Recent years have seen a rise in the popularity of home decor blogging, and with that a fresh batch of decor bloggers arriving on the scene. Enter Amy Chalmers of Maison Decor with her preference for French finishes and all things lovely. Amy has charmed the blogosphere to the tune of over 100k readers per month with her pension for feminine design, authentic voice and we can do this attitude. Recently, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Amy to dish about her blog, her passion for design and most importantly her Pop up shop this month in Boston.
Amy, Welcome to Deco & Bloom! For those who don’t know about Maison Decor, could you please tell us a little bit about your site?
My blog, Maison Decor, is a mix of Lifestyle, DIY and Interior Design that springs from my experiences as a designer and fearless homemaker. Literally translated, Maison Decor is Home Decor, so as to communicate that my preferred decorating style has a European flavor. Many of the posts feature ways to add bits of French or Swedish flair. For example, last year I wanted to create a French courtyard in a small neglected space in our backyard. My husband and I worked on the project together. We connected the gravel courtyard to our home by adding authentic styled French doors that swing out into the space, just like you see in France! In the spring we will finish up by adding huge granite blocks as our staircase with some iron work. We now have an enchanting space with cobblestones bordering a gravel bed that holds our iron furniture and market umbrella. Plantings of lavender and roses bloom along the trellised courtyard wall. It was a fairly simple project that came to life from just a dream idea. “Making Life more Beautiful” is the tag line of Maison Decor. Whether you paint a room or a piece of furniture, rearrange your furniture around, or knock out a wall and install French doors, everyone has the ability to make their lives a bit more beautiful. I hope Maison Decor inspires my readers to be fearless and decorate from their heart’s desire.
As an interior designer, what gave you the idea to start your own decor blog?
I was asked to critique a friend’s blog and in doing so I got the bug to create one for myself. I quickly became obsessed! For me, it was a place to create my own “magazine” of sorts, with everything I loved. Working with clients, I would interpret what would make their dreams come true. This blog was going to be all me, and what I loved, which may not be all that popular. The point was for it to be authentic, and when you start blogging its easy because you don’t think anyone is really reading it anyway. I really think that is what makes for a good blog. Being genuine, authentic and fearless are all going to find an audience in blogland, and I certainly found mine. At first, I couldn’t believe anyone besides my mom would take the time to read it, but now I get over 100,000 page views monthly, sharing what I find interesting. How cool is that? From the blog came the idea to turn the blog into a retail shop, and so Maison Decor (the shop) was born. For three years I ran several shops and finally shuttered the doors in 2015 to get back to living a more balanced life.
Being a designer, a wife, a mom, and a blogger on top of everything else must keep you busy! How do you maintain a balance between your work, family, and writing?
Balance is the key, but balance for me comes in drifts…for example, family stuff can overtake me for a week or more, then the pendulum swings into the creative mode and that becomes a focus. I will say getting a puppy really set me back, there was no way around it. You cannot ignore a puppy! So our new puppy, Colby, took up a block of three full months of solid attention. I had to fight to fit in blogging and doing the projects I loved. But he is now 6 months and that attention has paid off, as he is a great dog now. Family is always first, and because mine is mostly grown it has been easier to find a rhythm to everyday life. Blogging is nice because you can photograph and blog a pretty area in your house while the rest leaves much to be desired! Haha! It’s much harder throwing a cocktail party! When I ran my shop for the last three years there was literally no balance whatsoever. It was full on mode dedicated to the shop, and it was the most consuming thing I ever undertook, which led to burnout. I am so glad to be back in the swing of being a homemaker and wife, blogger, designer, and puppy raiser. We saw that your home was recently featured in Casa Da Sogno magazine. How did it feel to have your home featured in such a major publication? The funny thing about this magazine feature is that I was contacted by them asking to feature my home and it took months of going back and forth sending photos and answering interview questions. I was told I couldn’t get the magazine, and so I kind of forgot about it going to publication. Then I saw a snippet of it on their FaceBook page, and I noticed another blogger friend of mine was also featured. So I reached out to her to congratulate her and she told me she had a copy and would scan my article…so that was fantastic, because it turned out to be a lovely article! My home was first featured in Matthew Mead’s DECORATING magazine by Engaged Media last year as well, and that was thrilling! It was a special edition issue and Matthew, a well-known photographer, stylist, author and magazine editor came to my house to do the shoot. I would say it was one of my career highlights to experience that.
