Happy Thursday, friends! Are you in the mood for some inspiration? If so look no further! Today, I’m chatting with interior designer and blogger, Amy Chalmers. You may already know Amy from her beautiful blog, Maison Decor, or from Matthew Mead’s Decorating magazine. If you don’t you’re in for a real treat! I first met Amy in Boston when Annie Sloan was visiting a few years ago, but we were both featured in Matthew’s magazines so our friendship has grown from there. The funny thing is Amy used to come into my parents restaurant, Baldwins in Woburn, so she knew my parents before me. I think you’ll be just as inspired by her creativity and decorating talents as I am! Oh, and I think you’ll swoon over her little dog, Colby, too!
Grab your coffee, tea or other beverage of choice and join us for the latest installment of Creativity over Coffee.
Creativity Over Coffee: Amy Chalmers
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your creative journey?
Amy: I feel like I was born with the need to create. One of my earliest memories was going to school in first or second grade and having an art teacher! She was a warm and loving figure that opened up an exciting world to this little girl. I loved that class so much! I really loved my art teacher and had an early epiphany of sorts, that this is what I would do when I got big. Along the elementary years my parents nurtured my creative leanings. My big bedroom got a different shade of purple paint for each wall with pink woodwork. They never blinked when I painted an enormous wall mural on one of the walls on a whim. My father built me a drafting table when I was in junior high school and it had cubbies to hold all of my pens, pencils, markers and paints, and there I could sit and draw and paint on this huge table he made for me. I remember making candles on the kitchen stove and pouring them into molds shaped liked owls. My Christmas gifts were full of artsy things, and I loved it all. I was lucky to have their recognition and backing early on. In college I studied creative writing and art. However I found my way into the decorating world in my early 20s when I started sewing and making custom draperies and slipcovers. My mom had introduced me to sewing, and together we made window treatments, painted and wallpapered and decorated rooms in my parents home. This was very satisfying to me, and I am sure was the birth of my own design and decor business. After 25 years I opened a retail home boutique and tried that hat on for three years, just recently closing. I found that my creative valves had been shut down in the effort to run the demanding retail business. Its been wonderful to get back to doing all the projects I enjoy, from sewing, home DIY projects, painting, decorating, remodeling and blogging. For me, the “need” to be creative is real and necessary for my happiness.
I feel like you have worn many creative hats, is there one creative medium you like better than others?
Amy: Paint is the one thing I think gives the most bang for the buck, whether it is painting a room, your kitchen cabinets or a neglected outdated piece of furniture. You can’t beat the results.
Amy teaching chalk paint® techniques
When do you feel most creative or happy?
Amy: That is easy….when my “work” is done. My “work” these days may involve paying bills, cleaning house, shopping for our meals or any of the other home maker’s duties. I like to work then play as there is nothing holding me back. No nagging thoughts of “you really should be doing the taxes”…and I get to enjoy and immerse myself in what I love doing.
Is there one project that you really love and you’re really proud of that you’ve done?
Amy: Right before I got married, I flipped a house that was really a disaster. I was a single mom and it fit my budget. I knew I could make it beautiful. My broker, who was also a good friend, thought I had lost my mind when I bought it. It was a small bungalow that was really dumpy looking and didn’t even have heat on the second floor. In less than a year I was selling it as I was getting married. My broker came back to list it for me, and I will never forget her amazed expression and comment of wanting to start a business with me flipping houses as she thought that this bungalow had nothing redeeming in it at all. That is one thing I was very proud of.
Who or What inspires you?
Amy: I get inspired by a lot of different things I see in magazines, on Pinterest, and occasionally certain people who I think are just amazing at how beautifully they create, and how original they are. In recent years I am quite inspired by Matthew Mead, Annie Sloan, Justin Power, Brooke Giannetti, and Sandra Cavallo, some friends, some family some mentors. I remember being very inspired by Barbra Streisand and her music as it felt so soulful to me in my young teen years, and I was not musical at all, it just felt empowering. Turns out she is an amazing designer herself, as evidenced by her book My Passion for Design. Sometimes I take bits of what they do and tweak it in my Amy blender and it comes out all me, inspired by a thread of them.
Do you ever get in a funk? If so, how do you get out of it?
Amy: I call it burnout. It’s just part of the process. When I have been really prolific and things are coming to me naturally, there is a skip in my step about what I am working on and things flow easily. Usually there is a down time similar to writer’s block that happens after a period of being super creative but I don’t worry because I know I am charging up my batteries for the next round.
What is your favorite color? Is there any color you don’t LOVE?
Amy: Well I love to use one color with neutrals, and I do like using white or very light grey or taupes to set off a pretty blue or green, my current favorite colors. I lean to cool colors and I would say that I don’t like red or orange very much at all.
Efex Molding Applied to her mantel
How has social media impacted the work and art you create?
Amy: It has driven a lot of traffic to my blog and I get to share more of what I do with so many people. I think one has to be careful to stay free of looking for too much “inspiration” from the outside sources you can find on social media, as it can dilute what you really are all about. It can interfere with originality. For decades it was just magazines and books that were the sources of inspiration, but now social media doles it out 24/7 and it can be too much for your inner artistic self.
How do you do it all?
Amy: Who really does it all? I do enough, or at least try to do enough. Back when I had the stores I was doing it all, but in doing so, much was lacking. So maybe there is no benefit to doing it all. Doing enough is enough. I think it’s a mirage when you “see” people that are doing it all. Having a great partner in life, as I do with my husband, makes doing enough just right.
Amy and her husband, Dave, relaxing on vacation
What would you say to someone who says they’re scared to try, scared put themselves out there. I think sometimes fear holds people back.
Amy: Oh I agree! Fear is such a nasty thing, and it comes from insecurity. And insecurity isn’t something to be ashamed of, it’s natural but we need to consciously turn off that voice if it pops up in our heads. To be insecure about the creative process is about the worst thing that you can let happen to yourself. Be bold and unafraid (or at least try to fake it at first) as personal creativity only needs to meet your own standards. We have to not try to be everything to everyone. You know? If you love it, then it’s fabulous. End of story.
What advice would you give to someone who is interested becoming more creative or following in your footsteps?
Amy: I do believe that if you can remember what it was like to be handed out the new box of crayons in the first grade, you had NO FEAR. It was lovely and exciting to take out a new crayon and color your page. Along the way people stop coloring, and they have to find that first grader inside themselves again. When I was teaching paint workshops at my shop, Maison Decor, I often would encourage people by talking about their first box of crayons. No rules people! It’s so much fun, just get started and enjoy it privately at first until you get ready to share. But just get started and do it. Whether it’s sketching or painting or writing….
Growing up I was a huge follower of INSIDE THE ACTORS STUDIO. At the end of the program, they would ask the interviewee these questions:
- What is your favorite word? Fabulous and Fantastic. Oh that’s two.
- What is your least favorite word? No
- What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? Seeing something that is different and beautiful. Hearing something very wise. Watching acts of compassion.
- What turns you off? Schedules and deadlines
- What is your favorite curse word? Sorry, but it is the bad one that I must not say anymore.
- What sound or noise do you love? I love the sounds of nature. Rain, water flowing, waves crashing, wind blowing, birds singing, tree leaves rustling.
- What sound or noise do you hate? Loud noises. TV on in the morning. I like quiet.
- What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? I would have liked to be a trial lawyer.
- What profession would you not like to do? Doctor.
- If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? Oh you have finally arrived!
Thank you so much for stopping by today, Amy, and sharing your creative journey with us. Your words have really inspired me and I know my readers, too! Your answers are all so refreshing.
Be sure to follow along with Amy: