Nancy and her great organic fabric designs are no strangers to Apartment Therapy — we've previously featured her style and her approach to creating healthy materials for the modern home. A walk through her house in Austin was as amazing as expected — and I was blown away by her use of color, pattern and meaningful furnishings.
Nancy's home that she shares with her family — along with the additional 600 square foot studio in the backyard — make up a perfect example of a fun, casual, eclectic home with lots of personality and style. Not too full to the brim with items, Nancy has balanced her love of unique home accessories by only displaying the items that really mean something to her and her family. Each room in her home looks different, but she's made her whole home feel cohesive by connecting each space with a similar color palette. She mentions in her survey below that her home is often used as her test lab for Mod Green Pod designs — and with many rooms sporting the company's colorful wallpaper and fabric designs, it's fun to see how different colors and patterns can interact successfully. Full of great sunshine, lots of older home charm (the house was built in the 1930s) and a masterfully creative touch, Nancy's house has us itching to install wallpaper on all of our walls and go collect some natural wonders!
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: Whimsical and eclectic, colorful and playful, with a hint of Southern Gothic. A good friend recently noted that she appreciates my "surprising and artistic use and placement of odd objects, unconventional art, and things that other people would never think to put in their homes." She added that "everything has its place."
I grew up in a house full of antiques mixed with modern pieces, beautiful artifacts from my family's travels (I was a lucky kid who got to travel extensively in Europe and Asia — even China when it was newly open to tourists), and our odd collections (including an especially large collection of all things related to trains). Apparently, collecting — and the art of arranging one's collections — is genetic. I'm lucky to have inherited an appreciation for beautiful, strange things as well as many of the strange things themselves. I also inherited some amazing antiques that I love to pair with my own vintage and junk shop finds, many of which I have had reupholstered in my own fabric.
My house serves as Mod Green Pod's "test lab" so it's filled with my company's upholstery fabric and wallpaper. At first, I was shy about having my own designs on display in my house, but now I really love it. Most people who come in the house really love the mix of pattern and are surprised that a mix of patterns can exist without being too overwhelming.
Inspiration: The full, honest answer to that question would have to come in the form of a highly illustrated book. The list of things, people, places, songs, poems, paintings, performances and ideas that inspire me is so huge and ever-changing that I can't even try to distill it here, so maybe that should be my next major creative project! I'm sorry if that's a cop out of an answer, but it's the truth!
One of my favorite pastimes is walking while observing, photographing and collecting everyday or odd things. I take daily photographs during my wanderings and occasionally bring my found treasures home. Recent acquisitions include a deer antler from a neighborhood alley (I'm pretty sure that we don't have deer this close to downtown Austin, so someone must have discarded it), a desicated snake that had apparently died after tying itself in an inescapable knot around a tree branch (I tied a velvet ribbon to the branch and hung it on a wall), fallen birds' nests, eggshells, dead insects, 4-leaf clovers, rusty metal things, and a wooden chair that seems so wonderfully poetic because it's missing an essential piece of its seat and back.
Favorite Element: Rodney and I immediately fell in love with this old house because it is very light and airy for a depression-era bungalow, so it feels much bigger than it is. Structurally, it's in great shape and still has many of its original features from the 1930s, like the original bathroom tiles and beautiful Art Deco light fixtures in the living room and dining room. As for what I have brought to the house, my favorite element is that of story and meaning. I only keep things that have significant beauty and history (to me, at least). Examples include fascinating design history (the tulip tables, for example: I love that Saarinen said he designed the tulip pieces because he wanted to "clear up the slum of legs"); family history (a few very old fixtures that my dad salvaged from old trains, lots of great textiles and objects my mom has found on my parents' travels around the world); my history (a small collection of dolls bought from Seminole Indians when I was a child growing up in North Florida, and photos galore); my husband and kids' history (photos, artwork, collections from walks and travels); natural history (lots of butterflies, birds' nests, eggshells, seashells, fossils, interesting vines, and a huge bowl of sharks' teeth found by my mom and me); and imagined history (I love to imagine the history of funny things I find at junk shops and garage sales).
