Styling Tips from Kate Alexander

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Kate Alexander is a busy woman. As well as running her own interior styling company, Places and Graces, she was part of the team in TV3’s new renovation show, Creative Living, and recently self-published a book – Finishing Touches.

We love her for her tasteful, eclectic, retro-loving style that is truly her own, and her generosity for sharing knowledge.

Currently she’s working on a downloadable interiors shopping guide for Auckland and Sydney (can’t wait for that). Oh and did we mention she’s a mum of two?

Despite this hectic schedule, Kate was happy to help us out when we asked to interview her for our blog.     Read on for insights into what kind of interiors Kate lusts after, who she follow, and her top three interior styling tips.

Kate Alexander top image

Hi Kate. You started out as a graphic designer and now work as an interior stylist for your own agency, Places and Graces.  What made you make the jump from graphic design to interiors? I’m curious as to why you didn’t take the interior path originally?

As a child I loved to draw house plans. I was keen on architecture, until someone told me it required 8 years study.

Fashion design and working for a magazine was top of my list, thanks to the fabulous TV show ‘Gloss’! But someone told me I wouldn’t earn any money as a fashion designer and I should be a graphic designer!

I also remember a school advisor telling me I would have 8 career changes in my life.

So maybe the moral of the story is not to listen to what people tell you.

I’m happy with the path I have taken. My graphic training and experience provides me with my own unique approach to interiors and styling.

You’re obviously very creative and visual. Were there any signs at a young age that you would be doing what you are doing? i.e. did you change your room around every week?!

Yes! My Mum was very patient. She let me re-arrange my room often. As a very young child it was my dolls house I re-arranged. I’ve always enjoyed pottering and fossicking. It wasn’t till later in life that I realized these are skills I can make a career from.

How would you describe your interior style?

Eclectic and pragmatic. I lust to live inside Vogue Living magazine, yet on the other hand I love to find new uses for old things. So my style is a mix of vintage and avante garde. Constantly striving to be off-trend.

"This image sums up my style and work. A little bit old, a little bit new. Beautiful, but not perfect."

“This image sums up my style and work. A little bit old, a little bit new. Beautiful, but not perfect.”

Who do you follow and admire in the design world?

I love Megan Morton – for her devotion to creating beauty, her unwavering belief in the power of styling, her enthusiasm and willingness to share.

I love Sibella Court for her aesthetic.

Jonathan Adler for his combination of glamour and humour.

I tend to find my inspiration outside NZ. Kiwis are still quite afraid of being different because our homes are seen as ‘investments’. We are also a young country. To fuel my passion for history and all-things-old I find myself lost down an instagram hole virtually fossicking European and Japanese vintage stores.

"Shoot day behind the scenes - the tissues are in case one becomes overwhelmed by the beauty of what we were creating. Shot for Inside Out magazine by photographer Jason Busch, styled by Megan Morton, assisted by myself, Bea Lambos, Kristy Gordon, Lauren Hernandez, Vicky Tapakis, Katie Randell and Aimee Thompson. You can see more behind the scenes, and the finished shoot here on my Pinterest."

“Shoot day behind the scenes – the tissues are in case one becomes overwhelmed by the beauty of what we were creating. Shot for Inside Out magazine by photographer Jason Busch, styled by Megan Morton, assisted by myself, Bea Lambos, Kristy Gordon, Lauren Hernandez, Vicky Tapakis, Katie Randell and Aimee Thompson. You can see more behind the scenes, and the finished shoot here on my Pinterest.”

You just wrote a book ‘Finishing Touches – How to find Grace in your Place’ which gives homeowners some advice and ideas for styling their own home. If you had to give us the top three best takeaway bits of advice from that book, what would they be?

·       If you have something ugly, put something beautiful beside it – Megan Morton calls this ‘diversion theory’

·       Add more rounds, we live with too many straight lines

·      Don’t wait till you are living in your dream home, even an old do-up is worth giving some love to.

"A photo from one of my favourite staged homes. A favourite because I enjoy time-critical challenges and usual colour schemes. The wall in this room existed, my job was to fill the room using what I had in my studio."

“A photo from one of my favourite styled homes. A favourite because I enjoy time-critical challenges and unusual colour schemes. The wall in this room existed, my job was to fill the room using what I had in my studio.”

Kate Alexander shelvie

“Nothing beats a good shelfie. I found this shelving unit – on behalf of my client who needed something specific for the space – and styled it using all their own objects.”

Without giving away too many trade secrets, what are your favourite shops and websites for sourcing homewares and furniture?

I have a few core go-tos for linens and basics – I do a lot of research online but I prefer to shop where I can go in person ; Freedom for basics, Citta and Collect Living for classics, Collected and Shut the Front Door for colour, Flotsam & Jetsam when I need unusual. Adairs is my new favourite. I get all my art from endemicworld. When I travel I shop, even if I don’t have an immediate use for something!

I’m working on a downloadable interiors shopping guide for both Auckland and Sydney – watch this space : )

"My happy place. I could easily spend my days fossicking in vintage stores; like this one in Sydney - Drunk on the Moon"

“My happy place. I could easily spend my days fossicking in vintage stores; like this one in Sydney – Drunk on the Moon

“A detail from one of my most favourite places, the original home of Rose Seidler. Designed in 1950 by architect Harry Seidler, and now a living museum : ) You can see more photos on my blog or at Sydney’s Living Museums.”

Finally we have some quick fire questions to get to know you better:

Black, white or silver tapware?

Whatever suits the house.

• Modern or traditional?

Both, together.

• Simple Scandi or opulent glamour?

Neither.

• Pendants or sconce lighting?

Vintage sconces, which are very hard to get!

• White walls or colour?

I always start with white but they never stay that way.

• Wood fire or gas fire?

Wood for looks, gas for efficiency.

• Flowers or pot- plants?

Definitely both.

• Villa or bungalow?

I lust for the high ceilings of a villa, but I enjoy my bungalow – it can handle my retro furniture

• Concrete or wood?

Both, together.

• White wine or red?

Start with white, end with red.

"Me in my own home. This photo is a few years old now but I love it like an old friend. It was a selfie taken on timer. Those blue pants are just hanging in there and still on my weekly 'wear-list’,  despite being covered in paint and full of holes!"

“Me in my own home. This photo is a few years old now but I love it like an old friend. It was a selfie taken on timer. Those blue pants are just hanging in there and still on my weekly ‘wear-list’,  despite being covered in paint and full of holes!”

We’re giving you the chance to WIN your own signed copy of Kate’s book ‘Finishing Touches – How to find Grace in your Place’.

The competitions will start over the next couple of weeks.  To hear about them first, make sure you’re following Heart of your Home and Kate Alexander on Facebook.

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