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it's Unni from Strand design

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My name is Unni Strand, I live in Norway, I'm 36 years old and work as a teacher, teaching interiors, design and art subjects. I have a particular passion for textile and have a background in weaving.
I live in a grey house, have two children, and grow my own vegetables.

My number one rule when I do my designs, is to use recycled materials as much as I can. I find used fabrics at fleamarkets, wash them, handprint them and turn them into new, usable objects. 

I have opened a new shop with really sustainable t-shirts! ... and this is my blog!

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In what kind of house do you live and with whom?

I live with my partner, my son (18) and my daughter (4) in a detached house in Norway. We also have the most loving and sweet rescue cat, Tulla.
We built the house ourselves seven years ago. In Norway, it is most common with houses of wood, but our house is built of breeze blocks. This makes the walls 40 cm thick and gives fantastic, deep window sills. Our house has lots of small and big windows, but very few rooms have curtains.
 

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Why did you choose for the color grey as an important color in your home?

Our house has a warm and soft grey color outside. I chose this color so it should be a good backdrop for plants. I love plants and gardening. Inside, most walls are white, but a couple of walls and all the doors and window frames are grey. I find grey to be a calming color and a good companion to white. Together with wooden boards in the ceiling, and floors of wood, slate and tiles, I hoped to create a natural, clean and warm feel in the house. Our lot is very steep, so the house has six different levels and five stairways. 

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Can you mention some of the small treasures in your home that you really cherish?

My grandmother was a painter and a vicar’s wife. I have two paintings she has  made. One of them, in the room with the blue wall, is with magpies in a winter landscape. I have always loved that painting. And in the same room, there’s an old Chinese screen wall I like very much.

Two of the photos show a 100 years old embroidery piece. It is a Norwegian, traditional pattern commonly used in folk costumes and as a decoration on walls and furniture. The motif is abstracted acanthus. The tiny tin drinking bowl beside it in the image also has acanthus decoration. I like the fact that acanthus, a plant growing in the Mediterranean countries, has had such a big impact on our Norwegian folk art.

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Is this wallpaper in your closet? if so where did you find it, it's gorgeous?Where do you get your ideas for decorating your home?

The linen closet is from Ikea. I put up a wallpaper from  Borås Tapeter in Sweden in it. (Linné 3308)

During the two years we spent building our house, I read loads of books and magazines on interiors. We have not done many changes in the house after that. Now I get my inspiration mainly from blogs and magazines. It’s a part of my job as a teacher in interiors and visual merchandising to keep an eye on the trends. 

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How does your teaching knowledge and experience reflect in your own decoration? What do you think is essential for any home when decorating?

I use to say that I’m a bit environmentally damaged from my job. I have been teaching art and design subjects for 12 years, so I can’t stand colors that don’t go well together. After my daughter was born, I have had to learn to tolerate it. The house is filled with toys and she likes to decorate with bright colors and quite awful Disney princess objects. I just tell myself; -It will pass.

I have not taught interiors more than three years, so it has not influenced my decoration much. But the building of the house was an important experience and together with my continued education on the subject, it has influenced my teaching.

I believe very strongly in the importance of the aesthetics natural materials give. Nothing can replace the textures and warmth they give a home. I’m very concerned about the environment. I think reuse and sustainable materials are the only logic choices for the future. 

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What ambiance did you want to create for your home? 

We chose a simple and clean style so the house should be easy to clean and maintain.  When it is as simple as this, it is easier for children to play too.      I still want it to feel warm and personal. So I’ve tried to soften the look with textiles and green plants.

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How important are plants in your home and is 'green-living' something you try to do?

The plants in my house are important since we have so few curtains. They are the curtains of the windows. I truly love and need plants around me always. 

In my garden I grow fruit and vegetables. It’s good to know where they come from and that they have been grown in a natural way. Even though we are far from self sufficient, there are a couple of months in summer when we don’t need to buy any veggies. I am particularly interested in heirloom vegetables and have some potato and tomato varieties that I tend with care from year to year.

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My daughter has her own vegetable garden. A box with trellis painted in ice blue. Children love to harvest, share and eat their own vegetables. Carrots are a hit.

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What do you look for when searching for new inspiration and what tools do you use for this?

I use the internet too much, I guess. There is so much to see. And I can choose what to see when choosing what blogs I will follow.  I like best to see what other people make. -Objects that are fun, beautiful, well made and preferably eco friendly. Etsy is fantastic for this. My life actually changed when I found Etsy.

And of course, I get a lot of inspiration from nature and my students too.

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I really like the color on this wall together with the purple table, was this a coincidence or purposely styled?

I looked for a color that would go well with the grey wall, the dark purple stairs and our kitchen which is in birch. I wanted a color that had an impact to the room but not so much that it would be difficult to lay the table. -If you see what I mean.

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How do you balance being a mom, taking care of your family and having your own business?

It is difficult. Sometimes I get so drawn into my work that I wish I could be somewhere else and just work for days. Not being interrupted.
But of course, I don’t, and that’s good, because I need to do other things and it’s so good to have a family. -Your own pack to hang around with.
One of the reasons why I get so much done in my study is because I don’t do so much housework. Our house often looks like a mess and that’s how I manage to do my designs. (And my partner and my son do their share too.)
I also work part time in my teaching job this year. I have two days off work every week. Then my daughter and I have a lovely lazy morning together before she goes to the nursery and I go to my study.

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What are your dreams for the future?

I would love to be able to work part time with my business permanently and to have a steady income from it. As my daughter grows older, I hope we will spend more time together doing crafts.
And I would really appreciate some hens in my garden!

..Strand online shop..
..Unni's blog..
..Strand Epla shop..

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it's Julie from Beerlala

Beerlala

Please meet this warm and energetic women, mom and artist from the Netherlands... Julie Hendriks. Julie is a graduate from the art academy in the Hague and started her own art label for children, Beerlala and sells her beautiful pieces online right here. She temporarily lives in the house where she grew up as a child herself, but hopefully soon moves to a new found home.... 

Entrance

Can you tell us a bit more about the house where you live and with whom you live there?

I live here with my boyfriend, Duco and our two kids, Beer (8) and Puck (2). The house belonged to my father who lived here long ago with my mother. He was a blacksmith and his store is still downstairs but not with his ironwork but with my art. It was a house where all my brothers and sisters once lived when they turned 18. For us it's a temporary home because our old house , wich was too small, is still on the market. This house will also be on the market soon. Until then we can live with alot of more space and air to breath.

Living
 

Is music important for you and your family or is the piano more a furniture piece in the home? 

Music plays a big role in our lives. I grew up with classical music and my brother is a successful classical singer. The piano belonged to Duco's uncle. We have it mainly for Beer who likes to play sometimes but it's more here for decoration, for now. You never know.

The art-piece in the picture is from Tieson. Duco's parents gave it to him. It's always has an important place in our house.

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How does your life as being an artist reflect in the way your home is styled and decorated?

When I graduated from art academy I painted everything I could find, old tables, chairs, boxes, I found in recycle shops to sell in my Beerlala shop.  I still love to go to those shops and hope to find those treasures that I can turn into real Beerlala's . I can go all out in this house, especially in the playroom.

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Do your children play an important role in the way the house is organized and decorated?

Absolutely! Beer has autism. For him it's very important to swing, bounce and play all day. It makes him more calm and focused if he moves. Now he has his own sort of sensory playhouse.

With Puck is different, she also loves to bounce and run but she can play so much better and natural than Beer, it's amazing for us to see how a normal development is. That's why I'm allways trying to let Beer play a part in our playing together so he can learn.

Kitchen
 

What do you look for when searching for new inspiration and what tools do you use for this?

