You were so successful on Wall Street. What turned your pretty little head to design?
It was definitely the other half of the brain screaming to “get out.” My creative side was saying, “don’t forget about me!”
When you began your design practice, your style was fairly “British.” What influenced that early passion?
It was being from Virginia. I am a native of Richmond, and Virginia is very much that “Williamsburg/brown furniture/horse country” feel. Don’t forget that Nancy Lancaster was from Virginia; she was probably as responsible for the English country look to the English formality as John Fowler. You’d walk into a house and it was always dogs, baskets of logs, a drinks table and books. The flowers came out of the garden.
You now have influences in your design that are global. What led to the transformation of the brand?
You grow up. You evolve, you absorb and you are exposed to things. Travel is critical. I am always traveling and shopping for clients because I love history and gardens. It is in a large measure a natural-born curiosity that pushed me to explore. It happens in a couple of ways. I explore by what I call armchair travel, reading, or the real thing. I always give examples in my lectures. You want people to be wowed in a lecture but there is so much to see in the next town, and so much our own country has to offer.
You are now an icon of design. Was that your long-term plan or can we still knock you over with a feather?
Holy mackerel. I don’t think you ever have those grandiose ideas when you start out in business. I just wanted to survive. I wanted to be good and then I wanted to be better—and you never think about any of that other stuff like icon status or awards. You do your job and do it well. In the South, you don’t talk about money or accolades.
You’ve written seven books…and counting. Do you ever sleep?
I love my sleep and I hug my pillow with gusto. You can’t do anything well if you are not refreshed. Arianna Huffington gave a great talk at the TED Conference on the topic of sleep and everyone should listen to it. Go and Google it.
What’s next on your busy agenda? Can we have a peek at your to-do list?
Working on my garden big time. Working on book number eight; it will be out in 2012. Finishing a fabric collection to launch in the fall from Fabricut. Working on some murals for Stark. Doing preliminary sketches for a furniture collection.
We are loving blue-and-white in decorating. How about you?
I love it. Sapphires and pearls.
Do you enjoy coming back down South?
I lived in Atlanta when I was first married and met great people and had great fun. Atlantans all have this great joie! I am always excited about coming south. Southerners love their houses and their gardens. They are kindred spirits.