Biggest Challenge: Even though our house is a great size for our family, we only have two bedrooms, so our 9-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son share a room. We plan to add a second floor for a master suite, but for now, we have to make do with the space we have. I installed Mod Green Pod's Delight wallpaper, in a gender-neutral turquoise and grey, after having a built-in bookshelf, drawer unit and window seat added (it's identical to the one in our library; both were built by an amazing Austin carpenter).
What Friends Say: I love having friends over, especially at night for drinks and dinner and long conversations. Friends seem to love looking around at the odd collections of things we have throughout the house because everything is a conversation starter. I especially love when kids come by; I hear lots of questions like, "Why do you have a dead moth in this little bowl?" Then I get to pull out a magnifying glass and point out how beautiful the moth's wings are, or have an interesting conversation about flying or death or whatever that child might think about. I hope that my house inspires my own kids' imaginations, or maybe it's just their "normal."
Biggest Embarrassment: Definitely our front yard. I designed our back yard (it was installed by Austin's Bio-Gardener and have grand plans for the front, but I can never seem to get around to the project. It is pretty overgrown, weedy and neglected and it must be surprising to new visitors that the inside of the house doesn't match what they see when they're walking to the front door.
Proudest DIY: This doesn't really count as DIY because I didn't actually upholster the furniture or hang the wallpaper, but I am very proud to have my own designs on so much of my furniture and walls. I'm more proud that I have worked, along with my business partners and manufacturers, to make the fabric and wallpaper home-healthy and eco-friendly and in the United States. I like being able to sleep at night knowing that I've manufactured something in an as ethical way as I can make it and that Mod Green Pod has had some amount of influence on the textile industry.
Biggest Indulgence: It's probably the amount of time I spend arranging the various tableaux all over my house, even though I think it's productive to find inspiration in thinking about the stories that each and every item or arrangement holds.
Best advice: Make your home fun and enjoyable. I think too many people take home decorating too seriously, then they don't understand why they can't find inspiration or comfort in their spaces. Surround yourself with things that you really love and don't worry that the next person might not think they are beautiful or useful.
Be bold with color, but work to tie colors together by using a related palette throughout the house. In my house, the consistent palette is white, grey, black, fuchsia and crimson. Those 4 colors can be found in each and every room, in varying amounts, and combined with other accent colors.
If you want to do one wonderfully transformative thing for your home, HANG WALLPAPER in a room or two! Wallpaper can make a space feel magical. But try to stick with non-vinyl wallpaper for the sake of clean air in your home (and for obvious environmental reasons).
Dream source: Earlier this year, I collaborated with a friend on a photo-text project that resulted in a series of wooden blocks that tell different stories depending on how the viewer arranges the blocks then interprets the arrangement of images and (you can see them in the photo of the top of my piano in the butterfly wallpaper room). Working with someone else on an artistic endeavor made me think about my own creative process in a new way and it was highly motivating. My dream is to collaborate on a wide variety of projects with all of the amazing, inspiring creative people I know and to fill my house with the products of our joint work.
- The upholstered pieces are vintage, covered in Mod Green Pod's organic cotton fabric. The pieces were upholstered by local favorites Spruce and Under Cover. The sofa is covered in Mod Green Pod's Aspire pattern, the butterfly-backed mid-century chair is covered in Mod Green Pod's Atticus pattern in a custom grey color, and the tufted armchair is in a new pattern we expect in early 2011 Anticipate (it's currently available as a custom print).
- 19th Century wrought iron and bent wood theater chairs are from an Austin antique shop (no longer in biz).
- Coffee table: Herman Miller Eames Elliptical Table
- Side table 1: Knoll Saarinen Side Table
- Side table 2: vintage Heywood-Wakefield from my family
- Tall side table by the door: 19th century piece from my family
LIBRARY (Butterfly Room)
- The upholstered window seat cushion is covered in Mod Green Pod's Butterfly Jubilee and the vintage chair and ottoman are covered in Mod Green Pod's Grand Jubilee.
