I was absolutely ecstatic that Kate from the NEO-traditionalist allowed me to interview her for my first Behind the Curtain feature! Kate's blog is brimming with inspiration, and I couldn't wait to learn more about the mastermind behind it all. Not surprisingly, Kate is as sweet as she is talented. Enjoy!
(San Luis Obispo, California)
Can you talk a little about your background?
Oh my, where to begin? I grew up on California’s central coast in a sleepy little town called San Luis Obispo (nicknamed “SLO-w” for a reason). I have two brothers---Andrew, the eldest, who lives in Newport Beach and works in online advertising and Joe, the youngest, is a budding Broadway star. It’s a sunny town covered with vineyards and ten minutes from the beach. When I was young I thought it was painfully dull, but looking back I see I was quiet spoiled really.
How did you end up going to school in Switzerland, and how has this influenced you?
I applied to several colleges back east and on a whim, one random American college in Switzerland. I’d already decided to attend Barnard in Manhattan when the school in Switzerland phoned and announced I’d been given two generous scholarships. It was too good an offer to turn down so I packed my things and off to Switzerland I went! The town, Lugano, is a lovely little banking city on the Swiss-Italian border just twenty minutes from Italy’s famous Lake Como. My freshman “dorm” room had a balcony with a view of palm trees and the lake. It was all a bit surreal. I studied art history and enjoyed “academic travels” to locations such as London, Budapest, and Sarajevo. My classmates were from around the globe---it was a once in a lifetime experience.
I'm dying to know-- how did you end up in West Virginia?!
The million-dollar question! After two years in San Francisco and one in Manhattan I was ready for a change. John, my now fiancé, and I had been doing long distance (he’s from Maine, but is finishing up a degree here in Morgantown) and I missed him dearly. One day on the phone I said, “Why don’t I just move there!” and two months later (much to the shock of my friends and family) I was on his doorstep. Despite my worldly travels, moving to Appalachia was the biggest culture shock of my life. It took awhile to adjust, but I’ve come to love West Virginia for all its “wild and wonderful” ways. Emphasis on wild...
When did you first know that you wanted to work in interior design?
The first time I seriously considered interior design as a career I was fifteen.I was fortunate enough to join Suzanne Tucker (of Tucker & Marks) and her family on vacation to Europe for three weeks. We started in Paris where we attended the opening night of the antique season. I still remember strolling in and out of the shops trying to look sophisticated sipping champagne whilst ogling massive chandeliers. That night, we dined at Hotel Costes (decorated by the famous Jacques Garcia) and there was Yves Saint Laurent sitting at the next table over! We were driven home in a Rolls Royce down the Champs-Elyses under a full moon---it was pure magic. I was so taken with all the beauty around me and Suzanne was so knowledgeable of everything we saw---I was hooked. The trip continued on to Italy where we took outdoor watercolor classes in Florence and visited the Fortuny showroom in Venice. The owner, a friend of Suzanne’s, gave us a private tour of his palazzo adjacent to the showroom and gave me a piece of antique Fortuny fabric. It’s one of my most prized possessions. The trip was life changing in that it exposed me to a world---to such beauty---I’d never known existed.
What inspired you to start "The Neo-Traditionalist"?
I had just moved to West Virginia and was lonely and looking for a creative outlet. I had no idea what I was doing (I still don’t...), but I just started pouring myself into the blog, sometimes writing as many as six posts a day. I have made so many incredible connections as a result and am touched and humbled every day by my thoughtful, creative, intelligent readers. I still remember the excitement I felt when I received my first comment about six months ago. I called my fiancé ecstatic---someone actually cared!
When you're fresh out of ideas, where do you turn for inspiration?
Great question! I try my best to visit museums, flip though old magazines (my Domino archive...), read my design books, and of course, follow my fellow design blogs. I also have more than ten binders full of “inspiration archives” brimming with everything from beautifully designed business cards to old pages of J.Crew catalogs. They never fail to inspire.
What are some of your long-term and short-term goals?
Short term, I’d like to turn Katie Armour Home, my new online vintage shop, into a major destination for one-of-a-kind home accessories.
Long term, I’d like to create my own collection for the home and open a brick-and-mortar “Katie Armour” boutique with an eclectic mix of new and vintage/antique. I have a small, vintage brass “welcome” sign with a pineapple that I’m saving to post by the door of my first boutique. I believe in dreaming big.
(Rita, Kate's stylish Grandmother)
How would you describe your style?
Whimsical, colorful, feminine...traditional with a twist! I admire the wardrobes of Jackie Kennedy, Lee Radziwill, Diana Vreeland, Jenna Lyons and Kate Spade just to name a few... Oh and my grandmother Rita---she’s got serious flair. She’s in her seventies now and still, everywhere we go people tell me how beautiful and stylish she is. She’s leaving this week to spend a month in Egypt...go grandma!
How about that cute little pug?!
I found Alfie on Craigslist the first day we started searching for a dog. The owner mentioned in the ad the puppy was $200 or he would be willing to trade him for an iPhone---can you even imagine?! Well, we met them that very night at 11:15pm at a 7Eleven (no, really...) and took Alfie straight home. The poor little guy had not been taken care of and was a dirty mess, but after a long bath and a little TLC he was good as new. I never thought I was an animal person---now I’m in love. I’m so thankful we rescued him from those cruel, neglectful people!
I love the daily quotes on your website. If you had to name a favorite quote, what would it be?
“You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm.” -Colette
All images courtesy of the NEO-traditionalist