We’ve had a blast coming up with the plan, mostly because we’re all crazy about our muse, the imaginary Nola Burt. In our world, Nola is a great-great-granddaughter of Burt Farm’s original owners. She’s a sassy, confident world traveler with more adventures under her belt than she can remember – and a tremendous sense of style that’s been honed from many years living in Paris. And Morocco. And Stockholm, followed by Geneva and Bali (for a time, best not to ask her about that.)
Our imaginations are running wild with Nola stories: we know Nola won’t mind us telling you that she’s going through a bit of a difficult time – things aren’t so rosy these days for her and her ex, Jean-Paul – and she’s coming home, after years in Paris, to the lush Blue Ridge mountains and fresh air of western North Carolina. Burt Farm has always been a haven of family and friends for Nola and she’s singled out the adorable guest cottage as her writing studio and refuge.
We’re picturing Nola’s mother (the renown beauty, Delphine Duchanel Burt) as something of a design and decor legend in New Orleans and the gene happily trickled down to Nola. So, who better to turn to for a few pointers when we started thinking about Nola’s retreat at Burt Farm?
HH: Nola, you’ve lived all over the place – from New York City to Paris and just about everywhere in between. We’re dying to know your favorite decorating tips – and how do you put your unmistakeable stamp on a space?
NB: Darlings! Sit down, get comfortable and let me tell a few of the many, many lessons I’ve learned along the way:
Tip No. 1: It’s all about the mix.
I learned this, the most important tip, from my years in Paris. Although I do doubt much of what my ex says, Jean-Paul did teach me a few things – like how his bon chic, bon genre family decorates. Each generation inherits furniture from the generation before so the pieces get layered upon one another. The result is a lovely mix of styles, periods, materials – from the Louis’ to mid-century modern to current design (but take it from me: even the best can mess up every once in a while, like F., JP’s sister. Oh la la. Her place in the Marais is just dreadful – all modern, all mauve and no art.)
Tip No. 2: surround yourself with the things you love and that represent your life.
Delphie (my mother) always told me to fill your spaces with things you love and things that represent your life. So, I’ve taken my favorite treasures with me to Burt Farm Cottage – my beloved art, objets picked up at Clignacourt or Vanves, books (of course), loads of little pieces that remind me of my travels – and my wonderful collection of famous rejection letters.
Tip No. 3: invest in original art.
Tip No. 4: be patient.
Don’t compromise and fill a room with items you don’t love just to fill the room. Be patient and be creative and wait for your treasures. When they finally arrive in your life, it will feel like a lovely reward.
Tip No. 5: take time to identify the space you really need.
Everyone has different needs. Mine are certainly different than a family of four with young children or teenagers that needs spaces to absorb and enhance the daily life of a growing family. For me, a lady of a – ahem – certain age and now single, my needs are fewer and simple: a creative space that pleases my sensibilities and works efficiently. Size doesn’t always matter. My place in the 7th is a tiny Paris apartment that functions as a living space/dining room/studio and a bedroom/study/office. It’s one of my favorites places to live.
Tip No. 6: after you identify the spaces, follow through on the details.
The devil is in the details – but it’s worth it. Measure, measure, measure – because there’s nothing worse than finding something you can’t live without and realizing it doesn’t fit. (Of course, Delphie would say: “so what? Move it!”) Over-analyze the lighting plan and put outlets everywhere. And add dimmers to all overhead lighting – low lighting is sexy, flattering and easy on the eyes.
Tip No. 7: don’t take the trends too seriously.
This one doesn’t need too much explaining, does it, darlings? Trends are fun but don’t spend too much on them and don’t take them too seriously. Like fashion, invest in the classics and have a little amusement with things that come and go.
Tip No. 8: have a little attitude!