- Side chair is Eames' Molded Plywood Lounge Chair (LCW)
- Wicker rocking chair is a Victorian piece from my family with a Mod Green Pod Wee Jubilee covered cushion.
- Bookshelf and window seat were custom built.
- Cherry Danish sideboard from Scandinavia Contemporary Interiors in Austin
- Pine dining table is IKEA. I can be critical of IKEA, but I have deemed this $99 table a family heirloom. My husband and I bought it when we first moved to LA in 1996 and it has been lovingly used as a workbench, desk, sewing table, kids' arts and crafts table, and dining table for many gatherings of friends and family. It cracks me up how many people pause to admire it.
- Dining chairs are Knoll Bertoia Side Chairs
- The tiny school desk is an antique I had in my room growing up
- The wooden chair missing essential parts is one I recently found in an alley. I dearly love it.
- Knoll Saarinen Dining Table
- dining chairs are Eames Molded Plastic Side Chairs
Mostly vintage, lots of things handed down from generations of my family, other items found at garage sales and vintage shops (I adore Room Service in my neighborhood or picked up on walks or travels (my own or my family's). My mom and dad have been very generous with their own collections and travels and are constantly bringing me things that they know I will love.
TILES & STONE
The tile in our bathrooms is original to the house, from the late 1930s.
Original to the house, or vintage, with the exception of the Tord Boontje Garland lamp in our dining room.
PAINT & COLORS
I burned out on colored, painted walls in my last house, so when we moved here, we painted every single wall in the house and garage apartment WHITE. Clean slate. A few years ago, I hung Mod Green Pod's Butterfly Jubilee wallpaper in the library next to our living room and it was amazing how it transformed a boring room that no one ever visited into our most popular room to hang out in. Installing that wallpaper was the #1 best design decision in the entire house.
At some point, I decided that with all of the white walls, I needed one dark room, so I chose a dark charcoal grey for the dining room. I can't remember the exact shade, but I used Benjamin Moore's Zero-VOC Natura paint. I love how many zero VOC paints are on the market now, and in the future, I plan to support some of the independent brands like Mythic.
RUGS & CARPETS
Natural wool rug in the library is from Scandinavia Contemporary Interiors in Austin. Other than that, we are rug-free, but I have my eye on a few eco-friendly rugs at Merida.
The wonderful portrait of my kids over the fireplace in the living room is by my incredibly talented friend Elizabeth Chapin. I love that she made the background her own beautiful interpretation of my Butterfly Jubilee wallpaper. I also cherish a couple of posters by my friend Noel Waggener. Rodney and I both hail from the Deep South and have been collecting Southern folk art by Howard Finster, Mose T. and Jimmy Lee Sudduth, among others, since we met. We have visited many folk artists and their homes in Georgia and Alabama and we've also bought a few pieces from Austin's Yard Dog. We also have an eclectic collection of photos, including prints by Bill Lundberg, David Byrne, and Henri Cartier-Bresson, plus vintage found photos and several that I have taken over the years. I also have a couple of beautiful paintings by my aunt, Nancy Mims Hartsfield a painter in Alabama. Another favorite painting is one that my dad painted when he was in grammar school.
One of my most cherished items in the whole house is the hanging sculpture in my living room. My brother made it from a piano he found and it represents a piano teacher we both went to as kids. (She wasn't a very nice person; I have some crazy stories.) The welded metal piece below it is one I made when I was first learning to weld in a college sculpture class.The professor in that class, Bill Noland, was highly influential on how I see and think, so it's become a representation of what his teaching means to me.
We have a wall in the kitchen that is my kids' art salon. It's a floor-to-ceiling rotating display of the magical things they create. Oh, there are so many more things that I could list, but I'll stop there!
Images: Adrienne Breaux; 4, 17, 18, 24, 27, 28 and 44 Nancy Mims
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