Saturday, January 23, 2010

Erika McPherson Powell, Designer

Here I am, all snuggled up on the couch and munching away on a frozen chocolate Whip with my trusty laptop. Children are snuggled and snoozing. Sam is playing indoor soccer for an hour or two, and the house is - get ready for this - quiet.

I felt like it was just about the perfect night to write that post I've been promising. The title doesn't keep many secrets :) Tonight, we're taking a closer look at Erika McPherson Powell of
Urban Grace Interiors.

If you aren't familiar with Erika, her work, or her blog, let me introduce you! This is Erika :)

via My Home Ideas

Isn't she super cute? She strikes me as one of those moms you'd see at the playground, hanging out and looking all carelessly chic in her jeans and tank - and killer shoes. You know, those size 4 moms with great hair ;) From her blog posts and from a few brief email interactions, she also strikes me as totally genuine, natural, and truly sweet. And did I mention the woman's got style? Here, take a look...

I love this room. Just like Erika, it has a pulled-together, chic look without trying too hard. After I planned on writing this post, I was delighted to discover that these clients of Erika's had their home featured in Southern Living's February 2010 issue. It just hit newstands and I snapped it up. The photos of this room, in particular, fascinated me and gave me a whole new appreciation for the design. I won't scan them here, though - you'll have to sneek a peek next time you're at Barnes and Noble. Incidentally, if you've been reading for a little while, you know I've sort of adopted "timeless character" as my catch phrase for our home. I had to chuckle when those exact words were part of the Southern Living title for Erika's article - "New House, Timeless Character".

A month or two back, I decided I really needed to edit the design influences that were cramming themselves into my head. Swedish, Belgian, French, Farmhouse - yeesh! I went through my blog reads and nixed the ones that really didn't match up to my own (barely, barely defined) aesthetic. I decided to quit looking at IKEA catalogs, books on cottage style, and - this one was a little hard - even House Beautiful. I had gleaned what I could from all those resources for the time being. I needed to focus. I set out to find images that really encapsulated what I loved in a space and to discover designers that "nailed" the look I wanted.

Enter Erika.

At about the same time that I decided on this edited path, I wrote down my current thoughts on our aesthetic and posted them in my sidebar. This was before I had really taken a good, hard look at Erika's portfolio. When I did go through it, photo by photo, I was struck by how much her rooms reflected my own goals for our home. Although, let me be the first to point out, Erika is a professional designer. So, try as I may, I just won't turn out the same caliber room, regardless of what my sidebar says. That's pretty much a given. It's easy to look at something someone has already done and tell yourself you could do that, too. It's a whole other ballgame when you actually have to do it - and do it on your own. Suddenly you realize that the pros make it look so easy because they're pros! :)

Plus, I don't have the coin her clients have.

Erika's rooms inspire me without distracting me from my own design direction. That's nice. Here are a few more photos...

via My Home Ideas

High contrast neutrals. The dark photo frames and the medium-dark tone of the painted bench against the light walls provide exactly the kind of contrast that I love to see in a room. This bench illustrates another point I recently made about avoiding too many new purchases in our home. I don't want our house to look canned or formulaic. It would have been really easy to grab a standard bench from Pottery Barn for this area and call it a day. But, instead, with Erika's direction, her client took the time to really find a one-of-a-kind, vintage piece for her home. The green paint gives it that extra element of character and charm that just isn't going to come straight out of a stockroom. It's classic.

Here's another example, from Erika's portfolio, of that same principle. Same home, too (did I mention that the Southern Living article has lovely, lovely photos?). A brand new, mass-produced side table would've looked fine here, and would have certainly been easy to come across. But, a little patience, a little time, and there's a table with personality and timeless character. Honestly, a table like this needn't be any more expensive than a newer one, either. Depending on where you look, you may be able to find a solid wood, vintage side table for roughly the price of a similarly sized table from Target! I love that Erika doesn't design solely with to-the-trade pieces. I mean, the girl even trash picks! In an article with My Homes Ideas, Erika says, "I still find myself doing things I remember them [her parents] doing when I was a young child -- stopping to pick up furniture, frames, or lamps out of someone's trash, hitting up the local antique shows to check for new items (antique shows and flea markets are my choice of entertainment), gardening, etc." You have to love the down-to-earth approach :)

Are you beginning to see why I really like the homes Erika designs? It's because I like the basic foundations of her aesthetic - the thoughts behind the rooms.

White. Lovely, bright, perfect white. The dark wood anchors it all and gives that interesting element of contrast, again. I think, too, the white has a feminine feel that is balanced by the heavier, more masculine wood tones. This is one of my favorite rooms in Erika's portfolio.

At the risk of really beating a dead horse to, well, to death - I have to share this excerpt from Erika's website that pretty much sums up her commitment to timeless style (how many times can I type "timeless" in one post?) Here's the quote: "Erika’s style is both modern and classic, an ideal just-right mix of old and new that is forever timeless (apparently, at least once more!). Reluctant to define herself by one certain look (or place), one thread runs common throughout all her projects: impeccable attention to details. Considering the architectural bones of each project is a source of pride for Erika. She has commented, 'Ignoring the architecture would be like a dressmaker making a dress without a proper fitting'. This level of details is what her happy clients have come to expect." Can I tell you that I nearly jumped up and down with glee when I read that? All this time and work to change our mouldings, doors, windows. I feel like we must not be too far off the right track when I read something like this :)

So, that's a little of Urban Grace Interiors. Such great sources of inspiration. It's obvious that Erika has worked hard to study and develop her talents. She's been able to work alongside some highly respected names in the business. She has training, experience. Are you wondering why I bother drooling over her rooms when I'm a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom and wife with zero background in interiors?! :) Well, the short answer is that I think we can all come at design from our own starting points. I'll just learn what I can, when I can, and hope to at least come close to my goals and not waste money on poor decisions. By taking the time to observe and really learn to see, I feel like I can learn something, even if I don't know everything. Really, I just get tickled when I feel like some of my thoughts and directions are validated - like I'm not totally out to lunch. Erika's designs push me along in my own thought process. It's encouraging to be able to say that I've found a designer who regularly hits on an aesthetic that resonates with me and whose thoughts align with my own.

Not to mention that it's just a huge bonus when that designer has such an adorable baby. I just had to fit her in this post somehow :)

All images, except where noted, are used with permission courtesy of Urban Grace Interiors. Quotes are taken from a recent My Home Ideas article. It's a great overall introduction to Erika's thoughts on design, and also features more photos of her work.


Sherry Petersik said...

Great post! I'm head over heels in love with Erika's style and I totally have a girl crush on her to boot. You're right about her being totally sweet and 100% genuine (and having great hair and shoes that make other moms on the playground feel frumpy). Anyway just popping in to say I love this little round-up about her. Smooch all those kiddos for me!


Rebecca said...

Another great post!! I'll have to go check Erika out!