Julia's Interview: Romantic Tomboy

Julia's Interview: Romantic Tomboy

Julia Brenner
Aug 1, 2013

When I heard we were doing a month-long style cure in which we make over a room I jumped (and clapping may have been involved too) at the chance to participate. My dining room is the target of my operation and my goal is big. I'm planning a complete overhaul, including painting, DIY-ing, thrifting, splurging, removing and reconfiguring. I'm a little nervous, but mostly I'm excited, and very glad we're doing this in small steps.   

Style Cure – Day 1 – Interview 

Style Cure Interview Questions:

*I found answering No 1 difficult because I love so many writers, artists, etc. I'm sure this has likely translated to some lack of focus in other areas, such as design decisions. So here's my shot at focusing...

1. List your favorites in each category:

- Actor: Alec Guinness, Alain Delon, Robert De Niro, Cary Grant (he's just so fun to watch).  

- Actress: I love the Hepburns (Katherine & Audrey) and Julie Christie.  

- Artist: I strongly connect to the work of Richard Diebenkorn, Maya Lin, and Mark Rothko.  

- Writer: F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, ee cummings are always running through my head.   

- Music: I just can’t answer this one. I am a music junkie.  

- Restaurant: La Giostra in Florence and Schwa in Chicago

- Automobile: Hm, I guess a classic Mercedes Benz coupe from the late 60s or early 70s.  

- Movie: Very influential on  Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Goddard’s Day for Night, and Bringing up Baby. I first saw these as a teen and I think they played a role in my lifelong fascination with classic vintage cool. Royal Tenenbaums, Purple Noon, and Amelie were favorites in my early 20s.  

- Television Show: Mad Men, Faulty Towers...The Blue Planet BBC series narrated by Sir David Attenborough. My son and I have both developed a fascination with sea life after watching this series…Ok, and full disclosure here because we're all friends...Three’s Company, darn it.  

 - Clothing: A perfectly fitted raincoat. 

-  Designers: Alexander Wang, Stella McCartney 

-  Clothing stores: I don't really enjoy clothes shopping. I do like clothes...just don't love clothing boutiques. 

-  Furniture:  Art. I think because there are so many artists and so much art in my family, art has always been a central focus. If I had a choice between a painting and a chair, I think I'd buy a painting.   

-  Designers: George Nelson, Jean-Michel Frank, Lee Broom, and a twist of Erte.

-  Stores: My neighborhood haunts: Brownstone antiques, Room Service, Scout, Jayson Home  

2. Choose three words to describe your personal style:

- Minimalist

- Bold

- Tomboy 

3. Think back over all the homes you've lived in, both as a child and an adult. Which rooms would you choose as your favorites and how would you describe them?

My very favorite rooms as a child were in my grandmother’s house in Texas; a sprawling ranch house built of petrified rocks (my grandfather traded a truck load of corn for the petrified rocks that a farmer was digging up to get rid of. I remember that you could see the fossilized leaves and logs in the stones and they sparkled in the sunlight). 

The rooms in her house were breezy, open, uncluttered, and tasteful. Everything was carefully chosen, made of incredible quality, and well cared for. There was also a tailored/natural quality to her home that I loved. The walls of her study were made of real knotty pine, bookshelves filled with leather bound books…classics, encyclopedias, Sherlock Holmes mysteries. From the study, Mexican tile steps, always cool to the touch, led down to a long, sunken den at the back of the house. The den had floor-to-ceiling glass windows anchored by a massive stone fireplace that was flanked by leather chairs. I loved how these rooms were inviting but a little bit grand. The house was torn down after she died and I still miss that house and those rooms terribly. 

Favorite room from a childhood home and description:

My parents’ living room: Big, comfortable Ethan Allen couch, warmly lit, my grandfather’s paintings hanging on the walls, record player in the corner and my dad’s records. It seems like there was always music playing from the record player. 

Favorite room from an adult home and description:

My living room and the attached sun room because they are bright, filled with art and photography and a record player...eerily similar to my childhood living room. And here I thought I was such a rebel.   

4. Whom do you consider a role model?

Both of my grandmothers

What three adjectives describe the qualities that you admire in this person?

They were both…

- Strong

- Stylish

- Funny

5. Every home has areas that are "just right". Which three spots or things in your home do you feel are beautiful and feel proud of, right now, as is:

- The sun room because I love the shade of pale blue and how it lends a calming, uplifting quality to the room. 

- There’s a corner of the living room I’m proud of because it features an arching floor lamp (a new piece and one I’ve wanted for a long time) that extends over a classic black leather club chair that we found at Brown Elephant thrift store when we first moved back to Chicago. The lamp is a bold piece and the chair is a total thrift store treasure and together they make a great statement.  

- I am proud of the fact that *most* evenings, when the toys get put into their bins/cubbies, the living room looks inviting and feels calm. I want that combination in more rooms of our home.  

6. A month from now, at the end of the Style Cure, how would you like your friends to describe your home?

- Bright and welcoming

- Interesting and personal

- And if I happen to meet someone new in the next four weeks and tell them nothing about myself but do have them over to my home (which is actually pretty creepy), I would like this person to say: “What? You have two kids and two cats?! But everything’s so put together! But there’s no peanut butter stuck to your chairs! And where are all the toys?” 

Conclusion: That was fun, emotional and really helpful. Thinking about so many aspects of myself and my life has definitely helped me draw connections I hadn't thought of before. I also feel a greater responsibility to this project because I'm reminded how powerfully I remember certain spaces as a child and I'm also reminded that mood and tone are very important to me as an adult; I want my children to have strong, positive sense memories of their childhood home and I want to extend beauty and calm throughout our living space.  

(Images, clockwise from top left: 1. Day for Night film still via i heart the talkies, 2. Picture of my grandmother's house in Texas, 3. The Great Gatsby book cover via Flavorwire, 4. Cityscape 1 by Richard Diebenkorn via Wikipedia).  

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