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Home is where the start is…

by habituallychic

03 . 24 . 09

As most of you can probably tell, I’m a very curious person. I always love to hear the story of how someone became the person that they are today and I especially love to hear about how their childhood influenced them in their future choice of careers. I’ve been reading a lot of books lately and interviewing designers and so many of them tell similar stories. Many were fascinated by the design process when a designer was working on their house growing up. Thad Hayes used to sit in on all the meetings with the decorator his mother hired didn’t even know you could make a living at it until then. Others as young children used to rearrange all the furniture and pick out the paint colors for their room. At fourteen, David Netto upholstered his entire room in green velvet. Some followed their parents to flea markets and tag sales like Albert Hadley who used to go antiquing with his mother and aunts. I remember my mother wallpapering our living room many times so it’s no wonder where I ended up in design.

Now it’s your turn. How do you think your childhood influenced your career path? Did sewing clothes for your dolls lead you to pursue fashion design? Were you also redecorating your room growing up and now decorating for clients? I’m curious!

Photo of Janet de Botton’s home in Vogue Living: Houses, Gardens, People via {this is glamorous} has nothing to do with this story except that I thought it was very pretty!

Comments Closed

  1. Anonymous March 24, 2009 | 2:42 am

    I always loved to spend lots of time in my room, it was my sanctuary. My parents bought me the most beautiful dollhouse and all I wanted to do was wallpaper it and buy furniture to fill up the rooms. I had to make it just perfect.
    I would rearrange my room at least every couple weeks, then I started rearranging other rooms in my families home. When I would go over friends homes I would rearrange their rooms too. When I became old enough I started painting my room and trying as many combinations as possible…I was obsessed.
    My mother had really good taste, and would tell me her honest opinion always.

  2. royalapothic March 24, 2009 | 4:12 am

    Since I was little, I was always captivated with scent. My mother remembers taking us to play in the garden near our home in London, and I would get a smell in my nose and follow it like a dog! She always hoped I would find a way to marry that creative side with the business side that emerged in school!

  3. eeb March 24, 2009 | 4:48 am

    Oh, absolutely. As a kid I “wallpapered” my room with magazine ads and a stapler. Rearranging my room was as good as Christmas.

  4. gatherings home March 24, 2009 | 4:49 am

    The way my childhood led me down the path to where I am isn’t exactly a typical story. I grew up with a mother and father who seemed disinterested. And as I grew older into my teenage years I suffered verbal abuse from both parents. I moved out of my parents home as a teenager and worked any job I could to avoid going back. I think some of the residual effects on children who have suffered abuse is a sense of being lesser than. I couldn’t tell you when, but I felt an intense need to validate my self worth. I landed a job working for a large U.S. clothing retailer in management. After many years and many floor sets I found my passion was in the display work and ended up working my way up the corporate ladder, becoming a senior merchandiser developing displays for the companies flagship stores. It has been many years since and many forks in the road, and I am now the proud owner of my own interior boutique. Had I not perhaps had the experience as a child of my parents indifference, as painful as it might have been, I am not sure I would be the strong woman, and loving mother, I am today.

  5. Brillante Home Decor March 24, 2009 | 5:37 am

    I did not think much about decorating as a kid but my father was always coming home with new paintings, furniture, objects d’art, my mother was a decorator at heart and supervised efficiently every renovation with great taste, my sister, much older than me, should have been an architect or an interior designer, she has the most beautiful houses…so I believe I just absorbed all their talents. We never had any decorators around and I was always surprised when someone hired one…Well…I am certainly glad now when people hire me!

  6. liz March 24, 2009 | 8:20 am

    Oh yes and as the daughter of an architect – living in the never finished architect’s folly – I was destined to become wife of architect. And to live in an ongoing work of genius….