When we knew Beer was autistic it was harder for me to paint and illustrate because of the work and therapy he needed and still needs. When I took pictures of him and all the things we did on our little trips arround the town I began to get inspired to paint and draw more again. I used his pictures for Beerlala prints, drawing over them in Photoshop. Childrens books are important for me also, I love to read them and get inspired, especially the old books from the sixties and seventies. Magazine like MarieClaire Idees been much of an inspiration, Modern art, music and ofcourse the internet with all the great design/art Blogs. Sometimes it's hard not to surf too long there!

Detailkeuken
 

How do you balance being a mom, taking care of your family and having your life as an artist?

Sometimes it's difficult because right now, I have tons of ideas for new work, like Beerlala necklaces, more panels, painting bigger on canvas and the children books that I'm working on right now. We have a traditional way of living, I'm taking care of the children and my art and Duco is working as a video editor for television. He makes long days and works even most weekends but it is good for Beer and Puck. It's predictable and save. I'm hoping Pucks afternoon sleep is still important for her because that a good time for me to get back to work :-)

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What makes this house so special for you and what characteristics from the house do you try to bring forward as much as possible?

It's special for it's history and for processing the loss of my father the past year. The open spaces and high ceilings are terrific. I hope the new owner will hold on to it's uniqueness and atmosphere.

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What kind of toys, games or activities do you encourage your children to play with?

I'm encouriging lots of pretend play, although it's difficult for Beer. I've made Puck her own dollhouse, kitchen and I have a therapist who teaches me to let Beer play more and together with Puck.

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I notice a lot of chalk walls in your home, why did you choose for this?

Beer loves his numbers and the alphabet. He's allways writing them down. For this house, with all the space I had to have a whole wall for him to wright one.

Work

What are your dreams for the future?

My dream is to find the perfect home after this house where I can work, the kids can play an we all live calm and happy.

Juliepuckbeer

Thank You Julie Hendriks from Beerlala

..Julie's blog..

..Beerlala etsy shop..

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it's Rebecca from Children Inspire Design

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Artist, mother, and entrepreneur, Rebecca Peragine is a woman of many talents. When she is not working on her creative business, Children Inspire Design, she is busy devoting time to her two small children and husband. Rebecca recently moved into a new home, which you will see here. Enjoy the tour…

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In what kind of home do you live and with whom?  

Currently, we live in a Spanish style hacienda home in Arizona. In the past four years we’ve moved from an island in the Caribbean Mexico to a farmhouse in Wisconsin to here in the Southwest, so our home style has been way across the spectrum.   We’re very happy here. It’s a nice compromise from our past homes.  I live here with my husband, Gianluca, our two sons, Giovanni, 6 and Matteo, 3.  We also share our home with our dog, Sniffy.

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What is your favorite thing to create for Children Inspire Design?

I really like making the wall cards.  I think the product itself is great because you can fill any sized wall space with the cards.  And they are helpful tools for learning ABC’s and numbers, so there’s dual function at work there.

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On average, about how much time per week are you able to put into creating?

It depends.  Now, it’s more of a creative mood issue than time itself.  I can sit on an idea for months and months before I pick up papers and start creating.  Every idea has a gestation period, I have to make sure first, that I know how to create it properly, and then that I have creative spirit to do it.  I’ve created some real junk when I’m forced to make something.  I know myself well enough now to know not to push the creation part of the business.

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How has being a mom influenced or guided you as a small business owner and maker?

It’s taught me a lot about my own strength.  We all know its not easy raising children.  Add a business to it and you end up questioning your own sanity sometimes.  But for me, to be able to create art for children, all while my children are present with me was a total blessing.  And my boys played a huge part in using CID as a tool for fundraising and awareness for non-profits.  I was able to show my children that helping those in need is simply a part of life.  If you can help, you should.  They’re so young, but they already get that.  I’m more proud of that than anything I’ve ever designed.

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What has been the best project, in your mind, you have worked on so far in your career and why? 

My favorite project by far is the creation of a Recycled Park in Jalisco/Nayarit area of Mexico.  I work hand in hand with a non-profit there, PEACE.  PEACE is an umbrella organization which helps women and children in rural, under privileged areas of Mexico.  One of their ongoing projects the creation of a play park in school courtyards made almost completely out of recycled materials found in the community.  The project is simply amazing. It’s unbelievable to see the before and after of this project, how many lives are affected by the park and how much it helps bring joy to kids who are living in very dire circumstances.   Children Inspire Design will be sponsoring a park project in February. Apart from participating in the build, we will be designing a 15’x15’ mural on the school wall.  And, my boys are old enough now that they will be able to participate in the project. 

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How would you describe your design style?

Flea market, for sure.  My family has always been a bit nomadic, so we never pick up substantial pieces for our home.  I guess once we really feel we’ve found the right spot we will buy that something special.  But for now, if it’s not useful, it’s not in our home.  When we moved from Wisconsin to here, we gave practically our whole home away.  A week after we got here, we had our whole home furnished by Craigslist and Goodwill, all for $300.  Flea markets, garage sales, and Craigslist are an addiction for my husband and I. 

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Tell us the back story on one of your favorite pieces in your home. Where did you find it and what drew you to it initially?

My husband is from Italy and the last time we visited, I found a really great set of vintage canisters from a thrift store.  They ended up being the inspiration for our whole home.  I use these canisters for everything, vases, cookie jars, fabric scrap jars, anything.  Currently, they are hosting our mini Christmas trees.  I love them for their color their vintage font, I feel like they really embody my family’s personality. 

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Many artists and makers are working to become more environmentally conscious. How important is it to you to make eco-friendly choices for your own shop?

My products are made with eco friendly materials, 100%PCW paper, soy ink, recyclable or biodegradable packaging.   The original art I make is made with scrap papers, and when possible created on salvaged wood instead of canvas.  I just think that if you can create your products this way, you should.  And I think it’s a healthier choice for parents.  It just makes you feel better about what you create.

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What has been the best advice you have received as a small business owner? 

The best piece of advice I’ve been given is that outsourcing is necessary to grow a business.  It took me a very long time to get that.  I think that’s my piece of advice I’d like to pass on to other moms when starting a business.  Even if that means sending your child to a daycare program a few days a week or enlisting a neighbor to help in shipping, or god forbid, making your husband spend his evenings packaging your product.  You have to have time dedicated just for you and your business.  My business is starting its 3rd year and I just started applying this to my life a few months ago, and it makes all the difference in the world.  My big problem was shipping.  I used to tell myself that I couldn’t afford a fulfillment center to house and ship my products.  But, the busier I got, the more it cost me.  I was spending my time doing work that someone else could have done.  I was too busy running the day to day that the business growth fell to the wayside.  And I ended up paying for it.  I wasn’t creating new product, had no time to network and market my brand, so eventually my sales tapered off.  It took me a while to figure out what was going on. 

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As a creative woman and mother, how are you able to encourage creativity in your child/children?

I try to make them feel like creativity is their right and they should express themselves however they choose.  My husband is a musician and music and art is deeply rooted in his family. So between that, the different languages and cultures that are present in our everyday lives, my kids are really open to all sorts of types of expression.  And that’s what I try to relay in my children’s art.  I want kids to feel like this world is very small and all our neighbors have something great to offer.

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..Visit Rebecca’s website, Children Inspire Design..

..Visit Rebecca’s blog..

And Thank you Brittni for creating the interview!

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it's Gemma from Meli Melon

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I (=brittni) recently had the pleasure of interviewing Gemma Antelo, who is the proud mother of two children and the owner and creator behind Meli Melon, a handmade children’s clothing line. Gemma currently lives and works in a beautiful Barcelona home, all the while balancing life as a mom and a creator and artist. Hope you enjoy the tour…

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In what kind of home do you live and with whom?  

