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 Marie Flanigan

In the past couple months we've shared interviews with CC and Mike Creative and Bria Hammel Interiors. It's been such a treat to rub elbows (aka exchange emails) with such talented, influential designers. Today we're more than a little excited to share an interview with Marie Flanigan. 

Marie is at the helm of an amazing interior design studio based out of Houston, Texas - Marie Flanigan Interiors. Her work has such an incredible range. There are minimalist, modern spaces like the stunner below.


And rustic, masculine havens like this.


Her portfolio is major eye candy. We highly recommend you check it out. 

Ok, let's get to it. We were so grateful when Marie agreed to answer of few, fun questions for us. And, now, so delighted to share her wisdom with you. 

Gray Oak - First of all, we love your clean, warm and timeless style. We are constantly scrolling through your IG
account for inspiration! Just wondering how do you tap into your client's style when it differs from your

Marie - Homes should be a reflection of the unique individuals living within and I always design with an open
mind and open ears. I’ve discovered that every client brings a fresh perspective to the way we work,
allowing us to try new things and explore new avenues. So much magic exists in the moments when
everyone is stretching and growing!

Gray Oak - Staying on top of the latest design trend is such a fun part of the job (how great is all the green!?).
What are the best design trends you’re seeing in Texas?

Marie - You’re so right – it’s a blast seeing what’s haute on the horizon each year! I prefer a timeless palette
and tend to stick with the classics, but I enjoy accenting that palette with trendier selections that can be
rotated out with ease. This isn’t really considered a trend but my favorite design elements are those
crafted from authentic materials, including deconstructed, raw, and minimalist products. I also love the
element of surprise and feel drawn to the drama of oversized light fixtures, heavy textures, and
statement drapery that layer a space with interest without being dependent upon the use of bold color!

Gray Oak - What is your favorite type of room (bathroom, kitchen, etc.) to design and why?  

Marie - One of my greatest joys is designing intimate gathering spaces where families can build lasting
memories. So much of our lives are centered around the joy of sharing a hearty meal or tender
conversation, and that makes kitchens and dining spaces a few of the most powerful rooms in the

Gray Oak - Last, and best, what is your dream design project?! 

Marie - I feel like I’m living out my dream every day! Our clients place a great deal of trust in our team and we
cherish that opportunity to experiment and play. I would love to work on more vacation properties,
including a home overseas, because who isn’t having fun when you’re designing for leisure?! Another
dream is adding to the Marie Flanigan Collection by partnering with one of our luxury vendors on the
design of furnishings or lighting – here’s hoping 2018 is the year when all of our dreams come true!

One more incredible design from Marie before we sign off. 


Do you not just want to LIVE in this bathroom? Who needs a refrigerator if that's your vanity?! The millwork, the floors, the elegant decor. gorgeous.

We are so thankful to Marie for sharing her interior design knowledge and hope to continue bringing you interviews with such MAJOR leaders in the field. We'll be back with a new post next Monday. Have a great week!

- Leah, Michele & Sonia

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