  7. Blushing hostess March 24, 2009 | 9:11 am

    Great question. I went to law school, working all the while for a paramedic service. But I lived next door to one of the founders of Tobe Review when growing up (so inspiring). I learned to sew and knit from my family when I was little. In the end, when I went to work for Donna Karan while still in law school, the things I learned first were the things which served me best; skills labeled “domestic”. My Father worried that interest in these areas would keep me from truly excelling in the world as they were from another time. But they, more than anything else, propelled me to the youngest executive positions held in three major brands. No one who worked for me in sourcing or merch knew how the factoies put a hem in, let alone a placket and how much money that time costs… more competitive, not less…

  8. beulahdesigns March 24, 2009 | 11:40 am

    my parents used to drag me around from antique shop to antique shop on the weekends…which at the time, i HATED. who wants peoples old crap? which is hysterical now, because my very favorite thing to do in the whole world is discover the most hidden, junkiest antique/thrift shop and spend hours scouring for hidden treasures! my dad used to say i’d understand it all one day and he was right! i hope to turn it into a “career” one day, by opening a lovely antique shop myself…i hope that doesn’t mean i’m turning into my parents!

  9. Francine gardner March 24, 2009 | 11:49 am

    As a child, i was a tomboy, always climbing trees, building tree houses, collecting rocks..all the things i took for granted then, beautiful gardens surrounding our house in France, old castles, medieval churches, endless views of vineyards, well lived furniture, have become my staples in furniture and interior designs. I find beauty in an old industrial piece,some petrified wood found while walking in the forests in burma…I collect textures…unwanted objects which I display next to beautiful artwork..

  10. Room Service ~ Decorating 101 March 24, 2009 | 12:21 pm

    I love this post and will return to read the other comments to come. I do not know where my love for interior design came from. I almost have to believe from another life…I was born to a 16 year old child who had 3 by the time she was 20. To say we were poor is a understatement. We lived in a trailer in a trailer park and my first memory of design was swinging on the play ground with my eyes closed , face turned up to the sun…I saw the colors as did all the other kids, but mine made beautiful rooms in great detail! I had never seen rooms like these before…When we moved up to a double wide trailer I got my first room of my own and changed it daily. But at the age of 21 I designed my first and only home, I have been working in a small town for about 15 years in the design business. I don’t get alot of work because people around here don’t hire designers , but I stay busy enough to stay happy. Thanks

  11. Anonymous March 24, 2009 | 12:23 pm

    When I was about 10, one Sunday morning after it had snowed, I covered the walls of my bedroom in aluminum foil. The intire room! It was so bright it was fantastic. When my mother came into the room she almost died, but praised me that I was so creative.

  12. little augury March 24, 2009 | 12:32 pm

    A great question!My grandmother sewed pink floral curtains and added shutters in my first room- I remember that little room in detail.Then, My parents built a house,living with it on paper-on the dining room table for about a year before starting, I still have the floor plans I drew for it age 9. My room in the new house HAD to be “firefly yellow” which my mom and I could never get a handle on-to this day-I shy away from Yellows. Tell us about yours. G.

  13. Sam March 24, 2009 | 12:59 pm

    What a beautiful photo…. Really lovely.

  14. Leslie Rowlands March 24, 2009 | 1:11 pm

    I will need to pick this one up….I like the beds set into the wall alcove …….a little formal, but I could tone it down for my liking & I have thought of this idea in my master.
    Thanks for the inspiration!
    lamaisonfou blog

  15. GardenDesigner March 24, 2009 | 1:22 pm

    I too, Loved reading all the comments here!

    I am the oldest of four girls in my family.. No brothers. My father always had me outside to help him with the gardening, which he and my grandmother loved. At age 9, My sisters were all inside learning how to cook, launder, sew and clean… and I was outside dividing Hostas, and planting my own Garden! We would often work until after dark, as the entire yard had beautiful outdoor lighting.. it really was magical! My sisters were always jealous that I got to be out side,( But I still can’t cook to this day! LOL)

    I believe our childhoods have an enormous connection to our Loves and Life’s..I wish more parents would make that realization earlier in a positive way!

