Officially, Anita Joyce has only been working in the world of interior design for three years, but her passion for—and talent in—the field are deep-seated. For proof of her innate eye for style, look no further than her dreamily juxtaposed, farmhouse-meets-French-country Texas homes, which she shares on her blog Cedar Hill Farmhouse, and the tens of thousands of eager readers who flock to the site each month for her decorating developments and inspirational aesthetic.
We recently got a chance to talk to Joyce, whose Curator’s Collection for Joss & Main goes live Tuesday, February 18, 2014 at 9:00 p.m., about her career change, her tips for cultivating personal style, the design words she lives by, and more. Here’s what she had to say.
I may have started my career as an engineer, but my original intention was to study art and design. Like many creative people, I was told (by my well-meaning father) that I couldn’t make a living in a creative field, but I never lost my passion for design. When my first child was born with a disability, it became clear that I needed to quit my engineering job to stay home with her. The isolation and sadness that followed became so overwhelming, that I decided to work part time at a furniture store and start up a photography business. I soaked up everything I could about furniture and design, while honing my photography skills. When a friend suggested I start a blog, I thought, “Why not?” I didn’t have a plan, I only had a passion.
What drew you into interior design specifically?
It is a part of who I am. No matter what my diploma says or what my business cards have said, I am, and always have been an artist with a passion for interior design. I have so many interests, but interior design is the one thing that I never tire of, never get bored with, or need a break from, it’s my one true love. It’s so much a part of me that explaining what drew me to it, is like explaining why I like my right arm. I can’t imagine life without beautiful interiors. I am not even sure I chose it, sometimes it feels like it chose me.
Do you have formal training as an interior designer? If not, how did you learn so much about it?
No I don’t have formal training as an interior designer, I am self-taught. I don’t think you need a degree to look at a room and come up with ideas on how to improve it. It’s something I do even when I don’t want to. Our family owned a lovely cabin in the mountains of North Carolina for many years. Everyone else just enjoyed the visit there, but I would stare at the bright orange countertops and the blue toilet and dream of what I would do if I were allowed to remodel the house. I would say, “We could do this and this and the cabin would be so wonderful.” My husband would just give me the look. I finally learned to keep my thoughts to myself (not really).
You have a very distinct aesthetic. How would you describe it?
I call my style farmhouse French design; it’s a cup of French, a dash of farmhouse, stirred together with a sprinkle of romance. I love traditional French design, but presented in a clean, simple way, which makes it much more achievable for the average person. I don’t have a house filled with super-expensive, priceless antiques. Many of the items in my home were found at thrift stores, second hand shops and auctions. It’s a mix of traditional French furniture, antique European linens, fine silver and dishes, mixed with rusty, worn elements.
You have a city house and a farmhouse. Do you take a different approach to decorating each?
Yes I do take a different approach to each house. The city house is more refined and sophisticated. I used lots of authentic French antiques in this home. I wanted it to have an elegant, old world, yet welcoming feel. Antique French clocks and silver combined with vintage books and linen slipcovers give the suggestion you might be in France, while still maintaining warmth and comfort.
The farmhouse sits on our 30 acre farm in Round Top, Texas. It’s in the country where mice chew cushions, the dog sometimes brings in dead animals, and where there are often muddy boots. I didn’t want it to be fussy. It needed to be a place where our family and friends could relax on the back porch and not worry about ruining a delicate piece of furniture. I wanted the farm to be comfortable and inviting. Here I used more simple, rustic antiques. Everything needed to hold up to heavy wear.
What inspires you when decorating your homes?
Well… everything really, from going to the Round Top antique show, trips to France, magazines, blogs, and Pinterest. There is so much inspiration around, you just need to open your eyes to see it. Even the fields of bluebonnets on our farm provide inspiration for our homes.
What would your advice be to people who are still trying to cultivate their own style?
Only buy things you love. It might sound strange, but I believe that if you buy only things you love there will be a unifying theme that will make it all work together even if you don’t see it at first. I believe that is how we create our own design voice and style. Look to design magazines, books, and blogs for ideas, but when you incorporate them into your home, give it your own twist. Don’t worry about following trends. Go with solid colors on big ticket items like sofas and chairs. If you want patterns, they can be added with pillows and throws, that are much cheaper and easier to change out when you tire of the look. I learned that lesson the hard way.
You have two daughters. What are some of your best tips for creating a space that’s both family friendly and beautiful?
We also have a large collie that sheds like mad, so I have to keep her in mind too. Slipcovers are great for furniture since they can be washed. I used outdoor (stain-resistant) fabric on the stools at our kitchen island, since they are very stain-resistant. If you have small children or pets, some things are going to get damaged, there’s no two ways about it. Our floors are definitely covered with collie scratches especially the pine floor at the farm, but I just choose to overlook it. Life is messy sometimes.
Another thing you can do is use non-breakable items in your décor. Rather than setting out an expensive crystal bowl, try a wooden bowl instead, or an iron figurine rather than a ceramic one. My daughter recently broke a beautiful antique chair I had used in her room. What could I do? I bought a new, much sturdier chair, while the broken antique sits in the garage awaiting its fate. Lesson learned…don’t use delicate antiques in areas where they will get heavy use.
What’s your favorite piece of furniture in your home?
This is a difficult question, since it feels like I am being asked which child is my favorite. If I were forced to decide, I would say the antique French armoire in my breakfast room. It’s from the 1800s and has lots of scrumptious hand-carved details. I had it converted to a china cabinet a few years ago. We removed the silvering from the mirror, so you can see through the glass, and added shelves to display our collection of family china.
Any design words you live by?
A sparse room is always better than a room full of boring things. Sparse rooms often feel like an art gallery, where each item was carefully curated, whereas rooms overstuffed with uninteresting things can end up feeling like a thrift store. Keep what you love, give rid of the rest.