An Interview with Fifi O'Neill
I wanted to share a special interview with Fifi O'Neill with you today!
What inspired you to write the book Romantic Prairie Style?
I have always loved the simplicity inherent to country life. Especially nature and animals. I was born in the city (Paris, France) and enjoyed some of the glitz and glamour but I am basically a loner and don't like crowds. So, I can only take big cities in small doses. Show me wide open spaces, pristine ponds, towering mountains and meadows of wild flowers and I come alive.
The lifestyle associated with country is also much more attractive to me because it's real, unlike city life, which is much too often superficial and status oriented. As I have said many times before: I am a "Prairie Girl" to the chore.
In spite of the numerous (beautiful) decorating books available none featuring the Prairie lifestyle had ever been produced and, for me, it was a logical one to create. I set out to find the homes I had in mind and also demonstrate that, though one cannot always up and move to the country, the style and lifestyle is adaptable wherever one lives. Like many things in life the way w live is a choice we make. It's always a matter of values.
How would you describe Romantic Prairie Style?
Prairie Style encompasses much more than decorating. It highlights the values of an honest lifestyle. It is about family, traditions, respect for the earth and the past, animals--small and large, the beauty of simplicity, the comforts of home and the appreciation of handmade and home made, not mass produced items.
How would you describe your own personal style?
For better or for worse I have never fit in a "mold". I guess you could say I live my life my way may it be in the way I dress or decorate. It's always the result of a feeling, never a trend. I happened to love rugged and rustic mix with soft and feminine but definitively not what I call "chichi-pompon," which you can translate by overly frilly and busy. However, I must confess that I am also a "girly-girl." What I mean is that I do love to pair faded and relax (like old jeans) with beautiful fabrics (like a Ralph Lauren top or a Chanel blouse---neither of which I can afford). The concept is that even if your pocket book won't allow extravagant purchases you can find inspiration from many sources and create your own look, both for your home and your wardrobe.
Though I grew up in the "Hippy" era, I never was one, which doesn't stop my sister for calling me an "aging hippy!!" She and I are complete opposites. She is very "proper" and "tailored," always on the look out for the latest trend, and she loves labels. I, on the other hand, would not be caught dead wearing anything sporting a brand name---not even Chanel! I feel the same way about decorating.
It brings up an interesting point. Though we have access to many beautiful style--from Rachel Ashwell's Shabby Chic to Pottery Barn and the new trend in Scandinavian decor-- if people furnish their home with EVERYTHING from one specific designer or a design trend their home ends up looking like a catalog. There is nothing wrong with the above mentioned styles, in fact they each have much to offer, but the key to creating a home that is yours is by taking what you like from one style (or several) and expending on it with other unrelated items that help define your individual look.
Where do you look to for inspiration?
It may seem odd but I get these "notions" in my head. It might be from a piece of jewelry, clothing or even an ad in a magazine. Could be a color, a fabric or even food or a lien in a book describing a landscape. One thing or another sparks an idea. Then slowly but surely it starts to take shape and evolves into a project....... But, the most amazing thing is that once you get started things take a life of their own.
You not only wrote the book, but were also the stylist for your book...... Do you have a favorite Romantic Prairie Styling tip you could share with all of us......
That's easy: KEEP IT SIMPLE!! That being said it doesn't mean you have to opt for a bare look. Just don't clutter. Let things stand on their own. Keep the palette subdued and accessorize with items with pleasing shapes and harmonious hues. Sometime an abundance of similar things--like a massive bouquet of one type of flowers in one pitcher or several vases of varied sizes holding identical flowers will make a stunning statement. In this cases repetition creates visual unity.
As a rule, I never know what I am going to do--styling wise--until I walk into a home. Just remember that when we (the photographer and myself) go on shoots we have never seen the house in person before hand and that I don't have a clue as to what might be in the cupboards, cabinets, attic or basement that will make the perfect prop! Since we only have one day to shoot a whole home I have to improvise, discover, cut flowers in a nearby field (or the neighbor's garden........hum!!!) or run to a local grocery store. It's always eventful. Never boring. Sometimes daunting.
How do you hope to inspire others with your book?
It might sound corny but I hope it will make people take stock, realize how much they already have and, hopefully, give them some insight on revamping, if need be, what they own. I also wish it will bring them a sense of peace and comfort and take away some of their daily stress.
When can we expect to see the book released? Where can the book be purchased?
Romantic Prairie Style will be released April 2011.
Who is the publisher?
It is published by Ryland Peters & Small/Cico. The main office is in NYC but I worked with their London office. It was a wonderful working relationship. All terrific people to wok with.
What can you tell us about your photographer Mark Lohman?
Mark was a dream to work with. I could not have picked a nicer, funnier and gifted professional photographer. We traveled from coast to coast and everything in between, got up at the crack of dawn and finished when the moon came up (often 14 hour days) and he NEVER complained. Furthermore he often came up with great solutions to problems related to a location (including rattle snakes and bats....) Mark is also a terrific driving companion who doesn't mind asking for directions, though, unlike myself, he is great with a GPS.... I am clueless......(in fact, I got lost while on shoots on my own more than once!!)
Mark has been shooting for national magazines for many years and continues to be much in demand. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife Janet and twin sons.
And, lat but not least, I owe my very first martini to him. Hard to think I never had one in my life until we were shooting in Ione, CA. We ended up in a diner late one night and I decided to be a copy cat and try one (Mark like his martini after a hard day's work.) That was last summer and I have had 4 more since. I now call him "Martini Mark."
Do you have plans for writing a second book?
Absolutely! I am already working on it and, of course, Mark will be doing the photography.
Fifi's words of wisdom....
If there is one thing I can pass on to anyone is how important it is to be true to yourself, believe in yourself and ignore whatever negative things people might say about you, your career choices, your style....BUT always take great care not to do anything hurtful to others. In fact, try to help, encourage, guide and/or mentor someone. And SHARE! I believe "what goes around comes around," good and bad. But, just because you do something nice don't do it with expectations of gratitude. Life takes care of things.....Sometime it's fair and sometimes it's not, but that's life. Just knowing you did the right thing is enough, though not always easy. We all know the difference between right and wrong. So, no excuse!
Last but not least, don't let age be an obstacle. I am no "spring chicken" (will be 66 next May) but rather than being a deterrent it's an advantage because I know so much more today than when I was in my twenties. And everything I have done and every lesson I have learned (most of which I never knew would be useful) are priceless. I have learned from my mistakes and benefited from my (few) accomplishments. Remember: if I can do it YOU can too!!
Don't you just LOVE her!
Thank you Fifi for including our home in your first book, I feel blessed to have had this opportunity !!!!
We are also honored to have our living room make the cover of the book!
THANK YOU FIFI! You and Mark are the best!
A few links for you to enjoy
On another note....
I just wanted to answer a few of your questions about the Nate Show....
The segment I am on will air today, January 12th, times vary depending on where you live....
Thank you again to The Nate Show for having me on the Show!
Thank you again to The Nate Show for having me on the Show!