    I Still live and breath Garden Design obsessively!
    We are all so lucky to have our Paths!
    Thanks for a great Blog as usual!

    The Rhinestone Contessa

  16. Linda/"Mom" March 24, 2009 | 1:46 pm

    *Not being a “pro”, MY “story” probably wouldn’t be interesting, but I MUST say the space you’ve highlighted here truly “speaks” to me… and I LIKE what it says! Many thanks! Linda *

  17. Alice Olive March 24, 2009 | 2:13 pm

    Definitely. I’ve been taking photos since forever and my style hasn’t changed so much, I’ve just honed it! I had a cheap little plastic camera as a child and took it everywhere. My parents encouraged it too – like other people have said here and I’m glad they did that. Most of our family holidays (nothing glamorous) were documented by me! Now, taking some time out with my grown-up camera is still an important activity for me. I take solace in it and feel that ‘all’s right with the world’ after spending some quality time with my camera.

  18. pve design March 24, 2009 | 3:03 pm

    Yes, of course, childhood plays a role in shaping our future. I always loved drawing, arranging and dressmaker or custom details. I still do. I somehow seem to gravitate towards people who love the same- and honoring the artistic side, the creative side of life.
    It truly keeps me going.

  19. Susan's Snippets March 24, 2009 | 3:06 pm

    HC –

    Here it is…I am the second eldest of eight children – raised in a Midwestern blue collar family – my mother paid all the bills first and we survived on what was left. So we had the bare necessities, which left me longing for the nice things that I saw in friend’s homes and what I could peek in at while being driven past houses at night.

    I worked hard (since I was 14), supported myself and over time developed my eye for decorating/design.

    Although I do not work in that field as my career (which is law) – I have decorated my homes and continuously consult (at no cost) for family and friends about colors and placement.

    I have found that I feel more comfortable when I spend substantial time in a space – allowing me to see it in different light thus acquiring a feel for the room and the owner(s).

    I am known for my boldness with colors and interest in and collections of emerging art.

    self taught not book smart

  20. Anonymous March 24, 2009 | 3:39 pm

    I grew up in Catholic school and in the 7th or 8th grade there was a boy that sat in front of me: Jeff, the most handsome of boys. He would turn around in his seat and ask me to draw pictures of half naked women on sheets of paper which he would then share with the other boys in the class during recess.
    I had no idea at the time that this short career in drawing soft porn would eventually lead to my being an artist (not porn)
    thanks, Jeff.

  21. Ty March 24, 2009 | 4:24 pm

    As a child I wasn’t allowed to do anything, even decorate my own room, which I spent many hours in. While I was there I would imagine all the things I would do to make my room look better and feel more comfortable. I guess that’s where I get my love for interiors from, always looking to create a space of my own.

  22. Rowena March 24, 2009 | 7:41 pm

    My mother had a collection of vintage Architectural Digest that I loved to look at. My mother loved curtains, bedlinen and creating a comfortable home. She had a collection of pretty dishes, we ate on white dishes with gold trim and used hand-embroidered table napkins. Our hardwood floor was so well polished you could see your reflection in it! We had a white dining table and chairs that were slipcovered, and she reupholstered our L-shaped couch in white leather. And she had 4 kids. And she let us use the white dining table to play ping-pong. My mother was so cool!

  23. Rowena March 24, 2009 | 9:14 pm

    And I realize that my comment above did not perfectly answer HC’s question as I so busily gushed about my mother — I’m a lawyer (my mother encouraged that too) but have always fantasized that my second career would be in interior design. Needless to say that my mother’s interests have greatly influenced the way I have created my own home, and interior design, and HC’s ever-beautiful website is my “escape” to a different kind of creative life.

