A few years ago, a very chic and stylish blog popped onto the scene and it didn’t take long for design afficiandos to sit up and take notice. The blog? It’s La Dolce Vita and its clever (and hip) inventor is the sophisticated and savvy Paloma Contreras. We are big fans of this gal.
We met Paloma a few years ago at a conference for design bloggers and we’ve been gigantic fans ever since, scarfing up her daily musings on design, style and life in general. Wouldn’t it be fun for our respective design and Frenchy worlds to collide in the nicest way in the form of a trip to Paris with Paloma? Believe us, we’ve thought it more than once.
Well, guess what: our little wish has been answered and Paloma is coming with us to Paris this fall! She’s joining us for our fall buying trip and we’re beyond excited to cover every inch of Paris with her. We’ll be scouring our favorite haunts, like the flea market, the tried-and-true Saturday morning street market we love as well as a wonderful dealer fair that’s held just outside of Paris. If the weather’s nice, we’ll convince her to join us an evening bike ride through Paris that includes a river cruise and a final stop in front of a sparkling Eiffel Tower. Our minds are racing with all the things we want to do with Paloma in Paris (we think that’s a future blog, so stay tuned!)
La Dolce Vita is all about just that: the elements in life that make it all the sweeter. Paloma writes daily about interior design, fashion, style and trends and her thoughtful interviews with interior designers are a huge draw for her readers. Today, we’re turning the tables and asking Paloma the questions:
HHH: First of all, tell us a little bit about yourself.
PC: I am a native Houstonian and was born and raised here. Houston is home!
HHH: Tell us how your design business evolved: is it a chicken-and-egg story with your blog? Which came first? (we see design followed blog in your bio, but please do explain!)
PC: My background is in foreign languages and education. I was an AP high school Spanish teacher for the first four years out of college. While I enjoyed the subject matter and working with the students, it never really felt like the right fit and I found myself longing for creative fulfillment. I first heard about blogs around the time that I was on summer break before my last year as a teacher. I decided to start my blog, La Dolce Vita, as a creative outlet in July 2007. Over the course of that year, I began to create a focus for the blog, centering it around my love of interior design. After a while, it took on a life of its own and I quit my teaching job. I am so grateful for the journey my blog has taken me on because it allowed me to carve out my own unique path. After working on different design projects for family and friends, I started getting more and more inquiries from readers asking if I could help them design their homes, so I started my interior design firm a little over four years ago. I have never looked back and now know that this is what I was meant to be doing all along! (HHH: we love it when your passion becomes your work. We can relate!)
HHH: Describe your design aesthetic. Are you formally trained or do you come by your expertise by experience and an innate good eye?
PC: At its core, my design sensibility is a modern take on traditional style– gravitating towards classic silhouettes and timeless pieces paired with a touch of glamour and an infusion of color. I am not formally trained in design, but have been passionate about it my entire life. I am a voracious learner and have studied books, back issues of House and Garden, and the work of designers whom I admire most– you name it. I am always observing and analyzing how things work together. Skills can be taught, but good taste cannot. You either have it, or you don’t. Many of the top designers in our industry are not formally trained, but have an innate ability to manipulate scale, compose color palettes, and create evocative environments. While I am not formally trained in design, over the years, my blog has opened the door to meeting so many incredible designers and has afforded me the opportunity of having some amazingly accomplished designers from whom I have learned so much.
HHH: Design inspiration comes from…?
PC: Truly everywhere! Travel is a huge source of inspiration for me. I find it both refreshing and necessary to have a change of scenery every now and then in order to retrain your aesthetic eye. So much of being a designer or in a creative field is learning how to see. You must be able to see and understand what the average person cannot in order to bring a design vision to life. If I am at home, I find Instagram and Pinterest to be very visually stimulating. (HHH: We agree. Easy to spend hours on both of those!)
HHH: A client just came to you with a gazillion-dollar budget and no opinions. Describe your dream project.
PC: Well, it sounds like we are off to a great start! A healthy budget and an open-minded, trusting client are the most important factors in a successful design project. Otherwise, I would love to design a house in Napa Valley, which happens to be one of my favorite destinations for a getaway. We recently completed a project for a client in The Hamptons and would love to do more work there. The architecture is so classic and it is such a beautiful place.
HHH: We love your eye! What’s pique-ing your interest these days in the design world?
PC: Thank you! It really changes from one day to the next because I am constantly feeling inspired by something different. I love a look that is classic and timeless, but also love things with a modern slant. I am currently loving pared down rooms with a neutral palette and a great mix of rough and refined. Think Darryl Carter, Timothy Brown, Robert Stilin. The looks is obviously enduring, but feels particularly fresh for summer.
