No matter where you live, if you like to look at beautiful interiors online, you’ve likely been to Holly Hollingsworth Phillips’ blog, The English Room. After graduating from Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida with a degree in arts history, Holly started on an interior design degree in Atlanta. She also studied for six months at Sotheby’s in London for 17th and 18th century decorative arts. After five years in Atlanta, she moved home to Charlotte to join The English Room, an interior design firm her mom started and which she joined in 1999; the eponymous blog following in 2012.
Today, the blog is enjoyed around the world and we’re delighted to have her join us today, as we’re fans of her work, her blog and of her as a person.
Tell us about how you got into interior design.
I feel like I have been an interior designer my entire life. My mother was an interior designer and an antiques dealer. I grew up in a house designed by Mario Buatta [the prince of chintz]. He encouraged my mother to become a designer after seeing her innate taste and style. I really thought I wanted to be more in the fine arts world or museum world. After doing multiple internships in other fields, I realized that interiors was actually where I was drawn. I worked my way up from the ground up. I worked at Travis and Company at ADAC in the sample room to start and eventually became in charge of their antiques before going out on my own in design.
What is your biggest strength when it comes to design?
Creativity. I have no lack of inspiration. I could scheme hundreds of rooms a day. I often put together fictitious rooms to avoid doing other more tedious paperwork. Textiles, art and architecture constantly inspire me.
If you weren’t a designer, what would you be doing?
I often think I could be a travel agent. I also have a love and desire for travel and love to explore each location prior to visiting with extensive research. I eventually want to launch travel guides on my blog. Friends and clients are constantly asking for a restaurant, store and hotel advice on any of their many trips.
How did you and your mother come to start The English Room?
My mother started The English Room in the early 80’s. At that time it was strictly antiques. I started going on buying trip to the UK at age 10. Now, my mother is retired and it is a mix of antiques, vintage finds, furniture, and decorative accessories.
At what point did you start blogging?
I started blogging by accident. My web designer put a space for blog on my first website. I left it dormant for the first six months after doing a few test posts—it seemed incredibly tedious. I was then inspired to attend the Design Bloggers Conference in LA only because the pictures looked like so much fun on social media from the pretty event the previous year. I started my blog January 1 of 2012. It has been going strong ever since.
You obviously love orange. Is it a color you decorate with a lot?
I love orange personally but, I actually find many of my clients do not. I am okay with that. I truly love almost any color in the rainbow and find it exhilarating to work with multiple palettes.
Do you attend a lot of interior design conferences? What do you get out of those experiences?
I do attend many interior design conferences. It has changed over the years as my knowledge has increased. Originally, I think I learned so much technical information about blogging. Now it has become much more networking with fellow designers and meeting potential sponsors and forming collaborative projects. People that I consider some of my closest friends, I have met through some of these design conferences such as Blogtour, Design Bloggers Conference and The Southern C Summit. I find it incredibly refreshing to be able to spend time with people who have such similar interests. We travel very well together and no one seems to get bored constantly talking about antiques, interiors, travel, art, museums etc.
Describe your favorite home you’ve designed.
I have many favorites and they are all colorful as clients let me do what I do best. A recent one is for a client here in Charlotte who has an equal love of pattern, wallpaper and color. The more layers of pattern and color the more excited we both get. Some may shy away from these bold statements where we keep adding additional layers. More is more! [SB Note: a link to this home is at the end of today’s FACES interview]
You’re out of college and your Grandma gives you a $1,000 to spend on your home. What should you use it to buy?
This is a really tough one. I would likely not be practical knowing me and would buy a piece of statement art that you could decorate around and you would always think of Grandma each time you looked at it.
You don’t have money to do a complete kitchen renovation. What are some easy things you can do to breathe new life into the space?
Paint those ugly wood stained cabinets! White is always fine but, a fun color would certainly spice it up. Throw on a little new hardware, wallpaper the ceiling, install some great lighting. There are plenty of ways to disguise a bad kitchen without a full renovation.
What is your go-to item in your wardrobe for summer and fall?
That is easy. My summer wardrobe staple is a caftan. They are breezy, comfortable and insanely chic, all at the same time. Throw in some flat gladiator sandals, a fun beaded necklace, an arm full of bangles and you’re set to go. My fall wardrobe staple is also relatively easy. I love leather leggings and a fur vest. You can wear them with short sleeve shirts or long sleeves as the weather starts to change.
How do you strike a work/life balance?
I don’t and anyone who says you can may be lying. I have a bit of a technology addiction and I’m certainly on my computer and phone too much. I tend to try and spend the afternoon after work with my children as much as possible and then as soon as they’re off to bed I’m back to work. That is getting harder and harder with their sports that go into the early evenings and children old enough to stay up as late as I do. I’m a bit of a night owl and pay for it every single morning. I never tend to learn my lesson especially during the school year.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? What is one thing about you that would surprise people?
I am a cowgirl at heart. I think I could be equally happy with life on a farm as long as UPS still delivered. I dream of a big beautiful ranch out west with horses, cows, llamas, chickens and the like. I do think my caftans would look a bit out of place though.
Three things you can’t live without, excluding faith, family and friends?
My dogs. My iPhone 6 +. My extensive collection of costume jewelry. La Croix Pamplemousse seltzer … oops that is four.
Thank you, Holly!
To see the home (which is still evolving) that she was referring to earlier, you can view it here: theenglishroom.biz/portfolio-2/queens-road. While you are there, be sure to sign up for her emails to be part of her The English Room community!
Thanks to Jonathan Cooper for today’s beautiful photographs.