  24. Posh Pagoda March 24, 2009 | 9:15 pm

    I think I’m somewhat obsessed with decor and creating a beautiful home because I had such a bad childhood. My mother was extremely abusive and my father indifferent and always working. We were never given praise or gifts. Ever. I admired so much the homes of my peers and as we were not allowed to “have” things, I spent many many days at our local library reading books and magazines over & over again. I would fantasize about living in the homes that I saw in the magazines and vowed that I would have a place I was proud of and one that I “did” up myself. And I do.

  25. Leonie March 24, 2009 | 10:52 pm

    I grew up rearranging my room maybe once a week! I was always changing things and finding a ‘new’ and better way for my private living space. When our house was repainted when I was 16, i was allowed to choose my bedroom colour. After I suggested a deep peacock blue with pink accents however, my dad changed his mind and I ended up with pale lavender walls! For as long as I can remember I’ve been doodling little house plans and still can’t wait to have my own home to decorate!
    I’m still young in the industry but have high hopes of working with some great designers!
    Great post Habitually Chic!

  26. Colour Me Happy March 24, 2009 | 10:56 pm

    I didn’t realize until I was in my late teens that design was my thing. Although I do have a distinct memory of hanging wallpaper in my bedroom and realizing I should have matched the paint colour (that went on the rest of the walls) to the background of the wallpaper, not the flower in the paper, which is what I did.

    I did not realize my niche would be colour though, until I wrote my first ad for the yellow pages when I started my first design company and wrote “Expert Colour Consultation”. That’s when I realized I better get trained to be an expert and it was not long after that when I discovered colour was the world I wanted to swim in.

    Thanks for the thought provoking post 🙂

  27. Dominus Bostonia March 24, 2009 | 11:16 pm

    The Ralph Lauren Mansion for sure. Mom first took me there when I was 6 and I was absolutely captivated. I don’t think I’ve missed a season since!

  28. Rose C'est La Vie March 25, 2009 | 12:48 am

    When I was about eight, my mother showed me a wallpaper book and asked me what I thought would suit a particular room in my grandparents’ house. (I don’t know why they weren’t choosing it themselves?) I instantly picked a design and was thrilled when they used it. That gave me huge confidence at any early age!

  29. ArchitectDesign March 25, 2009 | 1:37 am

    My family traveled a lot and my parnets encouraged a certain curiosity. Lots of museums, house museums, walks around great neighborhoods -all over the world. Travel is the most important thing for a child!!!

  30. sharon taylor March 25, 2009 | 2:30 pm

    My mom oozed creativity, aesthetic and passion in everything she did. She was an artist, and mother of nine children. Today would’ve been her 69th birthday.
    Growing up, I remember her painting murals on the walls and setting up gypsy carnivals in the back yard. Gifts were always hand made. Money was tight, so we never travelled…but her resourcefulness and imagination gave us a richly colored childhood to draw upon for our own careers.
    Her legacy is living on today. I’m a designer, my other siblings… Julie Blackmon, a fine art photographer, Rosie Winstead, an author/illustrator of children’s books, and Millie Johnson, a seamstress, and designer of clothing and dolls. All the rest of my siblings absorbed her amazing talents as well. THANKS Mom. You are greatly missed.

  31. jes March 25, 2009 | 6:25 pm

    I used to look through stacks of house plan books my mother and her friends liked to buy. You know like Southern Living home plans or something to that effect. I was already keen on drawing as a child, and with those magazines I started drawing my own crude plans on graph paper. I’d connect square after square and label them “mud room”, “kitchen”, “breakfast nook”. My mom saved them along with a lot of other childhood art. I eventually started taking private art lessons and continued through high school. Two years ago I completed my degree in interior design, and am so happy to have those old graph paper plans to look back on!

