Home Decor Interview:
Diane Henkler from "In My Own Style"
There are bloggers and then there are decorators, but Diane Henkler from In My Own Style can lay a valid claim to doing both... and then some.
Diane has been a real designer for years, with her work having been seen by thousands of passers by. Then she had her book published by a division of Better Homes and Gardens, a feat very few people have ever accomplished. Finally, she created In My Own Style, a wonderful blog of inspiration and creativity where Diane displays her vast talents and abilities for all to see.
Diane was an obvious choice to feature here at Decor Medley, and she was kind enough to put lots of thought and time into her answers. We thank Diane for this effort, and we thank her for all that she does. Here now is the long awaited interview with Diane Henkler!
In My Own Style started out after I saw the movie Julie and Julia - where Julie blogs through the Julia Child's cookbook. I knew I could take all my ideas and creative energy and create a blog with it. I always wanted to be a magazine editor and this was a way I could do it my way. Nobody saying no, it has to be this way or that - it is my way - which makes it fun.
I have always been interested in personal style, DIY home decorating and crafts since I was a teenager which led me to my first job after college as a display designer for a department store. After getting married, my husband and I moved quite a few times. We sold each house in days as I had simply decorated them with the tips and tricks I learned as a display designer - no sew, using sheets, hot glue, etc. This was before HGTV. I thought, hey I could write a book about how I did this, and did. It was entitled Instant Decorating and was published by BH&Gs. My girls were 3 and 5 at the time. I was a SAHM for 20 years and taught DIY decorating and craft classes as well as ran a decorating consulting business. It was the perfect way for me to stay connected and do my own thing while my girls were growing up. Now, my husband and I are empty nesters and I have gone back to working as a display designer as my husband lost his job and we needed affordable health benefits.
In My Own Style is a place where I want to inspire women to have confidence in putting their own personal style stamp on everything they do not only from inexpensively decorating their homes, but how to turn a flea market find into a one of a kind item, to wrapping a gift to give to give to a friend who invited them to dinner. Style is not about money or perfection. It is about having the confidence to create and do things the way that seems right to you.
2. How did your book, Instant Decorating, come about? Was it a lot of work to put together, and are you proud of the way it turned out and the response it received from readers?
My book, Instant Decorating, came about when I realized after selling 2 homes in days of putting them on the market that my quick and easy decorating ideas sold the homes. I worked in display where everything can be faked - no curtain rod to hang drapes in a display. I would create something out of whatever was on hand in the "prop room" - a wire hanger would make do, bent in a way to hold the curtains. I read a few books on how to get a book published and followed their tips. I had 3 rejections and then a very nice literary agent called me one Sunday afternoon and told me she could not represent me, but then went on to tell me how to change my proposal. I don't remember her name, but she was my angel. I changed everything and sent it to Meredith Corp. They liked it and became my publisher.
I was given a year since I was a new author, but 6 months is all it took. I did most of it at night and luckily had my parents who loved taking care of my daughters during the week long photo shoot.
The book was a project driven book that was divided into chapters by the room. The Living Room was based on the seasons of the year and how easy it was to change things with fabric for each season. As far as liking how it turned out - I would have laid it out differently, but that was out of my hands - the art director and editor made all of those decisions. The only input I had was that I liked the color purple. The book had purple on the cover.
I had a great response and received many letters from readers. I wrote my own press releases and got many features in wide read newspapers and magazines. I even got to appear on Lifetime Television's Our Home show five times promoting the book. My editor joked that she wished all of her other authors did what I did to get the word out and wanted me to write a "how-to" promote your book guide for all her other authors.
My book is out of print now, but can still be purchased online from used book sellers for a few dollars. It looks dated now as color and fabric trends have changed, which happens every 5-7 years. If you overlook the fabric - the projects themselves will look good in homes today. I have re-done a project from the book a few times so far on my blog.
3. You have an astonishing ability to take people's cast-offs and make them decorative. Your film canister makeover, for example, showed great creativity and imagination. Is this a skill you feel can be learned, or are these ideas and images something that comes to you naturally?
I think it is how my brain is wired. Since I was little I always looked at every object in new ways. I think it can be learned, it is a process. Look at the object in a different way or angle. Hold it upside down, imagine it in a different color or texture. Can the parts be re-arranged in a unique way? Could something be added to it to or parts exchanged for another? Sometimes I get an idea instantly, other times it may come over a period of time. I never look at any item only for its original purpose.
can't add 2+2, but my powers of observation are on overdrive. I see everything
and my mind just stores all the fleeting images I see on a daily basis, from the
color of a street sign to the pattern of a wrought iron railing on a historic
building to the shoes my waiter was wearing when he served me lunch. I think
they all mix up and then pop into the "idea part" of my brain all scrambled up -
and then I get the aha! idea.
