Remember my Stripe Talk features? I really missed them. Blogging can feel a little bit lonely and a little bit (okay a lot) narcissistic at times. Here’s another photo of ME! Here are some of MY favorite things! I know that’s why you guys come here, but I also really love using this space to introduce you to some of my favorite female creatives + entrepreneurs. When two of my girlfriends (Mariel Goodson + Remy Crisci) went into business together (launching their fabulous new design firm (Brass Hill Design), it felt like the right time to bring this feature back. I hope you enjoy!
I particularly loved this feature as I learned a lot from Mariel and Remy. I’m not the greatest when it comes to interiors. I’ve managed to make my studio apartment into an an inviting space but I constantly struggle with what looks good and what should go where. My sister has helped me a lot, but I have to really work at it. Read on for a fun interview… and pay attention to their design tips. They both dish out some amazing advice, especially if you are looking to transform a small space or decorate on a budget. After that, be sure to check out their site + instagram account for even more inspiration. (And if you’re in the Westchester/Fairfield/Manhattan area + need help… check out their services!)
Grace: Tell us a little bit about your background!
Mariel: I spent the past decade writing home, design & lifestyle features for a variety of magazines. Better Homes & Gardens, Martha Stewart Living, Good Housekeeping, SELF, those kinds of titles. Since then I’ve transitioned from writing about design to actually designing, thanks to four years of hands-on experience renovating two turn-of-the-century homes in our area.
Remy: I used to work in fashion; then moved onto interior design. We had moved out of the city into an old home that needed considerable work. It was then I discovered a passion for interiors. I was very lucky to work for the amazingly talented Katie Ridder in New York City for a couple of years before having my daughter.
Grace: What inspired you to go into business together?
Mariel & Remy: We were both ready for a change. And ready at the same moment. We are very dear friends who share so much in common; one being a love for styling interiors. Brass Hill Design was born over the course of many playdates with our kids and business lunches when we needed breaks. And what’s dreamier than working with a best bud?
Grace: How would you describe your personal style?
Mariel: I’d call myself a New Traditionalist. I love classic silhouettes – Bergere chairs, sleigh beds, empire chests – but I punch it up with bold prints, high-drama color, lots of texture. I have a soft spot for chinoiserie and I usually gravitate towards statement pieces, conversation starters. I dress the same way – particularly when it comes to jewelry and accessories. I’ll just never understand those dainty chains and delicate little baubles that have become so popular. If you’re gonna wear it, WEAR it.
Remy: My personal style for clothing varies – though while I will always admire a polished look, I find I am at my most comfortable in a laid back style of dressing. Booties, jeans, a slouchy, relaxed tee – topped off with a jacket or classic blazer. I dream about killer heels, but realistically would be better suited to kick around in some cool sneakers of some kind. I do love a cool statement accessory here and there; I also tend to stick with classic simple pieces that go with everything. For interiors, I am always finding inspiration in all styles. While complete opposites, I love the Scandinavian and boho aesthetic, and without fail my inner magpie always gravitates towards the whimsical, fun and punchy prints and a variety of color. I’d have to say that I also identify with the new traditionalist movement, but am drawn to things with an eclectic, worldly edge. I want a home to be pretty, but also comfortable and interesting. My goal would be to achieve a casual elegance. It’s no secret to anyone who knows me well that I have a love affair with the west coast; as ideal home to me would blend the Cali lifestyle I sometimes/all the time wish I had and the East coast lifestyle I have always known and am grateful to have.
Grace: What’s #1 on your shopping list right now?
Mariel: I’m loving Selamat’s Florence Broadhurst Capsule collection and I’m planning on purchasing their Swirls Mirror: sticking it right above the mantle in my home office. This thing is too good. Fashion-wise, I’ve been lusting after the navy Shearling Rider Jacket from Tibi. Not exactly a typical spring pick, but on the east coast it can stay cold through May…
Remy: For the home, I think a new dining table and chairs. We use our dining room every day, and although I like our current table, I bought it eight years ago and my tastes have changed…much to the chagrin of my husband. It is just more formal than I would like. I am on the hunt for an old oak or pecan dining table and I am thinking it could be kind of cool to juxtapose the old rustic quality of the table with some modern or industrial style dining chairs…..or some gustavian/swedish inspired antique chairs would be very pretty too. For clothing related, a nice Iro black tweedy jacket to dress up my jeans might be nice.
Grace: What design trends are you most excited about for Spring?
Mariel & Remy: We’re loving the return of a few traditional trimmings: the resurgence of velvet and brass being good examples of that. Traditional tableware for a proper sit-down with friends and family. And while we’ll always enjoy an all-white kitchen and simple subway tile, the move to wilder tile backsplashes and colored cabinetry and kitchen walls feels really refreshing. The kitchen is such a personal space, you should feel free to make it your own. Also, we’re big believers in wallpaper, so it’ fun to see that more mainstream textile companies are now paper-backing their fabrics for another way to add texture to a space. In general, there just seems to be a surge in confidence – a movement away from cookie-cutter and towards a truly individual aesthetic. That’s the great thing about style: it’s subjective. There’s no right or wrong. It’s about finding what speaks to you.
Grace: What is the most challenging design project you’ve had to date… and how did you tackle it?
