Interview with Cynthia Harper

Happy Monday everyone! We're taking a break from our Pearl Street Project reveal to share a truly awesome interview we did with Cynthia Harper. This is a bit different from previous interviews we've shared because Cynthia isn't an interior designer. She's a stylist...amongst other things.

A stylist (versus an interior designer or interior decorator) is someone who specializes in curating the decor of a space - the pillows, art, coffee table books, sculptures, get the idea. The person who handles all the details that make a space not just gorgeous but also livable. And Cynthia Harper is an incredible stylist.

Gray Oak Studio Interview with Cynthia Harper

You can follow her on for a daily dose of beauty, which we highly recommend you do. Or, check out her brand new website. Not only will you find gorgeous, inspirational home design ideas and images, but also heartwarming tidbits of her personal life and some universal words of encouragement. She's a true talent and GEM.

And now, the interview.

Gray Oak Studio - What is your "job title"? Silly question, but hear us out: you do SO MANY things! You're a stylist, you have an Etsy shop (Harper and Arrow Marketplace), you're an Instagram Influencer (71k followers as we write these questions), you mentor Instagram newbies interested in growing their following...what are we missing? You're a busy lady. 

Cynthia Harper - That's a great question, and one I've wondered myself, lol. Though to be honest, I've never been one who feels the need for titles or labels. I love being creative and helping others, and as opportunities have arisen to follow my dreams and implement new ideas, I have embraced them. That being said, I consider myself a product stylist and educator, with my primary goal being to encourage and equip others to live their lives with authenticity and joy.

Gray Oak Studio - Of all that you do, what is your favorite?

Cynthia Harper - My favorite job of all is actually one that wasn't mentioned above, and that is being a mom! That is a lifelong dream that I've been fortunate to see fulfilled. I've often told people that the only 2 "followers" I have that will ever matter are my 2 children. Outside of that, the rest of this is empty. 

Gray Oak Studio - We can't tell you how many times we've been searching Pinterest for some personal or professional inspiration and landed on "the perfect image"...of your home. You style is so clean and bright, yet comfortable and approachable. How did you land on a style that felt right for you? 

Cynthia Harper - It took several years for me to really determine what my true style was. And it started to happen when I began to listen to my own inner voice that told me if I truly liked something or not. I don't think about if it's trending or if my best friend will like it. The question is "Do I like it?" When I stopped designing my home for what I thought it 'should' be and instead started designing it for what sparked joy in me, that's when I really began to hit stride stylistically. For example, people in my real life told me that subway tile to the ceiling in a kitchen was crazy and that I was planning far too much white in my kitchen. Imagine if I had listened to them, instead of my own desires. I would be missing out on a kitchen that I love, and which is coincidentally also appreciated by many people on social media too.  

Gray Oak Studio interview with Cynthia Harper

Gray Oak Studio - And when you're shopping for that perfect piece and you find something, how do you know it will work not only functional wise but within the context of your style?

Cynthia Harper - I gravitate toward neutrals with lots of texture because it's so important to use texture to keep a space from falling flat. And when I'm shopping, I always ask myself 2 questions before I buy something: "1) Are there are least 3 places in my home that I could put this? and 2) Would I still consider buying this if I had to pay twice as much for it?" If I can answer yes to both those questions, then I know it will work within the context of my style because I know it will be a versatile piece that will work in many rooms, and I know that I'm not just tempted to buy it because it's a cheap impulse purchase. 

Gray Oak Studio - Who inspires you? What Instagram feeds are you most excited to see pop up on your feed?

Cynthia Harper - There are so many! That's a tough one to narrow down. I'm inspired by big design firms like @studiomcgee, and by other interior stylists & mamas like @brepurposed, @arrowsandbow and @thehouseonbeachroad, to name a few!  I'm also inspired by the insightful humor and wisdom of my friend @thefestivefarmhouse. There's just so many who inspire me on instagram!

Gray Oak Studio interview with Cynthia Harper

Gray Oak Studio - Your home featured white walls long before they became the rage. What draws you to white walls? And, if you don't mind sharing, what are your favorite white paint colors?

Cynthia Harper - I love the clean calm simplicity of white walls, and I love that they are the perfect blank canvas for creating any space I can imagine!    I love White Dove by Benjamin Moore and Snowbank by Olympic (the perfect crisp white). 

Gray Oak Studio - What is your dream project?

Cynthia Harper - I have 2 dream projects!  One would be to one day renovate an RV and spend the summer traveling in it with my family.  The idea of creating a vehicle for us to go explore new places as a family is exciting!  And then while we aren't traveling in it, we could rent it out as an airbnb or something.  That would be fun!   Also, I'd love to one day have a studio space that can be utilized by creatives and small shop owners for photo shoots, or hosting markets, or events.  A place to build community and creativity while empowering and equipping entrepreneurs and creatives...that would be a dream come true!  

