What I believe about Interiors

In November I did my first Pecha Kucha talk.
It was called Interiors.
I wrote about it here.
You can see the video here.

The more I reflect on this talk, the more clearly I see that “Interiors” was a kind of manifesto… what I believe to be true about decorating. It is in that spirit that I am sharing the slides and text today.

On Wednesday January 25th, The Interiors Project begins here.  Stay tuned.

Interiors: Tonight I’m going to talk about my passion for interior design and about the home as an expression of who we are – our passions, preferences and world view. (I also need to confess that for a few months now I have been calling this event “Pecha chuga” which sounds a lot like the Spanish word for breast. Sorry about that!)

At Monna University, I’m enrolled in a life-long design course and my texts are design books and blogs. When I watch movies, I analyse both the plot and the interiors. My favourites are from films directed by Woody Allen, James L. Brooks & Nancy Meyers. The glass houses in “A Single Man” and “The Tree of Life” make my heart explode.

Gorgeous Interiors: Good interior design is one of the things I believe in – along with choosing your partner well, being kind, having the backbone to stand up for yourself, and always getting the best haircut you can afford. You think I’m joking about the hair… but I’m really not.

Metaphors: What does my love of interiors tell me about myself? Here are two metaphors:
First, I like the insides of things: emotions, relationships, indoors, the truth.
Second, I believe it’s never too late to change your life or your home.

23 is the number of dorm rooms, apartments and houses I have lived in since I went to university at 18. My passion for interior design makes it easier for me to move countries – it gives me another opportunity to create the “perfect” home. (It might also be the reason Damien eventually stops moving countries)

Minimalism: Visiting Japan in April made us realize that we would have to sell Damien’s teak table and that made him sad. This proves that even extreme minimalists fall in love with things sometimes. Note: Damien is an untidy minimalist but a minimalist just the same. I am not; I am opposed to minimalism on principle. I believe in abundance.

Undecorate: Recently, I read a story about a woman whose home was decorated by a very famous designer and the vibe was so wrong for her family, she finally just sold the house and moved. I don’t believe in decorating rules… so here are my undecorating principles.

Gracious Living: When I was at university, every time we did something small to make our dorm rooms look a little nicer, my friend Carrie would say, “Gracious Living”. I still think about this idea every day and encourage myself to have tea in the afternoon… buy sheets with a high thread count… eat brie with French bread.

If you have a big butt, don’t buy tiny chairs: You may think I’m trying to be funny but, as a person with a relatively big butt, I am completely serious. I enthusiastically reject the current trend towards Paris Cafe chic and tiny, little chairs. I think we need to make ourselves comfortable and that home is meant to be a sanctuary.

Mix and match: This is our dining room with the teak table small enough to make it to Japan… along with white plastic chairs from Ikea – perfect for big butts. On the table is a white ceramic sheep. Go ahead – I dare you to mix and match furniture and eras. Jonathan Adler believes that there is no such thing as colours that don’t match.

Art is good. More art is better. Choose art that engages you. We started collecting art in Mexico & bought many pieces in Bangkok. Recently, I’ve discovered that you can buy paintings on ebay & the artist will mail them to you.

Damien is a talented photographer and he made this collage from his photographs of train stations in Paris and Tokyo. This slide is my argument for taking a risk and hanging your own framed art in your home or office.

Think Posh: I was raised on a farm in the Ottawa Valley by very practical parents and my response to this childhood was to become incredibly posh. I believe that rugs and gorgeous lighting – including chandeliers – make a space look warm and infinitely more interesting.

Dream Sofa: When it comes to the big furniture, I believe it’s worthwhile to spend some time and money finding the perfect pieces. These two black leather couches make me ridiculously happy. I heard that Richard Welk took 3 months to find the perfect couch; this means we are kindred spirits.

Living things: Fill your home with living things. Beloved people, pets, fresh cut flowers and plants. Every Friday afternoon Jacquie Pender buys fresh flowers for her apartment at a florist shop beside Don Quixote. This is such a lovely ritual.

Room with a view: What I’d really like is a yard with trees and a huge wooden table for dining outdoors but I think that yard is actually in Italy. Although we don’t have a great outdoor space in Yokohama, we chose a 22nd floor apartment with an amazing Fuji view. And sunlight… because it’s good for us.

Not in the bedroom: Take your television, computers and cell phones out of your bedroom. Now you have 10 seconds to think about why that’s a good idea.

Collections: We collect ceramic bowls from Europe; singing bowls from Asia, little elephants and a lot of art. So what do you collect and how can you display these items in your home? Some decorators believe that groupings of three are best… I say whatever! Break the rules.

A place for everything: This one’s not very sexy but it’s no less true. I learned the wisdom of “a place for everything and everything in its place” from my practical mother and, when you live in 80 square metres, this philosophy is essential. Our home feels more comfortable to me when it’s tidy & I can find the stuff I need.

Dwell: I’ve been blogging since 2006 and my blog has become a kind of home. What I’m dreaming of now is publishing a weekly feature in which I showcase one lovely expat and photos of his or her living space. Please let me know if you are interested in participating. Thank you for listening.

Photo Credits:
Slide 2, 7, 12, 15, 19 and 20: Damien Pitter
Slide 3: From Cote de Texas
Slide 4: New York Apt by Emma Efmorfidi
Slide 8: Girl & roses by Ale Bernal
Slide 9: tiny chair by Caren Parmelee
Slide 17: Television by USB


  1. Oh, how cool is this! I read your blog post and then watched your talk–amazing insights, Monna. And I loved hearing your out-loud voice after all these years of reading your blogging voice.

  2. Have you ever listened to your voice on a recording device and thought you sounded nothing like you sound inside your head? That always happens to me.

    In my head… Lauren Bacall. In real life… not so much.

    The talk was both nerve-wracking and totally fun. I really love design – interior design, in particular – so it seemed like the perfect topic for our school’s Pecha Kucha night. Thanks for taking the time to listen to the talk, Rose-Anne.

  3. Hi Monna!
    I loved your Japan post and your Pecha Kucha talk!
    I heard one Pecha Kucha talk before, about a year ago, and have to admit that I didn‘t get it. I am really happy that I run into yours, as I now realize that there was nothing wrong with the concept, but rather with a content of the talk or with the fact that as a foreigner I just didn‘t manage to keep up with the fast 20×20 pace!

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