We love America and all it has to offer, but when it comes to decor, most experts say Europe has us beat. One of those experts is Gina Milne from Willow Decor, who lived in Germany for several years and has traveled all over Europe. She now resides near Boston, putting out a tremendous blog that chronicles all that inspires her, and you really need to see the beautiful pictures she posts several times per week.
Gina has been very successful with Willow Decor, having been featured in the Washington Post and having met a lot of designers that she admires. She has also met many of her blogging friends, including some that we’ve even interviewed on Decor Medley!
It is with great pleasure that we feature Gina today, and we thank her very much for her time and effort. Please welcome Gina from Willow Decor!
1. Gina, thank you for taking part in our interview. Please take a moment to tell readers a little bit about yourself and your blog.
Willow Decor has been such great fun!! What started as way to catalogue my own personal photos of interesting interiors has turned into a very fun journey that launched me into a world of blogging! Since Willow Decor’s mention in the Washington Post, there are days I feel just like Dorothy in Oz.
So many readers contact me and I have been able to forge some incredible friendships. Through Willow Decor I been able to meet with fabulous architects and designers – and even meet some of my idols. I love to renovate and re-do spaces – I have moved 8 times in 17 years, not including rentals while I was building homes. I have built three houses and renovated the rest. My husband says after 12 months I get antsy and want a new project. He is probably not too far off.
2. You’re based out of Boston, one of the best places to visit in the country. The history, the beauty, the charm… I love it! Tell us a bit about your home and neighborhood and some of the history behind it over the decades? Also, are there any good antique shops and décor stores around town that you like to visit?
I live in a beautiful historic town just outside of Boston. My neighborhood was built at the turn of the century as a planned community with sidewalks, neighborhood schools and proximity to walk to downtown – a novel idea at a time when living in the city was considered more desirable.
My home is a 1930’s Royal Barry Wills colonial with a slate roof. I feel a tremendous responsibility to maintain and upkeep the integrity of my home. After almost 80 years I wanted to enhance the home and not remove the elements that make it a classic.
I enlarged the kitchen and reworked some spaces, but we were able to maintain the original feeling of the house, including matching the slate roof with antique slate tiles and custom matching the crown moldings. I also replaced all the doorknobs with glass knobs to match the upstairs which has been untouched over the years. I tried to focus on the small details which give the home a certain richness that is difficult to find in new construction.
There are so many stores I love: some favorites include locally – Hudson, Comina, Civilization (Swedish antiques) and Belle Maison – The Boston Design Center has wonderful showrooms – The Serpah and Home in Sturbridge and also Simply Home and Avolli in Maine. Since my visit to New Orleans I can’t stop raving about Tara Shaw, Home and Garden, Perch and Julie Neill Designs. I have found shipping more reasonable than I had anticipated.
But I am a bargain shopper at heart and I remain a flea market girl – I never miss Brimfield and I also love HomeGoods and Jordan’s Furntiture Warhouse. I have had success mixing expensive and inexpensive, for instance the focal point in my family room is an 1800’s painted chippy mantel I found in the trash. I have had it hanging in the past three of my homes and when we sell the houses the buyers always request it in the deal. But I always say- sorry I need to keep it – It’s a deal breaker!
3. What in particular draws you to the decor of the Gustavian period? Have you ever visited the places in Europe that you draw your stylistic influences from?
For the first several years I was married, my husband and I both worked and lived in Munich, Germany. I had always loved Swedish antiques and Bavarian antiques have a similar quality – painted, and waxed pine pieces. We often drove to Austria, Italy, France and Switzerland visiting the sites and antiquing. We traveled all over Europe and had many pieces shipped to Munich.
At the same time, my sister happened to be also just married and living in Copenhagen, Denmark. The four of us spent many weekends antiquing and acquiring beautiful pieces.
I am lucky because my husband loves antiques and also enjoys the hunt! It was such a great opportunity and I was exposed to so much living in Europe when I was in my 20’s – I regret I did not take enough pictures. There was inspiration at every turn!
4. Since you’ve started your blog, you’ve gotten to meet some of your followers in person, such as Julie Neill from Bayou Contessa. How has blogging changed your social life and have you gotten to know some of your readers personally?
I am so incredibly fortunate!! I have a network of “blog” friends and have met several of them. It was a joy to meet Julie Neill and her staff- what wonderful artisans! But also I have had the opportunity to personally meet several of my design idols, most notably, Suzanne Kassler. What a wonderful designer and so forthcoming with advice and tips to help others create beautiful spaces.
Through my blog I have also been contacted by many others I admire, like Catalano Architects, which design the most stunning homes, and Maine interior designer, Linda Banks, whose houses have graced dozens of magazine covers. Blogging has connected me with other bloggers whosetalent and generosity inspire and astound me including Linda Merrill of Surroundings, Joni Webb of Cote De Texas, Brooke Giannetti of Velvet and Linen, Valorie Hart of Visual Vamp, Paul Anater of Kitchen and Residential Design, Chris Carey of Just a Girl and my dear friend who writes the wonderful blog Things that Inspire.