I live with my hubby and my two little princesses in an old Mediterranean style house in the mountains surrounding Barcelona.  We moved here two years ago from a small flat downtown because we needed to take a break from the city madness, and actually we still haven't finished the renovation of our home.

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How has being a mom influenced or guided you as a small business owner and maker?

In everything! Before moving to this house, I was working as a freelance graphic designer.  I was very stressed and didn't have the time my family deserved, so I decided to become a stay-at-home mum. But I was a little bored, so I begin sewing my children’s clothes and this is how I eventually ended up opening my Etsy shop.

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On average, about how much time per week are you able to put into creating for Meli Melon?

Maybe the average time is around 20 hours per week, but if I'm very busy, I can work up to 35 hours or more. I start working at 9:30 am and at 11:30, I take a half an hour break  and drink something on my terrace if it's sunny.  Then I keep working until lunch time and then spend the time before the children are out of school in promoting, taking photos and other "not creating" working tasks. On Fridays, I go to the flea market and to my favorite supplies shops, so it's my favorite weekday.

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What has been the best advice you have received as a small business owner?  And what advice can you share/give to moms, or anyone for that matter, on getting a business started?

Once someone asked Picasso the secret of being successful, and he answered that the inspiration always has to find you working... As a stay-at-home mom, my daughters come first, so I decided to hang a big timetable and clock in my sewing room wall to be the most productive I can while they are at school. Also, my iBook is my best friend, so I make most of my promotion efforts when I'm in bed at late night.

Being organized has been the key to having fun while working and helps me keep calm when I'm very busy.  And if the inspiration finds me cooking dinner, it will have to wait until next morning.

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If you had to name one item in your home as a favorite, what would it be? Where did you find it and what drew you to it initially?

I really love my almost one hundred years old sewing machine, and it's still working!

It once belonged to my great grandmother and whenever I look at it, I am always reminded of my childhood and my mother, who left us a few years ago.

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As you mentioned earlier, you’ve made some changes to your home recently. What changes or additions have you made to the house so far? What parts have you decided to keep as original? 

When we bought the house, it was really ugly, so we have changed almost everything. We still haven't finished the terrace and the garden, but hope will be able to do it in the  spring. The only thing we decided to keep as original was the kitchen, that has a really country and warm look. There is an antique fuel wood cooking kitchen that my husband  restored and we often use it on cold winters.

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Antique fuel wood? What a unique piece to have in your kitchen. Who is the cook of your family? And what is your favorite meal to make?

I'm usually the "home maid", but my daughters really enjoy helping me make great cakes and muffins, and on Sundays, my husband cooks "paella" for us and sometimes a few friends. I love guests!

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There are bright paintings and beautiful sculptures scattered throughout your home. What do you look for when buying new art?

I studied Fine Arts, so I have lots of artist friends that help me decorating my home. I love painting too, so I have some of my own creations hanging on the walls. And one of my favorite pieces is a sculpture my sister made on hard stone that is titled

Melimelo_10
After looking through all the pictures of your home, I certainly have a favorite: the living/dining area. But what is your favorite room of your house and why?

The playing room is where all the family spends the most funny time of day.  We decorate it thinking about creating a comfortable place to be together while playing, watching a movie or listening to music. I also spend a lot of time painting a lot of flowers and butterflies on the wall, and my children love it. So, this room is always sunny, even when it's raining outside.

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And my final question: Creating that mural in the playroom is a great way to inspire your children. As a creative woman and mother, how are you able to encourage creativity in your children?

I love to make big collective paintings with all the family together! I also try to spend a lot of time making crafts and playing with the toy kitchen with my girls. I think too that books are the best way to develop their creativity and actually I'm currently reading to them "The Small Prince", my favorite book.

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..Visit Meli Melon on etsy..

Thanks Brittni and Gemma for this lovely interview!

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it's Tania from Ninon

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Today, Brittni has created another super nice Open House Tour for us and she 'visited' the home of Berlin-based creator Tania Patritti. Tania works full-time on her shop, Ninon, and has been making imaginative, one of a kind creatures and other bits and bobbins for the last four years. Her eclectic style mixes wonderfully with the light and airy space she resides in. Enjoy the tour…and big thanks to you Britnni!

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1. In what kind of home do you live and with whom? 
I live at the ground floor of an apartment house built in 1899. It is a 96 square meters 3 room apartment. I share it with my boyfriend, who bought it 5 years ago. We live in Friedrichshain, my favorite Berlin district.

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2. What is your favorite thing to create for your shop?

I like very much sewing and making different things with fabric, but I absolutely love making my Les Monstris. My soft toys are the things that make me jump out of bed in the morning when I have new ideas for how to make them. I do hope that I will always be able to live off of making them!

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3. Running a small business by yourself is bound to have its ups and downs. What has been the best advice you have received as a business owner?  And what advice can you share on getting a business started?
To be honest, I don't remember a particular advice that has been given to me. From my experience, my advice is simple: don't give up. There could be very difficult moments when self-esteem is down under your feet and it seems that it's not working. But if you really believe in what you create you will have the strength to go on with your project and sooner or later someone is going to notice your efforts. Pretty obvious I know... but I have bad moments like those almost once a week. Another aspect that I think is very important is, if it is possible; try to concentrate to your projects full time! I tried to do other part time jobs together with my sewing, but I realized that was causing me to do badly at both things. So, I had to cut down all my expenses to the bone, but I am much more satisfied with the results on my Ninon Project.

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4. You currently do not have any children. Do you think that becoming a mother is something you see in your future?
We have no children at the moment, but I think about it almost every day... I really hope I will be able to go on with my project.  My boyfriend is a musician and we both work from home: obviously having a child would bring huge changes into our daily routine and also in the way we use the different spaces of our home. I would probably have to give up my studio for changing it into the child's room, or we would have to look for another house… I don't know now. But, one thing I am sure of is that I can't wait to make all sorts of things for him/her, and I really hope that we will be good in raising up a person with the knowledge of the importance of being creative.

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5. How has having such a creative career inspired you in decorating your home?
For me, it is very important to live in a space that talks to me, that makes me feel that it belongs to me. Being able to sew helps me a lot in achieving this nice feeling… Almost everything that can be made with fabric around the house has been made by me, for example the curtains, bed linen, and lampshades. I wish I was able to make some sort of rug or carpet though.

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6. How would you describe your design style?
don't know if there is a word that can describe it. It is me plus him: he likes things that are modern, clean, neutral, and then there is me with my passion for color, layers, different pattern combined together, vintage or odd objects. I think that at the end we fit well together, compensating each other's taste.

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7. You have an adorable, cozy kitchen. Who is the cook of your family? And what is your favorite meal to make?
I am the cook at home, even though Mr C is the expert in panini and snacks... I am vegan and he's vegetarian, but me being the cook he practically eats vegan too when at home. I really love cooking and eating. Our favorite meal is a homemade thick pizza, topped with tons of veggies and eaten sitting on the sofa watching a movie.

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8. You have some great staple pieces of furniture.  What piece are you most fond of in your home, and what drew you to it initially?
I think the wooden cabinet in my studio is one of the favorite items in the house; partly because I bought it for storing my fabrics, which are my main passion. I had been looking for a long time to find a piece of furniture that would be nice enough for them. Hehe. But it was also the first piece of furniture that I actually owned.  When I started living in my boyfriend's apartment, only one year and a half ago, there was much less furniture. It was very nice, but a bit too minimal and modern for my taste. I am very chaotic and I have a tendency to collect a lot of objects and I like color and vintage stuff. I have to say that he's been great on letting me spread all those me-like things around the house, you know, that "woman’s touch".

