For Annie Selke, writing Fresh American Spaces wasn’t just about putting a few decorating tips down on paper. It was also a complex process of translating her visual aesthetic—an often intuitive style honed from years of study and travel—into clear, useful ideas that readers could use every day in a variety of spaces. Annie sat down to answer some questions about Fresh American Spaces and sharing her design knowledge.
Fresh American: How did you come up with the idea for the book?
Annie Selke: I’ve always wanted to write a book; it was just a matter of having the time to work on it. I also wanted to make sure I had something relevant to show people. Most decorating books have tons of beautiful photos, but they don’t break down the process of creating the space. This, for me, was squeezing out of my sponge of a brain the different things I knew intuitively and then explaining how I get from the vision in my head to the finished space. I kept asking myself, “I know this, but how do I know?”
FA: How did you decide on the five styles represented in the book?
AS: I was trying to define the different styles I’ve created over the years with bedding and rugs, and then take them a step further and really flesh them out. I’ve always felt that Pine Cone Hill was very diverse and hard to define. The book was similar! It was easier to put a finer point on five specific styles by palette and lifestyle expression.
FA: What makes these five styles quintessentially American?
AS: The approach. There’s a more relaxed, practical, and happy-go-lucky style about them. I think that expresses the American spirit. We’re a jeans-and-T-shirts culture. Fresh American Spaces is about deformalizing some of the more pretentious decorating styles. It’s not about how much money you put into it—you can have great style without spending a lot of money.
FA: Which style do you find yourself using again and again in your own home?
AS: It’s such a mix! My bedroom is Refined Romantic, my living room is a Nuanced Neutral base with Everyday Exuberance art and accents, my garage is Happy Preppy. All these looks live inside of me.
FA: Is it possible to combine styles in a single home and still have a cohesive look?
AS: Absolutely. For example, you can have a Nuanced Neutral room with a Cultured Eclectic collection or art display. This book should not be construed as “You should have just one style or another.” It’s a way to help people find where they feel most at home. I think all of us respond to different styles, so I’m trying to give readers the basics on how to incorporate the styles. If they mix them and create their own style, that’s even better.
FA: You talk a lot about flowers and plants in the book. What makes them such an integral part of decorating?
AS: They’re living, breathing things. Having something in a room that’s not manufactured makes a big difference. It also blurs the edges between outside and inside. In the city, this is even more important. You see a daffodil, and you might imagine a big field of flowers. It brings you to a place you wouldn’t otherwise get to go.
FA: Beyond being pretty covering for furniture, what do fabrics bring to home design?
AS: A lot! Fabrics can be an invitation to a room and really change its personality, almost more than anything else; the choice of fabric dictates so much. It should be functional but still beautiful, and very tactile—people really respond to that.
FA: Which parts of the book were most challenging or rewarding to work on?
AS: The most challenging part was trying to articulate what was in my visual brain. The most rewarding part was the feeling that I was finally able to break down all those key elements I look at when designing an interior or project.
FA: Did working on the book make you want to revisit any rooms in your own home?
AS: I revisit rooms daily in my mind. I think, “You know what would look good there? This lamp or this table.” For me, there’s never one arrangement; there are always different pillows, rugs, paint colors, art. It’s not that I’m not happy with what I have, but I may look at a piece of art and decide I want to pull out different colors in my furniture and accents.
FA: What do you say to someone who’s afraid to experiment with decorating for fear that they won’t like the results?
AS: You have to start somewhere! Use the book as a diagnostic tool—whatever you react to, positively or negatively, helps you determine what works for you in your own home. And be aware of your surroundings. If you walk into a restaurant and think, “I like that wall color” or “I hate that piece of art,” you’ll be able to figure out what makes you happy in your own spaces. The more aware you are of what you experience, the more you’ll be able to articulate it in a style that’s very personal.