HHH: The blog puts you in the same orbit as many established – as well as up-and-coming – designers. Who are you keeping your eye on these days and do you see any similarities/trends/commonalities between the ones you’re watching?
PC: There is so much talent in this world! I love supporting other designers and feel that it is my duty to pay it forward since so many people have been so wonderful to me along the way. I am currently loving the work and Instagram accounts of Anne Wagonner and Nam Dang Mitchell. Anne is based in Raleigh and has beautiful, classic style. Nam is based in Canada and does a more modern-meets-traditional look and has an exquisite eye. Both of their work is based on a traditional aesthetic, but they each have a very distinctive point of view.
HHH: As one of the design world’s most preeminent bloggers, talk a little about the power of social media platforms (blogs, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, etc.) and how you feel they have influenced current design and designers.
PC: Social media is an incredibly powerful tool. You can honestly make what you want of it. It is an easy, free, organic marketing platform for your business as well as a way to connect with potential clients and likeminded individuals. I have made some of my closest friends, forged important business relationships, and acquired wonderful clients through my blog, Instagram, and Pinterest.
HHH: We love how you’ve encompassed so many elements into the LVD Series: how did that evolve and which part of the Series is your favorite – and why?
PC: The Style Files series was borne from my desire to connect with others and to learn more about the people in the industry whom I most admire. I originally started it back in 2010 and most featured fellow design bloggers as a way to help us connect with each other’s audiences. It was always a popular feature with readers, so due to popular demand, I brought it back in 2014, but with the volume turned up. In this new iteration of the series, we dive a little deeper in each profile and have interviewed the top design talent in the industry as well as up and coming designers to watch. Past interviewees include Carrier & Company, Bunny Williams, Alessandra Branca, Kelly Wearstler, Aerin Lauder, and Suzanne Kasler among many others. I love getting to know my subjects better and really enjoy finding out where they draw inspiration from as well their favorite artists, style icons, weekend getaways, and so on.
HHH: Favorite color to use right now:
PC: Moss Green
HHH: Favorite design trick:
PC: Perennials fabrics on upholstery– it is virtually indestructible and has a really nice hand.
HHH: Design peeves:
PC: Spaces that are super trend-driven because they will look tired in a year
HHH: Favorite project ever:
PC: Oh gosh, that is tough because I love different things about each of them. That said, I really loved working on the bedroom and terrace I designed for the Southern Style Now Showhouse in New Orleans last spring. It was refreshing– and challenging designing purely for myself and not for a client. Since it was a showhouse, I had the opportunity to design a space that was a bit more daring than what we might get to do for a client. We commissioned the most exquisite chinoiserie wallpaper from deGournay which was silk, hand-painted in white gold and aluminum. We also worked with many local, New Orleans artisans, such as Julie Neill who made the chandelier for us, Tara Shaw who made the fabulous bed, and Alexis Walter, whose beautiful abstract art we used. The overall timeline was so quick that we went from design to installation to the opening of the showhouse very quickly, which was very satisfying. I’ll never forget the wonderful compliments about the room from those who toured the house as well as from two of my personal design heroes, Bunny Williams and Vicente Wolf who were present on opening night.
HHH: Beach, lake or mountains?
PC: Mountains in Northern California
HHH: Favorite museum:
PC: Musee Picasso in Paris
HHH: Favorite contemporary (meaning alive!) artist whom you’re crushing on:
PC: William McLure– His work is so beautiful and striking, but it also works beautifully in interiors without being overpowering.
HHH: Favorite movie:
PC: It’s Complicated. (HHH: ours too! We love Meryl Streep’s kitchen!)
HHH: Everyday outfit:
PC: A tailored shirt or flowy top with a black cigarette pant and a simple strappy sandal or flats.
HHH: Wine or cocktail?
HHH: Favorite vacay destination: (next to Paris, of course!)
HHH: And finally, what YOUR idea of la dolce vita?!
PC: I feel so fortunate to be living it! To me, la dolce vita is living a life you love and feel fulfilled by. It is traveling to exciting places, meeting inspiring people, feeling creatively fulfilled, and sharing life with someone you love. There is a very thin line between my personal and professional lives, which feels like a blessing. I get to explore my passion everyday and love my clients and the projects I have the opportunity to work on.
HHH: Paloma, thanks for sharing with us. We adore what you’re doing with your blog and we simply can’t wait to hit Paris with you!
Wanna come? Click here!