warehouse in the center of town. It is an expansive lateral space with a lot of original features. We have rooms filled with fabric, ribbon, glitter, sewing machines and all sorts of papers. We have a big laser cutter and giant printers.</p>
What are your tips for creating a beautiful work space?<p>Good lighting and I believe everyone needs some sort of an individual space. Although we are a team of friendly introverts.</p>
Describe your dream party?<p>I have a beautiful summer house on the coast of Downeast Maine. My dream party is a big lobster dinner on the beach in front of my house. Long tables covered in cloth by Molly Mahon. I would have lanterns all the way down the hill to the water and loads of candles on the table. All parties need a good cocktail when everyone arrives. Our community cocktail is a Blueberry Smash.<br>Steamers to start, lobster to follow, and pavlovas for pudding. Ideally, I would have Rebecca Gardner, party planner extraordinaire, organize it all.</p>
List three things you’re loving from Meri Meri right now?<ol><li>Our dressing up collection especially the birds with tulle wings.</li><li>Decorative party chandeliers.</li><li>I love all of our rag dolls. I think they are all charming and I love their clothes. They are the dolls I wish I had.</li></ol>
Building a business you adore, with your best friend by your side, as you make time to be present for your growing family ... Could it get any better than that?
If you ask Lauren Emerson and Genevieve Hewson – the founders of Sydney-based textile label Walter G – the answer is "no." While many would advise against starting a business with your closest friend from childhood, Lauren and Gem are living proof that it can be done – with a healthy dose of success and joy along the way.