I grew up in the rolling hills of northern California, where, if you traveled four hours any direction, you could either be in the redwoods, at the beach, in the snow or in the desert. Our house was surrounded by beautiful, old, shady California Oak trees. As a little kid, my pockets were usually stuffed, full of acorns, and they often ended up in our washing machine.
All through the hills near our house were sage colored lichen; they hung down from the trees and looked just like hair blowing in the wind, if you could possibly have such a beautiful color. And, as if having all that natural beauty a short walk from our door wasn’t quite abundant enough, we also had a pond nearby—I can’t ever remember a time when I stood at its edge and didn’t see tiny leaves of mint green duckweed sitting on its calm water. Thinking about what I saw, touched and smelled everyday, makes me feel it was like growing up in Mother Nature’s outdoor buffet and getting to sample all the sensory dishes she cooked up daily.
When I think about what inspires my design work today, I know it’s 2 things: Mother Nature and my Grand-mother, Charla Vesta Culpepper. She was a real southern gal from Jackson Mississippi, it was through her, and how she designed her home, that I first saw how alive surroundings could be, and how they could really tell your story.
And the way she did it was by mixing furnishings and their specific styles. She had a traditional dining table and needle point chairs, mixed with a mid century sofa– a “davenport” as she liked to call it. Chinese nesting tables sat in her hallway, and a mahogany bar cart with silver and crystal barware in her front window. Her yard always bloomed with rich, colorful flowers—those colors were so vibrant and so different from my Northern California palette of softer hues.
Then there was her backyard…which was a large orchard and the long driveway lined with tall eucalyptus and artichoke plants. Everyday, I’d go out collecting bits and pieces of nature, which would then find their way into her house. And every evening, together, we’d set out sifting through my collections, and then use them for decorating and accessorizing. I learned so much about design from being around her. I’d see her put objects together and watch as they started to tell a very personal story: our story, in her house at that specific time.
She helped me understand how to create meaningful stories for my clients with beautiful style, and with touches of nature. And while I honed my eye in advertising and television, print and fashion, I was never far from knowing what I was really meant to do, what I was drawn towards from my Northern California childhood, and my Southern Mississippi heritage; it’s always been interior design.
The homes I create in my design practice are a blend of traditional, with its rich sense of history and story, and then modernized with clean lines and elegantly infused inspirations from nature. I carry this design mixture throughout the homes of my clients, so they feel warm, calm and connected in their lives.