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So, I bought the cabinet last summer in an Antique Shop in Neukölln, a district south of Berlin where there are tons of thrift/antiques stores. I was in a serious need for a storing solution for my studio still one year after my move, as I was still working with most of the fabrics in some cardboard boxes under my table. I was really looking for THE cabinet, and I didn't want to go to Ikea for it.

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9. As you just mentioned, you collect small items and objects, which can be seen throughout your apartment. When did you start collecting and why?
I have the habit to collecting little objects that I like, I've been doing this forever but not with the idea of starting a collection. It is just an aesthetical need, urging when I find myself in front of something tiny that is speaking to me. Most of these objects are childhood related, like little toys (I love plastic dinosaurs) or vintage children books. To me they are like a personal treasure and an endless source of inspiration for my characters.

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10. What do you look for when buying new art for your home?
At the moment I have to admit that we have more art in our drawers that on the walls. I am still looking for some nice frames to put things up decently (and, Mr C is not a very big fan of wall hangings). But I have to say that most of the things we own are from friends. I like the idea that if I hang something on my wall it is because it means something to me and/or it reminds me of someone that I know in person.

Thanks so much for the tour and interview Brittni and Tania.

..Visit Tania’s shop, Ninon, on Etsy..

..Visit Tania’s blog, Super Ninon..

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it's Kristin of KLT:works

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Today, we will be visiting the home of Kristin Loffer Thesis of KLT:works. Kristin’s shop is filled with hand-printed tees, mobiles, and plushies for little ones. And her background in fine art has helped her and her husband provide a creative and inspiring space for themselves and their son. Enjoy the tour…

1. You live in the beautiful state of Washington. In what kind of home do you live (style, decade built, etc) and with whom?  
We have a Craftsman style bungalow that was built in 1927 (what some may call a fixer upper). I live with Chris (my husband of 10 years), Sayer (my 21m old son), & Kiki  the kitty (my first muse).
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2. You received your MFA in Fine Art from the School of Visual Arts. And you currently own and operate KLTworks, which encompasses both your artwork and a children's collection of wares. How has your experience as an artist influenced your other work designing tees, mobiles, and other housewares? Was it a smooth transition?
My business started from me fiddling around in my art studio during a job transition, while I was searching for another job. I just made things that I enjoyed without worrying about why I was making them. It was a form of art therapy I suppose. I had recently been the curator of an art museum store where I had made some connections with some wonderful artisans who had their own businesses. In 2006, a woman who had her own line of cards and products (Truly) that I used to carry in the museum store, invited me to have a show in her Seattle storefront. Her only request was that I make things that were inspired by spring.  I approached it like a fine artist would, but I actually ended up making “products”. I made my first Flights of Fancy mobile for that show along with my first owl and bird plushies. It really did blend the concepts of artist and product maker, which is still how I work today. My thread drawings were also in that show both as framed portraits and as pillows that at that time had images that were sewn (now they are silk-screened images). From that art show, I really paid attention to peoples reactions and that is really when I started focusing on making children’s products. It appeared that children responded positively to my designs/art.
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I think that artists have been making “products’ for years. The idea of business and making products seemed to be something “artists’ really never admitted to doing though- at least when I was in school. However, one of my art idols, Alexander Calder, was sort of my inspiration to do what I am doing. He was the artist/person that coined the word “mobile” and did amazing mobiles that were called “art”. What some people didn’t know is that he loved making things for his kids and other children. He made toys all of the time…. even a play circus and put on performances for friends and family. I mention this because it is really how I go about stuff now. I observe what my son enjoys and that informs my design ideas. The business part determines what the products might be. I would say that I make what interests me, and then figure out later if it would make a good product. I also still work like I am still in graduate school. I work all of the time. I am extremely disciplined and truly enjoy getting into the creative bubble. So, I guess you could say that the transition from artist to owner of klt:works was smooth and it happened somewhat organically.
 
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3. What is your favorite thing to create for KLT: works?
This is a tough question because I enjoy making and creating everything. Ever since my son was born, I have really loved making things that get a big smile out of him. My husband and I designed the Critters Mobile when I was pregnant so that was a favorite creation.  I have to say that I enjoy making plush and mobiles. It is great knowing that something that I made is making a child smile and giggle. I get the most wonderful emails and pictures from customers about their mobiles and plush in particular. It is an amazing feeling. But I do need to say that I am very proud of my slug plush or as Sayer would say the “Gunk Gunks”. Sayer LOVES his and takes it everywhere with him. I get a real kick out of that.
 
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4. How do you balance being a mom and a career woman?
Wow, this is a question that I will answer the best that I can. Balance is a constant challenge for me because I do every aspect of the business. I am lucky in so many ways. First of all I have a really strong circle of people helping me out- namely my family. My parents live really close so they look after Sayer 2-3 times a week. My husband and I really work as a team.  He helps in a ton of ways- from making dinner to helping stitch and stuff critters. He also makes the wood structure of the mobiles along with stringing them. My husband is an artist too and is a nice sounding board for me to throw out ideas. Not to mention, he is really helpful technically.
I work when Sayer sleeps. The trick is getting any sleep myself. One of the biggest hints, is that I absolutely love what I do. I actually get energy from the business. It would even be hard sometimes for me to tell you what part I like best about the business. I love the creating /making and the social marketing. I have also met some wonderful women through this business that have really kept me going through the times of feeling frazzled and alone.
In a nutshell, I am proud and love what I am doing. I can’t help but think that it makes me a better mom because I am energized and happy. Plus, Sayer knows how important he is to the process.
 
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5. Your house has an artsy-modern feeling to it. How would you describe your design style (in regards to your home)?
We love the clean and simple lines of the modern aesthetic along with the concept of form following function. But we also really like the character and stories behind old found objects. Maybe  a good descriptive phrase would be, modern nostalgia….  It is a serious challenge to maintain a clean, modern look when you are two artists that (at the core) are crazy packrats.
 
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6. I absolutely love your studio/ workspace, especially those framed chalkboards. Did you make those yourself? If so, how did you make them/ where did you come up with idea? If you didn't make them, where did you get them?
Thanks, I love the space too. My husband made the framed chalkboards for me. I really needed a way to stay organized with orders. It’s up for debate as to who came up with the idea but it was when we were painting our hallway with chalkboard paint. I had those old funky frames from a window display I had made at the museum store.  I got them from an antique/thrift store.  Chris just painted a smooth wood with chalkboard paint and then framed them.
 
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7. I noticed that your use of color on the walls and floors of several rooms in your home, are balanced with white accents (furniture, shelving, fireplace, moldings, etc). And your studio is the exact opposite: white walls with bolder pieces of furniture bringing color in. Was that a conscience decision? Do you find it easier to work in a white space? If so, why?
It was a conscience decision. We actually had used that studio space first as our bedroom. We had painted most of it white because of wanting to lighten up the space (given it is in the attic). But we had painted two of the walls red. After Sayer was born, we moved the studio upstairs (so our bedroom was on the same floor as his). We painted the red wall that was red closest to my workspace, white. I work with a lot of colors and I didn’t want the color on the walls to compete with the work.  I like the walls either a white or natural color in my studio spaces for that reason.
 
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8. The hanging artwork behind your wassily chairs in the living room  is a great way to bring added interest to the space. What is your favorite decorative element in your home?
The artwork in the living room is a screen that I made with block prints. It is really nice in the window like that. It is hard to pin point my favorite decorative element in our home. It is sometimes a rotating gallery space. However, the things that stick out to me are the black & white pictures of Sayer and the chalkboard in the hallway.
As far as my favorite art on the walls, I would have to say that I really like seeing my tea creature paintings (one over the fireplace and another on the left wall.) I made those as an exercise to relax when I was in grad school. I painted one a night for a month with tea water & watercolor. I didn’t allow myself to think too much about them and only spent a half hour on each. My husband encouraged me to frame them for our first faculty show exhibition together (my husband and I met teaching at the local college art dept).
 
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9. As a very creative woman and mother of a young boy, how are you able to encourage creativity in Sayer, your son?
Both Chris and I really want Sayer to grow up understanding the importance of creativity and making things by hand. The chalkboard in the hallway is a way to keep creativity accessible and not too precious. I don’t want Sayer to ever feel like he needs to create masterpieces or edit himself when he draws. A chalkboard is a great way to document ideas, tell stories and just play without feeling the need to be perfect. We also create with him along with giving him plenty of space and resources.
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We are all very into music and dancing which is always happening around our house. Sayer is growing up watching both Chris and I make everything. We have made a lot of what your see in our house. If we need, like, or what something, we generally try to figure out if we can make it first. Because we love all things modern, we gravitate towards things that are expensive. Being on a budget also encourages us to be creative.  Chris and I like to cook. Admittedly, Chris does most of the cooking these days, but we try to get Sayer involved in that as well. We both tend to give Sayer toys that are very simple and generally don’t have batteries. He has lots of opportunities to use his imagination.  I do give him a calculator to play with too… you know, for balance.
 
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10. What has been the best advice you have received as a small business owner? (anything about starting out, how to promote yourself without going crazy, whatever you would like to mention) What advice can you share for moms (or anyone for that matter) on getting a business started?
I actually started my business before the days of Etsy, Facebook, & Twitter, etc. The month I started my website, was the same month Etsy was getting off the ground. So the advice I was given was a little different then if I was just getting started now.
I think one of the best things that I was told was to do to stay true to myself and to work REALLY hard. This is advice that I have held dear both as a fine artist and a business owner. Making sure that what you create, is really speaking to who you are as a person and what you enjoy rather than what you think may be popular. Being a small business is tough enough, adding the mom factor is just icing on that cake.

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My advice is to make sure what ever your business is, it is something that you really love doing. Because it will be your social life, and the reason that you don’t get to take that nap you so desperately need and want. Also, make sure before jumping into such a venture, you have a really strong support network, such as partner, family, friends. They will be what keep you motivated, on those days that you are exhausted and your perspective is out of whack.  I also think remembering that you are human is important and that your child (and husband) will love you even if you don’t get all of your emails answered right away or if you wear the same thing everyday.

..KLT:works..

..KLT:works at Etsy..

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it's Jacqui from mee a bee

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Today we are visiting the home of Japan-based mother of two: Jacqui, creator of Mee a Bee, a line of handmade children’s bags, messengers, and totes for boys and girls. Her kid’s bag collection is right in line with the clean and simple design you will find in her home. More is less, and quality is of the utmost. Enjoy the tour…
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1. You are originally from New Zealand, but you are currently living in Japan. In what kind of home do you live and with whom?
Yes, I'm from Auckland, New Zealand. I came to Japan for a short working holiday about thirteen years ago. I guess I liked it since I am still here. I live with my husband of nine years and our two sons Noah and Tyler. Noah is almost eight and Tyler is just three. We live in a single story house on a 6000 sq. ft yard giving us plenty of space for the kids to run around outside.
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2. Your handmade bags for boys and girls are absolutely adorable. One of the fabrics that you work with is Japanese linen, which is made from hemp: a renewable resource. How important is it to you to make those kinds of eco-friendly choices for your shop, Mee a Bee?
Thanks! It's important to me to make eco-friendly choices but more important is the choice of non-toxic materials since my bags are for children. For that reason I favor Japanese-made fabrics. I try to use material from companies that have Oeko-Tex certification. Oeko-Tex is an international certification system to textiles that limits the use of certain dangerous chemicals. The textile industry in Japan is centuries old and I feel proud to be able to support it in the modern day.
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3. On average, about how much time per week are you able to put into creating?
Well I have two kids so not nearly as much time as I would like! Fortunately, my little boy still naps during the day so if I am lucky I can get an hour or so in each afternoon.  I sew at night or work on the computer - catching up on emails, editing photos, and updating my store. I usually spend Sunday afternoon sewing. I have everything set up so that if I get a spare moment I can grab it. I work on Mee a Bee everyday and probably get far less sleep than I need.
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4. How do you balance being a mom and a career woman?
Like most moms in business I would have to say with great difficulty. I think it really helps to have realistic expectations as to how much you can accomplish in a day, month or year. I'm committed to having my son Tyler home with me until he goes to pre-school in another year or so. As much as I would like to spend more time working on Mee a Bee my children are my first priority. My goal when I started the business was to build it up slowly to the point where it becomes a full time 'job' for me once the kids are both in school. I sometimes need to remind myself of this especially when exciting opportunities come up for Mee a Bee!
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5. How would you describe your design style?
I'd like to say clean and minimal but I am a bit of a pack rat, so I guess I will say simple and homely. I prefer a modern look but I also like to have my favorite things around. I'd love to be able to decorate our home in one particular style but right now it's not practical for us with the children nor do we have the time or budget to do it.
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6. All of the walls in your home are a neutral white, but your home still feels very warm and inviting. What tips do you have for making your home feel cozy without having to paint?
We chose white from a very limited palette of colors presented to us when we were building this house. Our budget dictated choosing from the mass-produced and was a sad collection of old-fashioned florals and pastels. Having a blank canvas allows us to decorate seasonally or as trends come and go. I like to add color with cushions or different bed covers.  Or by changing artwork or bringing something in from the garden. Even a bright bowl of fruit on the bench makes me happy. Oh and I love colorful tea towels and kitchen tools.
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7. You have collected some great pieces of artwork that are showcased throughout your home, many purchased from Etsy. What do you look for when buying new art for your home?
I've bought the pieces I have in a knee-jerk "I love it and have to have it" kind of way. I read some design blogs, which creates a lot of temptation. I am always interested in the artist's story and you'll notice I have a few pieces of art by New Zealanders (and one Australian, close enough!). Whenever I buy anything on Etsy I read the artist's profile to learn more about them personally.
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8. There is a wonderful community garden that each neighbor in your community contributes to, that can be seen from your little boy's room. How have your children become involved in this project?
I wish I could say we were involved but none of us have very green fingers so we usually just talk to the neighbors over the fence and receive the occasional vegetables or cutting. It's fascinating to watch them over there. One gentleman is in his eighties but he works his plot from dusk till dawn everyday year-round. I like the fact that there are always people around chatting or quietly digging so we are not so isolated. It makes us feel safe and there is a great sense of community in our little block.
 

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9. With fresh vegetables at your fingertips and a gorgeous modern kitchen, I would imagine that cooking plays a big part in your day-to-day lives. Who is the cook of your family? And what is your favorite meal to make? That would be me, the cook in the family but also the child-minder, housekeeper, etc. I used to love to cook before I started my business and before my younger son was born. These days I cook simply and in a hurry throwing whatever is on hand into the oven or microwave.

I do love to bake and really enjoy trying new cake recipes. I'm a sucker for anything chocolate and am eternally searching for the best chocolate cake recipe.
On Sundays my husband loves to get into the kitchen and his specialty is a cabbage dish called okonomiyaki. It's often described as a cabbage pancake - shredded cabbage is added to a pancake-like batter then it's fried until golden. The special sauce and toppings are what make it. And I think best of all for me is that I get a night off from cooking!
 
