Designer Profile: Interview with Alecia Stevens

I feel so lucky to be featuring Alecia Stevens in The Designer Series this week!  She is a woman of many talents, and has proven herself to be one of the finest designers, stylists and writers in the industry.  Alecia's work has appeared in magazines such as Metropolitan Home and Traditional Home, so when she agreed to take part in the series, I knew this would be a great post!

Without taking away from the insight Alecia shares below, I can't resist sharing her Design Philosophy (as posted on her website).  It truly epitomizes all of her talents:

"People pay me for my eyes, for what I can see. A designer will see when the scale of the lamp is wrong, when a pair of vases is better than one, when the white has too much yellow and needs more gray. We pay attention to where we need a table to put the drink or the book and how close we want to sit to another in intimate conversation. A good designer knows and sees these things."

Read on to hear more of her favourite things, top places to visit, and the biggest risk she's ever taken.

When did you know you were destined for a career in interior design? 
When I was five, I was designing clothing - especially "flapper" dresses from the 1920's - go figure. I would make my own paper doll and then trace around her simple little body (she had a page boy hair-do!) to get the basic shape of the dress, then I went to town designing the dresses with sequins, feathers, tucks and ribbons. I began to sew at eight because my very patient mother taught me to make clothes for my dolls. By fourteen I was designing and sewing all of my own clothing. I spent years in the fashion industry, then my interests turned to the home when I had children and found myself creating my own nest. Many of the principles transferred - texture, color, line, style. But mostly what interested me in fashion (then) and homes (now) is the feeling that is expressed. That is all I really ever cared about. That is what I ask of every client. What do you want your home to feel like?

 What's inspiring you right now?
The untrained eye inspires me now. The SARTORIALIST blog has a huge influence on me - seeing how people put things together on the street. Not the designers, but everyday people with a great sense of style and courage to try new things. Of course, this is in the realm of fashion. But, it spills over to interior design. Can we put things together with the same nonchalance in a room?
Here is the question: who are you? How can your room / home express that like our clothing expresses who we are.
I am looking especially at people on the street in New York (where I live part time) and where people are always playing with who they are. I am going to spend a month in Italy and can promise I will be watching in Rome and Florence. I will be looking at the way they live - so off the cuff in their homes - mixing modern and antique and most often without a designer. This is what inspires me. Innate, courageous, comfortable style.

Most memorable destination 
I can't pick one. Four places have changed who I am and how I see. 

1. The small family farm in Iowa where I grew up in the 1950's - it ignited my imagination because there was nothing to do but enjoy nature and daydream.

Photographed in Charleston, SC by Alecia

2. Charleston, South Carolina where I lived for eight years - with its sense of decaying beauty, manners, and reverence for history

3. New York City for the way it challenges you to become whomever you want to be - because nobody cares. And for its celebration of art and diversity.

Photographed in Florence, Italy by Alecia
4. Florence, Italy because it is the living Renaissance and you stand to drink your cappuccino, you nap in the afternoon, and you kiss on the bridge over the Arno.

Best Practices for Accessorizing a Room 
I get all of the furnishings in place - then I hit every local (and non-local if i am traveling) antique store I can find. That is where I start.
I have a non-negotiable rule. If someone designed it in a cubicle and it was made in a factory - it is NOT an accessory that I will use! (You know...those goofy round balls that have been painted to mimic like something you found under a tree.)
So, I look for anything that the human hand has touched. A carved stone bowl, a piece of pottery your child made, REAL ART - even something created by a family member and framed simply.
Pillows MUST be filled with down so they don't stand like soldiers on a sofa. I like antique textiles, mixing textures - velvets with linen with silk.
When in doubt, fill an old silver bowl with shells and go to a used book store and load up on the largest, coolest books you can find. There is nothing I like better than books as an accessory.
I actually buy them for my clients to fill all those awful "builder" shelves. What will we do when the Kindle takes over the world?
For good accessories that are new, I love Baker and Holly Hunt.

What's the biggest design risk you've taken?
I'm in the thick of it - trying to crack New York. It is daunting and occasionally terrifying. But, with a first client and a wonderful project - we all start somewhere. Each and every year, I create a vision and statement of what I want in the new year. As avoiding boredom is a high priority for me (ask my mother!) I am always interested in trying and learning new things. So, working more in New York for New York clients is my focus for 2011. I think it is great for everyone, especially creative people like designers, to push ourselves to grow and see in new ways. That is what motivates me and I think that is where you have to take your greatest risk. If you fail, so what? Who doesn't? You regroup and try something else.

Thank you so much, Alecia!

Another Designer Profile next week - hope you'll check back

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