Mariel & Remy: We’ve both struggled most with projects in our own homes. For Mariel, it’s been finding a way to get the huge, hand-carved mantle in her living room to jive with the rest of the house. Previous owners had stained it a honey blonde color that really wasn’t working, but it couldn’t be restained because of the intricacy of the carvings (and a heavy coat of poly). So she enlisted a talented decorative painter to bring it back to its original tone using a faux bois technique – it’s impossible to tell it’s painted, truly. It was still reading a bit “church altar,” so we sussed out a round mirror in a similar “stain” to bring some lightness to the look styled it using a scattering of blue and white accessories to freshen the effect. Last touch will be adding some greenery to bring it to life. As always, there isn’t much that can’t be solved with the right styling. For me, I’d say one of the most challenging is something I am still dealing with – my living room. We do not have a family room so the living room is where we spend most of our time. It has been tough to figure out a furniture plan that combines function with entertaining. The room is an awkward shape; thanks to the placement of the fireplace and windows. I am also struggling to come up with the best seating arrangement.
Grace: What would your dream project be?
Mariel & Remy: We’re sort of working on the dream project at the moment. A lovely client who has a fearless sense of adventure. Her only edict, “When people walk into my house, I want them to know that someone fun lives here.” A project in Nantucket would also be pretty dreamy…especially if it meant spending the summer out there, “for work.”
Grace: Best professional advice you’ve received?
Mariel: Don’t compare yourself to others. It’s especially important in a creative field – what you bring to the table is different than what anyone else does.
Remy: Pay attention to the details and don’t be scared to fail.
Grace: Do you have any mentors? If so, who are they?
Mariel: Another dear friend – a magazine editor – has always helped guide me along and champion my career, whether in writing, designing or just in life. She’s an endless vat of useful advice and support for when I feel like I’m floundering.
Remy: It was a lifetime ago, but my very first official boss was when I worked at Theory. She was just awesome. She expected a lot but always gave me the utmost respect. She gave me a lot of guidance and I always felt she really cared. I didn’t end up in fashion, but I will always remember that working environment.
Grace: It has nothing to do with interiors, but I ask everyone this… what are your desert island beauty essentials?
Mariel: Sunscreen. If you aren’t wearing sunscreen, you’ll wind up looking like a leather bag, no matter what you slather on your face. And Retin-A. So much Retin-A.
Remy: Lip balm, sunscreen, books, and something to combat my frizzy hair.
Grace: What are three tips for someone looking to redecorate their apartment on a budget?
Mariel + Remy:
- Get crafty with wall art: we love tearing out pages from the Cavallini & Co. Botanica calendars. We then frame them with Threshold for Target pre-matted frames. We’ve also framed beautiful fabric remnants and underused scarves. Try hanging mismatched plates. Addressing a naked wall can do wonders for sprucing up a room.
- Go for a mix of high/low. If you must have that dreamy, hand painted wallpaper in the powder room, save on fixtures or just paint your vanity instead of replacing it. Paint can work wonders.
- “Invest” in a simple étagère. Remy is a big believer in the transformative power of a well-styled bookshelf – especially a pair if the budget allows. You don’t have to go bananas blowing your budget on accessorizing it either. Color-block your books: arrange some books vertically, others horizontally. Prop up a pretty plate or neglected dishware on top of a horizontal stack. Use one shelf as your bar. Display stock flowers or pretty sprays of greenery in a simple glass.
Grace: What are the five things that best transform a space?
Mariel + Remy:
- Eye-level lighting – table lamps and sconces, in particular.
- Throw pillows – the more the merrier
- Indoor greenery – topiaries, live plants for low-light areas, flowering plants for sunny spots, dried wreaths for naked windows (particularly boxwood, olive and eucalyptus leaves)
- Bare floors on their own can be quite stunning. Especially when painted or stenciled, stained dark or given a bleached oak or white limed effect. If your floors aren’t show worthy, go for a large rug: as large as can comfortably fit in the room (aim for about 6 inches of floor exposed on all edges). Plus-size rugs just bring the room together, adding an inimitable softness and luxury. Dinky little rugs just don’t do it.
- Large-scale art and prints. Bigger is pricier in the world of wall décor, but for the budget-conscious, Paul Montgomery’s beautiful murals are now available as prints. I’m planning on purchasing his Maysong Tryptych in Mint for my office.
Grace: How do you balance work + family life?
Mariel + Remy: Balance? That’s a tough one and not one we’ve necessarily nailed just yet. We can say that it’s tremendously helpful working with a close friend. For instance, we’re writing this together while Remy’s daughter is laying sick on the couch. Not a normal day in the office, but it works for our lives.
Grace: What’s your favorite way to indulge?
Mariel + Remy: Bravo + Chardonnay. And should we say exercise so we don’t look like slobs?
Grace: Who are your style icons?
Mariel: Charlotte Moss really speaks to my inner traditionalist. India Hicks makes me want to up and escape to the tropics. Miles Redd’s color-play is bananas.
Remy: Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kelly Wearstler, Nathan Turner, John Derian. Muriel Brandolini for her eclectic bohemian vibe and Loi Thai for his Swedish aesthetic.
Grace: What’s your favorite thing in your closet?
Mariel: Honestly? So boring, but a chambray shirt. It’s my favorite basic and infinitely styleable. Plus when one of my sons inevitably blows his perpetually runny nose on it, there’s no cause for panic.
Remy: My grandmother’s vintage fur coat – my grandfather bought it for her decades ago in Hong Kong.