Meeabee_11   10. I love that you encourage your boys to play in the common areas of the house as opposed to just in their rooms. Where do they spend most of their time at home when not at school?
I wish my kids would play in their rooms! Without fighting! They spend most of their time within earshot or sight of me either in the lounge or in the play area next to the dining room table. Or outside. Our home is open-plan so I can see them from the kitchen even if they are playing in the garden. Tyler very energetic and really needs to be watched otherwise he gets into mischief. They love playing together, which is really great especially since the age-gap between them is almost five years.
 
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11. My favorite room in your house is Noah's room. It just oozes with happiness and the sweet memories of childhood. What is your favorite room of your house and why?
I love Noah's room too. The natural light in his room is very calming and we spend a lot of time in there reading, chatting and playing. On a rainy cold day his room is cozy and warm. On sunny autumn days the view of the sky is amazing.
He's inherited the decorating bug and loves nothing more than changing his room around so we do that fairly often. He's been coveting a lava lamp for a few years.

Thanks so much Brittni for creating the interview with Jacqui..irene..

..Jacqui’s etsy shop, Mee a Bee..
..Mee a Bee website..
..Jacqui’s blog, Blooming in Japan..

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it's Silvia from Pop-Up Patterns

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Today, we are visiting the happy home of Silvia Dekker from Pop-Up Patterns. Silvia has been working as a freelance pattern designer and illustrator for eight years now, designing artwork for children’s products mostly. Her Netherlands home is a colorful cottage, filled with trinkets and creativity. Hope you enjoy the tour…

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1. You live in the Netherlands. In what kind of home do you live and with whom? 

We live in the beautiful old city centre of Leiden, a small city that was mostly built during the 16th and 17th century. It is close to Amsterdam and looks much like Amsterdam with canals and houseboats.  Because it is so small it feels like living in a village. Our semi-detached house was built in the 80's, but it is surrounded by old buildings. It has 4 bedrooms, one of which is my studio. From my studio I look out over the park and a canal. We were so happy when we found this house because it is hard to find a house in the city centre that has a garden. We are also lucky to have a playground as our front garden. There are always other children around to play with for our son.     I live here with my partner Alfred and our son Felix. We have two young sacred Birman cats, Boris and Kiki, and two hamsters.     Jacket

2. You work as an illustrator for companies such as the Dutch department store, Hema, on various projects. What has been your favorite project you have worked on so far in your career and why?    I make illustrations and design patterns for many different products, from girl's wear prints to bedding, back to school stationery, postcards and toys. Working for Hema has been a dream come true for me, and I love working on every single project Hema asks me to do. Designing prints and allover patterns for the baby and girls collections, which I do twice a year is always great. Hema's children's wear is very popular in the Netherlands because it is not expensive, well designed (by Hema's fashion designers) and of good quality. That means I very often see my textile designs being worn by children in the street, which is so fabulous!   Designing toy collections is also something I love doing because it is so wonderful to see a world of characters and objects you think of become real products for children to play with. And when my bedding designs and back to school stationary are new in stores I often secretly watch people's reactions to it, which is a lot of fun!     Sd_bedcup

3. How do you balance being a mom and a career woman?

What are some of the obstacles you have had to overcome in juggling the two? Before our son Felix was born I was working 5 and sometimes 7 days a week. When he was born I wanted to continue working but also to look after him as much as possible. Fortunately we found a great daycare centre with amazing people that work there. He has a lot of little friends there and really enjoys all the different activities they do like singing and dancing together. He stays there 3 days a week, and when I have a lot of projects I work nights and part of the weekends. When he was a baby it was very difficult for me not to be with him all the time, but it's easier now because I can see that he enjoys being at the daycare centre. At the moment I am very happy with the balance between being a mom and a career woman. Felix will be starting school in a few months time, and then I can go back to working 5 days a week during school hours.       SD_son

4. Your illustrative works seem to mimic your personal style at home, specifically in your color choices. How has having such a creative career inspired you in decorating your home? 

I think it works both ways for me. I am very sensitive to my surroundings, which is why I love to work from home.  Here I can surround myself with things that inspire me and remind me of the kind of work I'd like to make as a designer.  And because I try to keep up with what's happening in the world of fashion and home by reading a lot of magazines and weblogs I am always inspired to decorate and change things around in our house.

    SD_living

5. Your house has an airy cottage feeling to it. How would you describe your design style?

I guess you could describe it as colorful and eclectic. I try not to think too much about what other people might think of our house. Sometimes I feel our entire house is as colorful as most people only decorate a child's room, but I like it that way! :) I don't like clutter though, and I live by the rule that you should only have things in your house that you absolutely love or that are very useful. (I think it was William Morris who said that) I do not think of toys as clutter, we love toys! Alfred my partner has a large designer toy collection. When Felix was born we only gave him the most beautiful toys we could find, but as all little boys he has developed a taste for big plastic Duplo vehicles! So we now have some of those too. He also loves his wooden train set, which is often spread out on the floor of our living room for days.

    Playmobile

6. I love all the toys you have on display, especially Alfred’s vintage Playmobil set. What is the back-story on this?

Felix's dad still has a lot of toys that he used to play with when he was a little boy which were in the attic of the house he grew up in. The Playmobil set is one of them. It's amazing that almost everything is still there, even the tiny accessories. It was given to him for Sinterklaas, a Dutch holiday in December similar to Christmas where children get a lot of presents.     SD_kitchen

7. I noticed that you use a lot of greens and pinks throughout the rooms of your house. What is favorite color to use and why? 

How nice you noticed my pink and green addiction! :) Shades of pink and especially green are often my favorite colors. Most of the rooms in our house are facing north where there is less sunlight; so having bright green and pink rooms helps to add warmth. I can be terribly obsessed by color, and I am always arranging things like books and clothes in rainbow order!     SD_shelf

8. What a gorgeous tin collection you have. Where did you find them and what sparked your interest in collecting these? 

I've had them for a long time. I found them at flea markets and thrift stores when I was an art student. I love the patterns and colors on them. I don't buy many things for our home, most of the things I own I've had for a long time. I do like to change things around a bit, because somehow when you move things they appear new again.     SD_bedroom

9. Much of the accessories in your home are your own design, for example the bedding and kitchen ceramics. Would you say that you create illustrations and pattern work for your home first and then for others, or vice versa? 

I always try to design things I would like to buy myself, but it's more important that the design fits the briefing. But I have to admit that I often look forward to buying the product as I am designing it!     Wall

10. This pinboard is so sweet. What room of the house is this? Did you make it yourself and if so, how? 

Thank you! I made it for Felix' room when I was pregnant with him. It is made from thin wood panels cut to size and attached to a wooden frame which I then put wallpaper on. The wallpaper is from the 70's and I bought it a long time ago. I made it so we would have somewhere to put little items and pictures. 

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..Silvia Dekker’s Portfolio Site: Pop-Up Patterns..

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it's Fiona from Fede

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Today we are visiting the home of Fiona. After leaving the interior design world over four years ago, Fiona is now a mother to two beautiful children and the textile-loving entrepreneur behind Fede, a shop filled with handmade toys for children. Her home is absolutely beautiful, and is sure to make any mid century lover’s heart melt. Hope you enjoy the tour…

 1. You live in Australia. In what kind of home do you live and with whom?
Our home is a split level, flat roofed 1957 built 3 bedroom house. It was originally a farm house but was bought by a developer about 7 years ago and the land was subdivided. We purchased the house in September 2008 in its original condition - it was love at first sight - our diamond in the rough. We sit high on a hill and have the coast to look at from the front and the hills to the back.

I live with my husband Dean and our two children, Ruby (almost 4) and Sachin (2). Then there's our four legged tribe, Benet & Rogan, our 6 year old Whippets, and Libere (AKA Little Bear), our slinky black cat.
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2. What is your favorite thing to create for Fede? 
It's hard to pinpoint one thing as its always evolving. My series of "first tool" baby rattles is currently the creation of choice. Each toy is made unique with different colour combinations, which enables me to "play" with my fabric collection on a regular basis. More often than not I go into the sewing room with an idea in mind and come out (hours later) with a group of completely different specimens.
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3. How has being a stay at home mom influenced or guided you as a small business owner and maker?
Completely. Good and bad really. While still working as an Interior Designer before becoming a Mum, I began making custom design cushions for clients and exhibitions. Once motherhood arrived my focus changed and it was no longer about clients but about little people. I wanted to use my fabrics to create a more sophisticated range of children’s soft toys - in contrast to the typical primary coloured products on the shelves in the toy store. I made the first hammer rattle for my son Sachin after his plastic hammer broke.

I have always hoped that I could be in a position to stay at home with our kids at least until they started school, so returning to my Interior Design career was not an option as it took me away from them. The desire to find something that would keep me at home, keep me creative and fit around my family life led me to my business. After 2 years at home I needed to stimulate the designer in me and find something to fill a void. The sewing machine called and a wonderful night time relationship grew.

On the down side this led to a struggle with the balance between business and family. Definitely one of the most difficult time management tasks I have been challenged with. I found myself happily working late at night into the early hours of the morning to meet deadlines and correspond with customers in the Northern hemisphere on the opposite clock. With young children I was then up again at the light of day, addicted to coffee to get through the day. And did I mention grumpy! So much so that by the end of 2008 I needed to walk away and close up shop for 6 months. Time to reassess my priorities and give the children the focus they deserve. I can now say that this was a wise decision as I've returned to my business more invigorated and determined to be disciplined with my time.
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4. Your previous experience as an interior designer shines through in your home. It seems that you are inspired by mid-century design. How would you describe your design style?
It has taken me many years to find my own style. As an Interior Designer I am accustomed to working to other people’s requirements and not favoring any particular style. As a result I find my taste to be eclectic and in some cases quite extreme. Also I tend to be more conservative with myself for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s my money and not the clients (bummer) and secondly I hate to be pigeon holed into a look that can’t be restyled.
Mid-century modern design is a look that appeals to me (hence the architectural style of our house) with clean lines and elegant simplicity. My idea of a family home is a place that feels lived in and comfortable. I think it should tell a story of the lives who occupy it – with collections of furniture, objects and memories that evolve over time. Sometimes my heart falls for a piece but my practical mother brain says no way – it must be easy to clean and hard wearing to survive in this house. I love the thrill of thrifting and giving new life to something that comes with a bit of history. The imperfections make it real & beautiful.
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5. You recently renovated your 1950s home. What changes or additions have you made to the house so far? What parts have you decided to keep as original? 
Structurally not a lot of changes other than re-roofing (it was asbestos). As we have a flat roof and no ceiling cavity we were forced to re-wire the house while the roof was off. We also removed the load bearing kitchen/dining dividing wall to create an open plan space.

Internally we laid floating American Oak timber floorboards (over concrete) and lay new wool carpet to the bedrooms. The original house had only wall lighting so we installed new ceiling lights throughout. The original kitchen was removed and replaced with an open plan design. We replaced the heavy velvet drapes throughout with contemporary style blinds and painted all the walls and ceilings.

The original building is beautifully crafted and deserved a sympathetic renovation. We have tried to maintain as much of the character as possible and bring out the unique features rather than over design. Some of my favorite bits that we have kept include the marble fireplace and built-ins in the lounge, the timber wall paneling, timber screening and stairs in the lobby, the crazy slate floor in the lobby, the diner in the kitchen (we re-clad it to match our new kitchen), the laundry chute from our kitchen to the laundry below (we designed it to fit into our new kitchen), and the mosaic floor tiles in our bathroom & toilet (which I hope to keep when we give those rooms a face lift down the track).
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6. Has remodeling been difficult with having two small children and managing your business? What advice do you have for others that are considering re-modeling?
Don’t go into a project thinking it will be all smooth sailing. There is inevitably always some sort of hiccup along the way (if not many) so stay calm and keep your objectives clear. Research, research, research. You only have one chance to get it right so spend the time to work through the design. The internet is such a useful tool to check out new products & innovations, and see other completed projects that may be similar to yours.

Having renovated previously I have learnt not to live at the property during the project. This is not always practical but it makes for a less stressful experience (particularly if you have children).
I guess I found our project exciting and exhausting at the same time. I tried to be onsite (we were living in a rental) as often as possible to keep an eye on the individual trades and pick up any errors promptly. The designing and managing of the project was not so stressful for me (thanks to my design background) as the managing of the children on the building site. My fede business was unproductive over the 3 months that we were driving the project and then I decided to take the next 6 months off. As a result of biting off more than I could chew my business took a back seat.
 
7. Your kitchen is stunning. Most people would consider the kitchen the heart of the home. Does your family spend a lot of time in this room? And is that a chalkboard cabinet I see? Where did you come up with such a wonderful idea?
Thank you. We love it! Our kitchen is where we start and where we end the day. We are all big breakfast eaters so the first thing we do in the morning is head for the pantry and take our positions. With an open plan living area we find we spend a lot of time together even when we are doing our own things.

I always think it’s funny that we have such a comfortable sofa in the lounge and yet whenever we have visitors we all stand in the kitchen. So yes, it’s definitely the hub of our house.

The chalkboard idea started in our last home. We had a chalkboard wall in the living room which was meant for the kids to draw on. In reality we used it for reminder notes and messages to each other. We use the chalkboard on the kitchen door to jot down things that we need from the supermarket. It works a treat!

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8. This Kriesler Stereophonic is a beautiful piece in your home. What is the back story?

It belonged to my Nana and Pa. My Nana gave it to me a couple of years ago while downsizing her home. We were living in another city at the time so she kept it for me until we moved into this house.

I spent a lot of time with my grandparents as a child and they were instrumental in encouraging me into music from an early age. I would ride my bike to their house before school in the mornings to practice on their piano. My Pa loved to play his records and later as I improved he’d often have a sing-along with me playing the piano. I continued with the piano right through school and later became a teacher myself and sang vocals in cover bands in my twenties. I have my Nana & Pa to thank for my start to music, so the stereophonic has a lot of fond memories and meaning to me.

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9. You have quite a textile collection. When did you start collecting these vibrant fabrics and what initially drew you to textiles?
My name is Fiona and I’m a fabric junkie. Can I say that?

It started in 1995 when Dean and I traveled for a year and stopped in London for 6 months to work and save money. I landed a job in the Furnishing Fabrics department at Harrods and whoa…. I had never seen anything like it! I was introduced to Designers Guild, Liberty and Osborne & Little and I was hooked. I’d ordered so many cuttings for myself that I took a box of these amazing little fabric pieces back to Australia with me (and I still have many of them today).

The collecting of vintage fabrics started later when I met a lady at the Camberwell Markets in Melbourne. Week after week she came with the most amazing collection of bits and bobs that she sourced from estate sales. I became her biggest fan for a while until she disappeared and then I never saw her again. However she introduced me to a new world of textiles. This led to thrifting and now I bring home all sorts of things to re-purpose, tea towels, table cloths, aprons etc.
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10. Most of the walls in your home are white, and you have used furniture and artwork to create bold pops of color. This is especially evident in your kid's playroom. Is this intentional? Have your children helped in making any decisions for their rooms?
Actually the reason the house was painted all white was to create a blank canvas that we could develop over time. When we first bought the house the walls were all sorts of disjointed colour and we needed to get some unity throughout – something that wouldn’t fight with all of the timber. The white was an easy choice. Now that we have moved in and introduced the furniture I don’t feel that it needs much colour. I do have plans to add some wallpaper to our bedroom in a black & white graphic design.