  32. Dobbygirl March 25, 2009 | 6:34 pm

    I certainly think I was meant to be in some creative field. How I became a Textile Designer, I don’t know, I fell into it. I grew up thinking that I would be a fashion designer, my life revolved around clothes and magazines and sketching, but once I started taking apparel classes in college I found out it just wasn’t for me. So I took some textile design classes and it kind of stuck. Of course I’m not even designing fabrics for apparel – my true love is Hospitality fabrics. Who knew? Funny how it evolves… I love your blog!!


  33. Anonymous March 25, 2009 | 8:54 pm

    I loved re-arranging my room when I was younger. I’d be bored on a Friday night if I didn’t have plans or a Saturday morning and just re-arrange everything in my room. I loved doing that. I’d get really bored with the way things were and re-arrange everything differently. Some of my best memories were getting up on Saturday mornings and going downstairs and my mom and dad had opened all the windows in the living room on a brisk sunny spring day and they were cleaning and vacuuming and the house smelled like Windex or pine sol and it made me so excited for the day when I had a house to clean. MY house.

    My mom says I was always adamant about how to decorate my room. I picked out everything. Of course she helped, but I always had an idea of what MY ROOM was going to look like. I went from an all pink room with an awesome bunk bed my dad made me that I loved when I was little, to a forest green room with dark plaid comforter and matching bed skirt and matching plaid and burgundy curtains. Then I decided I was tired of that and painted my room lime green with white duvet cover, bamboo blinds and natural pine furniture. I always crave drastic change when I get bored.

    I also remember CONSTANTLY re-arranging my doll house. My sister and I would play and I’d always manage to come up with a story about either my dolls just moving in or renovating just so I could re-arrange the house and the furniture.

  34. Habitually Chic March 25, 2009 | 9:05 pm

    Thanks for all the great comments! I have loved reading all your stories! This week has been crazy and I feel bad that I don’t have time to answer each of you! Maybe I can try this weekend but a few people have been asking me about my childhood and I thought I should respond.

    I remember many of the same things as everyone else. Playing with my doll house and dolls for which my mom sewed clothes. Eventually she taught me to sew and cross stitch. I would draw and paint and color all the time. My grandmother would buy me the 64 box of crayons a few times a year. I loved fashion plates and wanted to be a fashion designer for a long time. My parents were always doing craft and home projects. They stripped the old wallpaper and my dad hung up the new paper himself. My mom sewed curtains when I was little. I remember my dad working in the yard and tending to the peonies, climbing roses, forsythia, and lilies among other flowers. That’s probably why I know all the names today. Probably the biggest influence on my childhood was art and reading. They would take me to museums and buy me tons of books. I loved visiting Fallingwater and Biltmore. I don’t think I could have ended up anywhere else but a creative field!

  35. mary March 26, 2009 | 1:20 am

    Hope I am not too late for this – regardless…… I grew up in a hat shop …my grandmother was a milliner and lived with us – my mother went into business with her during the depression ( ya – the first one) so I was the child and grandchild of working women OMG !! Aside from the shop – they just had natural design sense. Mom painted and antiqued and sewed the curtains. Our old farmhouse had unbleached muslin curtains with ruffles on leading edges – cut on the bias…..how many kids these days even know what any of that means ? So I have degrees in fashion design and interior design and have come full circle…..I have been an interior designer for 35 years … and now I am making hats again (well, for the last 15 years) I was blessed to have the life I had with my mother and grandmother…..and not to forget dad – who was supportive and bursting proud of these women.

  36. mob March 27, 2009 | 11:19 am

    What is it with Lawyers? So many have chosen the wrong path.I too am a lawyer who in the perfect world would be designing interiors. As a child I painted furniture green, required black and white striped wallpaper and made my own {fake] Marimekko fabric bedspread. My mother who is now 94 paints lots of things but mainly tablescapes. She has always been very creative. I was encouraged to be a lawyer so that is what I became.My daughter is an interor designer[am I living my fantasy through her? Of courseI am]Your childhood influences your future but sometimes it points you in a direction that you wish you hadn’t taken.Give me wall paper samples over manila folders any day.