Gray Oak Studio interview with Cynthia Harper

We are so grateful to Cynthia. Her thoughtful, wise words were a joy for us to read and we hope you feel the same. Have a wonderful week! 

- Leah, Sonia & Michele

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Interview with Bria Hammel

Today we're sharing the interior design wisdom of Bria Hammel, of Bria Hammel Interiors. We reached out to Bria back in January and asked if she would be willing answer a couple questions from the likes us, major fans. She was immediately responsive and incredibly generous.

We are such major fans because Bria Hammel Interiors creates undeniably gorgeous designs. Just scroll through the portfolio and you will see bright, fresh spaces done right in so many different ways. She does use color, and we mean hot pink and bright yellow, but it's mostly white, neutral palettes that feel inherently clean and inviting. While traditional stylings are certainly her wheelhouse, she kills modern too. I mean, check out this mudroom from The Orono House project.

The wide plank walls, the light gray and white checkered floor. Just perfect.

And here's what she had to say (we did keep it brief because she's a busy lady):

Gray Oak Studio: Your aesthetic is so clean and bright. We absolutely love it. And, yet, you’re not afraid to use color! What tips or strategies do you have for people who want to use color or try out a new trend but are a little afraid or unsure?

Bria Hammel: We always tell our clients that are afraid of too much color to use it in places that aren’t as big of commitments. In the kitchen- if you are afraid to paint all your cabinets a fun color, take the risk on the backsplash. In the great room- afraid to commit to buying a bright colored sofa? Have fun with the chairs and pillows, or use color on your window treatments. I think it’s important for clients to push their style. We all sit and look at thousands of pictures on Instagram and Pinterest and the ones that always stand out are the spaces where people took risks! I’ve never had a client regret it.

Gray Oak Studio: Other than the kitchen, what do you think is the most important room for people to focus on in their home? What is an aspect in design that you think people should not skimp on? And then, when is going budget a no brainer?

Bria Hammel: I always want to finish the living room in a home. Between the kitchen and living
room, which these days are typically open to each other, it’s where people spend 90% of their time in the home while they are awake ;) Our goal is to always create a room that is not only beautiful but so comfortable too. We have to use materials that people can live in… the days of not touching the furniture are over! If we are working with a client on their home from the ground up, we push our clients to invest in their millwork and their lighting. Those 2 elements can elevate
the home to a new level! Typically we can be budget friendly in bathrooms and bedrooms. There are so many beautiful simple tiles, and sometimes just adjusting the pattern can still make a statement.

Speaking of millwork and lighting (from The Scheffer Avenue House project)...


It kinda hurts it's so pretty. Sigh.

Alright, that's all from Bria for today. Although, you can check out our post from last month about 2018 design trend predictions, which includes one of Bria's predictions (click here). And you can also get excited for more great interview fun with more great designers - next month we're sharing the wise words of Marie Flanigan!

- Leah, Michele & Sonia 



Michele's 2018 Design Goal

Recently, Leah and Sonia shared their design goals for 2018. This week, I'll be sharing one of the rooms from my home that I’ve been wanting to makeover for quite some time--the laundry room! Isn’t it funny how a room we use almost every day doing one of the most dreaded chores gets pushed aside to the bottom of our wishlist? This year, I'm finally taking control and making this a room that makes me want to do multiple loads of laundry and iron like nobody’s business!

While I'm thankful to have an actual room for our laundry near the kitchen, it is a room that guests walk by and see when they use our powder room right next to it. If we are having company over, I need to make sure there’s not a mound of laundry on the floor, undergarments drying on a rack, or shoes piling up from the garage entrance also off this room. Luckily, there's a pocket door for emergencies (smart thinking of the previous owners of our home).  However, the laundry room also has a window that gives off a lot of natural light into the otherwise dark hallway so closing the pocket door is not always ideal.

Along with the clutter, there is also a not-so-pretty wire shelving unit that is visible on the way to the powder room that is really not necessary since there are plenty of cabinets above and beside the washer/dryer on the opposite wall.  My goal is to replace the wire shelving unit with a long open counter top for folding clothes with a couple of rolling laundry carts underneath and some type of concealed shelving for extra shoes. A nice light fixture and a fresh coat of paint on the walls and cabinets would really transform this room and make it a place I look forward to using every day (and not embarrassed by from all the clutter when guests walk by).

Here are some inspirational laundry rooms that I could spend all day washing, folding, and ironing in...

SOURCE:  twelve on main

I love the turned legs and butcher block countertop along with some simple white subway tile to go along with the rest of the farmhouse style in my home.

Source:  Studio McGee

Source: Studio McGee

What’s better than white shiplap to add some texture to an accent wall? I love the gray tiled floor in this pattern in this room too!

source: Bre purposed

source: Bre purposed

I am thinking of painting the existing white cabinets a beautiful shade of navy or gray to add some contrast and interest to my mostly neutral home. Love how darker paint colors can make such a statement against so much white!

Hope to have some updates for you later in 2018!