Welcome to our first ever Plucky Pioneer interview! Every Monday here on The Neo-Traditionalist I’ll be featuring a different “pioneer girl on the design frontier” and I am truly honored to be kicking things off with Heather Clawson of Habitually Chic! The decorating darling and Manhattan girl-about-town not only writes her own wildly successful design blog (I’m a huge fan—read it HERE), but has also managed to found her own successful interior design company. Heather’s fantastically chic eye for design has landed her in the pages of Domino, Lonny, House Beautiful and Elle Decor to name a few and that’s only the beginning! Read on to learn what inspired Heather to start her own business, the ups and downs of being her own boss, and where she hopes to take Habitually Chic in the future. Thank you Heather for all the inspiration! [Above, the stylish Ms. Clawson on a recent jaunt to Paris]
Five words used to describe yourself.
Funny, Optimistic, Busy, Happy, Creative. [Above, a vignette of Heather’s all too chic desk during the holiday-card-writing season. Wouldn’t you just die for that alabaster lamp?]
What inspires you creatively?
Everything! It could be another designer, something in a store, a museum exhibition, a painting or a flower in the park. I’m a very visual person so I’m inspired by what I see everyday!
Who are your design mentors?
Right now, I consider all the top designers to be my mentors. I love attending lectures like the Women in Design event sponsored by Elle Decor. I learned a lot by listening to the stories and advice of Charlotte Moss, Kelly Wearstler, Michelle Nussbaumer and Holly Hunt. It definitely made me feel better to hear about some of their mistakes as well as triumphs! [Below, a stunning interior designed by Habitually Chic.]
How would you describe your personal design aesthetic?
I never know what to call my style. Traditional with a twist is as close as I’ve come to defining it. I like my designs to look collected rather than decorated so I use a lot of vintage pieces or reproductions. I really like the juxtaposition of piece from the 1970’s sitting next to an 18th-century French chair underneath an abstract painting. Artwork is very important to my work and is the finishing touch that gives a room soul. I want the spaces I design to look like the owner might have had someone come in and style what they already owned instead of like a designer picked it all out for them. I leave at the end of a project and it’s very important that my designs reflect the client and they feel personal to them.
What propelled you to found your own company?
I was laid off in December of 2008 and I had already worked on some projects on my own so it seemed like the best time. Getting laid off was the best thing that ever happened to a lot of us last year since it just hastened the decision we were too scared to make on our own! [Below, a handsome bachelor pad designed by Habitually Chic]
Most glamourous part of owning your own company?
I don’t know if anything is really glamorous about owning my own company, but I do like having the option to attend daytime functions and events. I could never do that when I was working for someone else.
Least glamourous part of owning your own company?
The fact that I have to do everything! It takes a lot of work to type up every purchase order and deal with all the other paperwork! And unlike other designers, I’m juggling everything with writing the blog. Sometimes I work from the minute I wake up until right before I go to bed! [Below, Heather snapped with the dashing Thomas O’Brien of Aero Studios]
Best business advice you’ve been given?
Trademark Habitually Chic! Someone already bought the domain name so it was important to me to protect the brand that I am building.
Creative businesswoman you admire?
There are so many but lately it’s Kelly Wearstler. She marches to the beat of her own drummer and doesn’t care what other people think. She thinks outside the box. She is curious and always learning like myself. She visits museums and galleries in every city she visits and collects art and design books. She’s also a great mother and stays home most nights with her family. She said she wanted to be a designer and own her own firm early on and made it a reality. I admire people who know what they want and make it happen!
What keeps your organized and on task?
I have to write everything down! I have a small calendar that sits on my desk and the minute I schedule something, I write it down. I love my BlackBerry but I have to write things down and make lists to keep myself organized. Working from home can be very distracting so it’s a constant struggle to keep on track. I think I’m still figuring this one out but I think an office will definitely help! [Below, an interior by Todd Romano that Heather references as one of her favorites]
Moment you knew you’d “made it”?
I always feel like I’m still trying to make it! But probably the first time someone recognized me in an elevator at the D&D building was pretty exciting! And now to hear designers, whom I admire, tell me that they love my blog is beyond amazing!
Describe your typical work day…
When you work for yourself, there is no typical day but I begin most everyday by answering emails from the night before. My days usually involve trips to the D&D, project site visits, paperwork, conference calls, follow ups, blog posts, and sometimes a fun event at night.
Your dream project?
Hmmm…I’d love to do a room in a showhouse and maybe work on a boutique hotel. I’d also love more bachelor projects. I’m not overly girly in my designs and they fit my aesthetic perfectly! [Below, a vignette by Heather. Love the hyacinths and Diptyque!]
What goals do you have for your business in the future?
I’d love to get an office, even if it’s one that I share. I’d love to grow to be able to hire employees. I’m looking into consulting and other opportunities as meeting with publishers. I would definitely love to see a Habitually Chic book published!
Advice to other budding creative entrepreneurs?
Just do it! It’s a lot easier to start a side business when you are working for someone else so buy a business book, seek out advice and take your time to do it right from the start. Definitely don’t be afraid to ask for help!