Your home is absolutely stunning, what was your inspiration while designing it?
Oh, thank you! Well, it was an organic process, to risk an overused term. The result of much editing of stuff, and defining what I really wanted to live with, not as much of a design process where you decide what you want and then fill in the blanks. I was working with possessions both my husband and I owned as we combined households. It was the first house I moved into that I had decorated for someone else, as I was dating him and he asked me to decorate his house! Then we married and I was stuck with a guy’s house that wasn’t my taste at all. All the rooms have been redecorated since, hahah! Luckily he is fine with that. My personal design philosophy is “neutrals plus one”. Take a neutral backdrop in both wall color and furnishings and add one color and you will have a pretty space that will be easy to live with over time. When you look at my home, you will see that is the overall guide, and most people can apply that to their own spaces. Then accent with stylish items that speak to you from various categories: antiques, modern, retro, country, rustic or a mix.
What are your major style influences in your own home, and when you are designing your client’s homes? Personal style is so important, isn’t it? It is what truly makes a house a home. I happen to be attracted to older European styles, particularly French. I grew up living all around the world, and perhaps that is why I identify with the look of older, richer cultures. I love adding vintage items to my home, and over time, I have been able to acquire lots of pieces with a French aesthetic. I love to garden design and many times bring this style inside, mixing it with proper pieces. It’s not as easy as running out to a store and buying the look. It is added to over time, when you happily stumble across these cool accents and furnishings, snap them up, as you will find a way to incorporate the things you LOVE. And that is what creates Personal Style. My style is romantic and feminine, within a vintage French outline that doesn’t stop indoors, but includes outdoor spaces, gardens, and courtyards. It is pretty niche, not for everyone, and I understand that. Decorating for others always begins with an understanding of where their heart lies. Many of my clients are not starting from zero, they want to work in many of the furnishings they already own, and create a look that feels more updated and less random. I hate to say it, but places like Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware have been so successful in brain washing the masses that many think their homes should be catalog versions of the same. And that is the antithesis of Personal Style. Just because you don’t see your own style echoed online or in catalogs doesn’t mean it isn’t stylish, it just means you have truly original style! It’s always been hard for me to put a name on my own decorating style when asked. My style could be called Romantic French or Swedish Country, or Cottage French or Rustic Garden Style….see what I mean? I can’t pick a caption as it might exclude something important to me.
Give us the inside scoop, where is your alltime favorite place to shop for decor? Auctions are my favorite place to shop for furnishings and Antique mills and coops and independent vintage shops are the best place to find accents. The variety is amazing and the deals are just waiting for you and you won’t have what everyone else has in their homes. The bonus is you are shopping small and local, something I am a big proponent of practicing in real life. My son has an award winning antique shop in Boston called Pioneer Goods Co. People can decorate their homes with the most amazing things he has brought to his shop from farm fields and estate sales. His customers just have to walk through the doors and find the things that speak their language. What I love about independent vintage and antique shops, is that they are such underrated places to find treasure for home decorating. They really are fantastic!
With your growing shop, beautiful blog, and budding design career, what can we expect to see next from Maison Decor? This year I am embarking on collaborating with Design Guru Matthew Mead on several things, including launching our YouTube channel on Design and Style tips for the everyday person. We will be covering everything from home decor, DIY projects, design book reviews, antiquing, floral arranging, style discovery, and more. We are super excited to work together and hope to make Personal Style something everyone can refine, explore and enjoy. I closed my shop last year after running it for three years. Entering the retail life was all consuming and took away a lot of my creative energy and shut down my design business. It’s now a time of renewal for me, exploring a new direction of design collaboration through video, television and books. Blogging will be a focus of course, and I am excited to work on a few big DIY projects around my home as well. Working with individual clients has taken a back seat to fulfilling an idea of taking personal style and design tips to a bigger audience
Special thanks to Amy Chalmers for sitting down and discussing her blog with us today. If you are in the Boston area this month be sure to check out her pop up shop (pictured below) at her son’s store, Pioneer Goods Co. If you would like to see more about Amy and her blog check out her site, Maison Decor.