4. I have an uncle who works in waste management, and his tales of the kinds of things people put in the trash are truly amazing. A brand new couch was discarded once, just because of a cigarette burn on the cushion. What is it about collecting people's unwanted items and turning them into decorative items that appeals to you? And is there ever a discarded item that you'll say No to?
I hate to see stuff thrown away. It seems so wasteful and I kind of feel sorry for the items - they are like misfits - unwanted. It becomes a creative challenge for me. I also like the fact that the items are inexpensive and when I am done with them they will be unique, not some mass merchandised piece with no soul to it. Every artist has their medium, re-doing and re-purposing is mine.
I usually won't pick up anything that is upholstered. You never know what could be in the cushions. My friend once got a beautiful upholstered chair at a yard sale for $10.00. She brought it home and was very excited with her purchase, only to find that after a few days her house was invested with fleas. It cost her a lot more to have exterminators come to her house to get rid of them. So no upholstered pieces for me. I don't pick up just anything. It has to have good lines, some nice accent, or redeeming quality for me to see beyond an old finish and want to re-do it.
5. For readers who may be interested in turning trash to treasure, where are some places they might go about finding such items? Beyond the obvious places like flea markets and thrift stores, what else is there that you recommend?
Senior citizen apartment complexes and retirement communities all have shops in them where the residents can sell their stuff or if someone dies and their family doesn't want the stuff it goes to the shop. Not only do you find great deals, but the shops are usually staffed by the residents themselves. They are all so pleasant and chatty and will tell you all about Helen's table or Josephine's china that is for sale. The community where my parents live is only open on Fridays. At my mother-in-law's place - the shop is open M-F 1-4. Call around to see what is in your area.
6. You're a window display designer by trade. What do you feel is the main difference between decorating a home and decorating a display? When doing displays, do you have to take into account the styles and tastes of all the people walking by, whereas decorating a home is more based on the homeowner's personal style?
Display vs. Decorating is purely what is "in" fashion vs. personal taste, budget, and style. Stores by and large follow trends heavily. So what I put up is "HOT" fashion/trend/item of the moment. A display is supposed to entice the customer to buy. So there is plenty of impact. In a home - decorating is more about personal style and preferences. Homeowners may want to be up on the trends, but they do it with personal need, and preferences in mind. Decorating a home is about bringing beautiful comfort, personal taste, and function to a space. It is not done as a stimulus to buy.
In retail I have a certain set of "directives" I have to follow. The corporate visual office decides how everything will look and I can't deviate from that. When I first started out in display it was not like this. We were told that the store just got in a shipment of new towels - do something clever with then. That was when display was a creative job and I learned all my tips and tricks.
7. You've lived in several different places in your lifetime. Which place was your favorite, and why?
I live in suburban Philadelphia and have lived here most of my life growing up until I was 18, then back again about 10 years later. This is home. My parents and sisters live nearby. If I had to choose, I would love to go back to North Carolina. We lived in Durham, which is part of the Research Triangle. We were equal distance from the beach and the mountains which was quite nice. My husband taught at Duke, UNC and NC State. There was so much culture and interesting things to do always - concerts, sporting events, shows - life in a college town has a certain energy to it. My husband and I liked that. Keeps life fun, current, and interesting.
8. Diane, we could go on and on with interesting questions, but we'll stop here. For this last question, please tell us what first sparked your interest in designing? Was it something you developed as a young child, or did your interest come about later in life?
What I learned in kindergarten was that I was not at all interested in counting sticks and working with numbers. I was the kid with the crayons and paper or playing with the doll house and making furniture for it out of cardboard boxes, soda bottle caps and the like. My interest in design is innate. Both my parents are quite creative, so I was brought up in a way that nurtured my creativity. Growing up, I had to share a bedroom with my two sisters. We were given the master bedroom as it was bigger and would accommodate 3 beds. I was always thinking of ways to re-decorate the room - to make it mine. The room was red, pink, and white. Very well done, but I had visions of turquoise, lime, and blue. I always wanted a place to call my own and used my half of the clothes closet in the room to put my stamp on things. It was not until college that I could start actually decorating in my own style and have been doing so ever since.
What a tremendous interview! We want to send our sincere thanks to Diane
for giving us such thoughtful answers and really opening up about her background
and experience. Please visit
In My Own Style today!
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