With the kids rooms I feel that their toys create the colour. The big decision that was made by our children was to share a bedroom. This has challenged me to move away from the typical boy/girl styles and design a space that is appropriate for both a girl and a boy. It is still a room in the making.
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11. Everything looks so well put together and thoughtful. What is your favorite room of the house and why?
I have to say two.
The first is the entry lobby as this is the first space I walked into when I fell in love with the house. It brought back memories of the Brady Bunch. The slate floor, high raked ceiling, timber paneling and amount of light just won me over. It’s also a transition space between our upstairs living areas and the mid-level bedrooms so we walk through it many times a day.

Secondly is the lounge room in Winter. It’s flooded with warm sunlight in the afternoon. A favorite place to sit is in the saucer chair in the window reading a book or just daydreaming and looking at the coastline out the window.


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It’s Danielle from Stitchface


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Today we are visiting the cozy and creative home of Danielle, who I have had the pleasure of getting to know over the last several months, through her plush animal shop Stitchface. Danielle is currently an intern for a nonprofit organization, where she helps pair professional writers up with students and schools. In her free time, she creates the most adorable, eco-friendly toys that are sure to capture the hearts of the young and the young at heart. Hope you enjoy the tour…

1. You live in Toronto, Ontario. In what kind of home do you live and with whom?

I live in a flat in the upper level of an old two-story century home in downtown Toronto. I share my home with my fabulous partner Mike and we've lived here for around 6 months. We live in an older neighborhood in the city called the Annex that has lots of great places to eat, shop and explore.

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2. You use vintage fabrics to create your plush animals and I see that you have many vintage pieces in your home as well. How does your work for Stitchface inspire the way you decorate your home and vice versa?
I think I've always been attracted to vintage and thrift store finds. I love things that have had a story long before I got to them. I also enjoy making unloved items and materials useful again. We have many items in our apartment that have been salvaged from the curbside and with a little TLC they have become really cool pieces in our home. It's the same with the fabrics I rescue from thrift stores and make into new Stitchface creatures. The recycler in me gets super excited when the hidden potential in these discarded items is revealed.
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3. The gray blue wall color that runs through much of your home provides a neutral backdrop for pops of color. I have to ask you about this couch. Where did you find it and what drew you to it initially?
The orange couch is definitely one of my favorite pieces. It was actually given to me by my mother and it has been passed down from my great grandmother. The chair was never really used by my mom but I was always drawn to how ornate and grand it looked. It sat in my mother's basement for years and I begged her to keep it for me until I had a place I could put it in. As a university student, I moved all the time (I figured out that in the past 6 years I've had over 10 addresses) so it wasn't until I moved to Toronto after finishing a second degree that I finally felt I was ready to settle into a place for a while and take the chair. It definitely needed some help so Mike and I learned how to reupholster from books taken from the library and covered it in the orange fabric on it now. It's loud and proud but makes a fun addition to our little home. The neutral painted walls are essential to accommodating the loud and colorful pieces like the chair. If the walls were as colorful as some of the things in my home it would be completely overwhelming.
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4. I love how you have chosen to display a cluster of small treasures and artwork in these empty frames. What is you favorite thing to collect? Any particular item that you are obsessed with?
I am really into collecting vintage doilies, needlecraft and hand finished textiles at the moment. It's definitely an addiction. Some of the fabrics I collect make their way into Stitchface creations, but most of the hand stitched fabrics I find I love too much to alter. As someone who sews, I really appreciate the amount of work and detail that goes into handmade needlecraft and I buy vintage hand sewn pieces it whenever I find it. I have a few on display in my home but I have many more tucked away waiting for the day when I can devote the time to creating a great display for them.
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5. The airplane wall mural over your bed is an unexpected addition to an adult bedroom. How did you come up with such a playful solution for this large wall?
I think that the decor in our home is anything but serious so when choosing how to decorate the bedroom I wanted something fun. The two of us are really just big kids- I mean I spend my free time making toys. The planes are vinyl wall decals which are amazing for people who live in rented spaces because they are removable and leave no marks when you leave. They are also are a nice affordable option for a big wall until we can make the investment in a large art piece.
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6.You sew all of your Stitchface pieces from your sewing machine at home. When do you find the time to make these friendly critters and what part of the house do you typically work in?
I work best in the mornings- I put on some music, drink my coffee and sew away.  My kitchen table works overtime as my work station but often I'll sit in my living room to cut out bodies and hand sew details while watching movies with my sweetie (which drives him crazy because then I have a million questions about what's going on- I love you Mike!). In my last apartment I had a workroom and I desperately miss it. Now I have to be much more diligent in keeping the mess to a minimum which means constant cleanup. Less space is the compromise you make to live in a nifty urban neighborhood- sigh.
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7. In various places around your house, there are small animal figurines. And your plush line is comprised completely of animals as well (foxes, bears, cats, bunnies, and beavers). Would your describe yourself as an animal lover? And what is your favorite animal to make for Stitchface?
My home decor and Stitchface are definitely influenced by my love of animals. I grew up in a rural area and we always had pets ranging from rats to cats to dogs so I was always surrounded with animals. I try to not let my home get completely overrun by cute animal memorabilia though- I do live with a man and he keeps our house from turning into a shrine to all things cute. I really, really want to get a dog but Stitchface trumps pet ownership for the time being. A space like ours is just not big enough for both my sewing operation and a furry friend. I do have my surly red betta fish named Lincoln to tie me over. I just wish it was easier to give him hugs though.
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8. You have lots of spices lined up in your kitchen, which is usually a sign that somebody likes to cook. Who is the cook in your household and what is your favorite thing to make on a cold winter evening?
My boyfriend and I swap cooking duties but will often cook together. We've perfected the dance of two people working in a tiny kitchen after many years of living in apartments without a large cooking workspace. I think that our favorite thing to make in the cold Canadian winters are definitely soups and stews- they are wonderfully easy to prepare and always end up tasting fabulous. Top that meal off with some homemade scones and you forget the frigid, snowy outdoors. Yum!
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9. Having an outdoor space is great for entertaining guests, in the summer time especially. When you throw a party, what room do your guests tend to gravitate toward?
This summer our little deck has been amazing for entertaining and we use it all the time. In a small space like ours having an outdoor room is such a luxury. We live in a fairly busy part of Toronto so people love the green outdoor space- it's really quiet and sheltered from the noise street we live on which is the biggest bonus. In the winter, my living room gets the most use for entertaining because it definitely feels cozy and comfortable- just what you want on a cold winter evening.
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10. Everything has its place in your home, which keeps the clutter to a minimum, but living in a small space can be challenging at times. What advice or space-saving tips do you have for those that are living in tight quarters?
Saving space in my home is definitely an ongoing pursuit for me.  Because my home is limited on closet space, most of my storage spaces are out in the open. In my house I wear my crafty badge with pride and have lots of my supplies out on display- this requires lots of organization and creativity but is necessary if you're like me and have a home bursting with craft paraphernalia. Antique suitcases, baskets and an old radio are a few of the things I have in my house that look cool and provide places to hide functional and not so pretty items.
 
I don't think our home really follows a lot of small space rules. We have lots of color and confusion but it ends up working anyway. It's full of things I love and despite everything going on in it, guests always feel at home here. Small space living isn't for everyone but if you're flexible, creative and a little quirky you'll be just fine.
 

..Stitchface shop..

..Interview with Danielle on Etsy..

A BIG Tank You to Brittni (the new B:Kids Open House editor) for inviting Danielle to this OHT!

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