What a great gift that has been given to me to connect with these wonderful and talented people.What is so special about everyone I have met in the blogging world is that they are so forthcoming with advice and tips to help you. But perhaps the most rewarding is the personal emails I get from my readers. I am so excited that I have been able to inspire so many to create more beautiful spaces.
5. How have you been enjoying your new butler’s pantry and office, and are you answering these questions in your pantry right now? Looking back, was it worth all the effort to renovate?
I have been bumped out of the pantry because we installed a Mac computer for the kids and I prefer to work on my old laptop. So right now I am in the kitchen sitting at my new/old Belgian pine table.
Was the renovation worth it? Don’t they say renovation is like birth, – you forget the pain! That is so true with me! I am a perfectionist and it’s difficult to find craftspeople to share my vision. But when I did, we created the most wonderful things!
My pantry is a perfect example. I had a wonderful cabinetmaker, Country Craftsman in Uxbridge, MA who shared my love of older homes and went the extra mile, no extra ten miles, to help me create a beautiful space. Add in my fabulous finish carpenter and well I am so happy with it!! It looks like its original to the house! My husband calls it my little jewel box. So yes, it was worth it in the end.
6. You recently blogged about your love of twig furniture. With the summer approaching, do you have any plans coming up for outdoor backyard decoration projects?
I always have projects in the works. I wish I was content with status quo – but if I see a space that can be improved I am haunted by it. I spend hours drawing and redrawing rooms, layouts, patios, etc. We have a beach house on the North shore of Massachusetts and last summer we removed a wall between the dining area and sunroom.
So this summer I plan to paint and freshen up that area! By the way, that is where I have my fabulous twig furniture that I bought at flea market in Minneapolis. I bought it off the back of a truck from a twig artist! We also have plans in the works to renovate our outdoor patio area since we expanded our kitchen in our Colonial home. We plan to add an outdoor fireplace and water feature to that area. Watch for posts on outdoor spaces because I have been collecting images for inspiration.
7. The renovation of your kitchen was really something else. You like to post some photos of inspiration rooms that give you ideas for your renovations, which is a nice touch. Whether it’s magazines or the internet, where are your favorite places to find these kinds of inspiration rooms?
Thanks so much! It was great fun to do and we love the result! I have several architectural sites that I visit often for ideas, also designers and other bloggers. The internet is an incredible resource and so are other bloggers. A reader was recently looking for a light she saw in a magazine ad, I asked another blogger, she asked her readers and within 24 hours we located it! Just amazing!
I still get several magazines as well – my favorites being New England Home, Veranda and Traditional Home.
8. If money were no object, where in the world would you choose to live, and what kinds of elaborate things would you do to your home that you cannot do today?
We have moved so many times so I guess I never think about things in that way. I choose to live and make a beautiful home where my family and I are most happy and for now that is Boston. (I am thrilled to be back in Boston because it’s where I grew up and where my extended family still is).
I can say I dream about having several homes – all with different styles. For instance I would like to have a Mountain House in Aspen, overlooking the ski slopes and decorate it in a natural, western sort of flair. I would love a loft in NYC with a really contemporary feeling; with places for lots of artwork and huge floor to ceiling windows that look over the city.
Finally, I would want a Shingle Style ocean front house, with lots of bead board and detailing so it looks like an old home that has been there forever. If money (and time) was no object I would spend months finding the best craftspeople and create fabulous homes with the kind of care and details that being lost in new construction today.
9. Gina, thanks again for joining us today. For this last question, please tell us what first got you interested in home decor and design, whether it was something from childhood that sparked your interest, or whether you developed it later on in life. Thank you and have a great rest of the year!
I remember always being interested in design. As a young child when my sisters and I played with Barbie’s I always just wanted to set up the set up the townhouse furniture and accessories. In my teens, I remember rearranging my room often and at college I was always tapped to head up the decorations for formals etc. (that got me the nickname “Queen of Decorations” by some of my friends) Of course my older sister has been a huge inspiration for me. She built an incredible reproduction saltbox. She was the general contractor, landscape architect and interior designer all on her own! The house came out fabulous and several years ago it was featured in the Boston Globe. She has an incredible eye and has taught me so much. We still have so much fun working on things together. I guess I have always just been drawn to it naturally.
So… did this interview inspire you to make reservations for the next flight to Sweden? Very tempting, isn’t it?
Thanks again to Gina for sharing her life with us, and we hope that all of you go and check out Willow Decor today. It’s really a great blog and you’ll find yourself hooked quickly by all the great photos. Bon voyage!