How were your strengths nurtured early on?
Growing up, I spent many hours with my grandmother. She was a Southern lady with talents galore—constantly decorating her beautiful home or finding a reason to throw a fabulous dinner party. While my sisters and cousins were outdoors playing, I was studying Grandma’s every move: working alongside her in the kitchen; cutting flowers from her garden to arrange centerpieces; setting her table with her finest china, silver, and crystal. I was about six or seven when she began letting me do these things on my own. She gave me the freedom to express myself at such a young age.
I understand that your mother encouraged your development also.
She was my biggest fan. I began styling my birthday celebrations by the time I was eight and was also in charge of wrapping all Christmas presents. I never had a Barbie house, and didn’t want one. I laid out floor plans, used my parents’ record albums covered in fabric scraps or giftwrap to fashion walls, and crafted furniture with anything I could find. Every once in a while, my mom would drive me into town to purchase air ferns from our local nursery so my dolls would have fresh plants.
What does loveliness mean to your life today?
Everything. Beauty is everywhere and in great abundance. It’s taking the time to enjoy it that is the challenge in our daily lives. It’s about not just taking a Sunday drive but pulling over, getting out of the car, and exploring the random places along the way.
How does this appreciation for everyday pleasures apply to your decorating?
Simple luxuries, such as a branch of apple blossoms or fresh white cotton sheets, are my diamonds and pearls. They make my heart dance. Little things, like fluffing my pillows, thrill me.
Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere—at the ocean, in the colors of a bud, in conversation with my daughters. Creativity is an extension of beauty for me. I find so much joy in photographing or painting that single rose flourishing outside my bedroom window.
How do you bring natural elements into your interiors?
Even if it is a cutting of maple boughs from my front yard, I consistently have flowers. The thought of giving a living thing another purpose makes me happy. It’s not uncommon for me to rearrange my entire home based on the hues in a bouquet or even in a single bloom—especially during peony season.
How do you play with pattern?
I would describe my aesthetic as classic but with a twist. I love bold pattern in small doses—black-and-white stripes are always at the top of my list. But I tend to keep my large-scale upholstered pieces neutral so I can easily dress them up or down.
What is your approach to accessorizing?
I am a bit of a minimalist. Rooms need a place for the eyes to rest. My favorite quote is from the Harrison Ford movie Sabrina. At one point in the film, she is photographing his character’s residence on Martha’s Vineyard. He instructs her to shoot every little thing and from every angle. She finally stops him and says, “Sometimes more isn’t better, Linus. It’s just more.” This is my philosophy. If something is taking up space in my home, it needs to have a reason or a story.
How does this apply to your collections?
A perfect example would be my white pottery. I took up collecting during my travels about ten years ago. When we go somewhere new, I search for a piece. It may cost $12; it may cost $200. The price doesn’t matter. Each vessel serves as a reminder of where I have been and what I have done. And I know that it will be used and displayed.
What have you learned in the process of building your business?
I used to feel I had to choose one facet of creativity and make that my focus. I am not just an interior designer, event stylist, photographer, or floral designer. I am all of these and then some. Happy Pretty allows me to bring everything under one roof. Another important lesson is not to apologize for who I am or for the way I see the world. And I believe this world is a beautiful place.
Text Melissa Lester
Photography Melanie Marshall
Read more about Melanie Marshall, one of seven talented women recognized for turning passion into profits, in our January/February 2017 issue.