Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Romantic Prairie Style~An Interview with Fifi O'Neill

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 

Take Care,


Jodi said...

I have my DVR set, can't wait to watch it tonight!!!

:) Jodi

Shades of pale said...

I opened my shop a little late to see you, it was so wonderful.You did great.Much success my friend, you deserve it.You inspire me and my passion for white decorating so much.
Congrats on your online shop, I know it can be overwhelming,but it looks better then I could even imagined!
Lots of love from Canada!

Shades of pale said...

Ps. FiFi's words of wisdom were great, I really need to read that right now :)

Karena said...

Wonderful Interview!! Maria thanks for featuring FiFi!!

Also, I have a Great New Giveaway from Blydesign! Come and enter!

Art by Karena

Karen said...

I have pre- ordered my book... cant wait until April. I agree wholeheartedly with Fifis' life philosophy. I'm so looking forward to seeing you today on Nates' show.

Carol D. said...

Learned about your blog from the Nate Berkus show. Love your writing and pics. Will be back to visit often. Thanks.

Romantic Prairie Style said...

April can't come soon enough !!

Anne Marie said...

I can't wait to see you Maria!! It'll have to be on youtube though...(you know I don't watch TV- or even have one!)

Anne Marie

AnthonyRose'sShabHome said...

So bummed I couldn't get Nate's show the channel 5 in Boston was on about the storm The one time I could actually sit and watch the show...

ChiPPy-SHaBBy said...

Maria... JUST SAW YOU ON THE NATE SHOW!!! (I'm in Wisconsin) ~ Your spot airs in the last 10 minutes of the show... CoNgRaTuLaTioNs!!! Definitley going to try the "Aspirin" for stains... I'm sure your BLOG is going to be flooded with responses!!! It was fun for me to "see/hear" you...
Jeanine, ChiPPy!-SHaBBy!

Hana said...

Saw you on the Nate show this morning! You did great! I hope u get many more opportunities like this!

I'm definitely gonna have to read Romantic Prairie Style!! Looks fabulous!

Diana (Apple Pie) said...

Everything it's wonderfull here!



Tricia said...

Such a great interview and I love her final words of wisdom. Can't wait to see your segment on the Nate show!!

Vintage Gal said...

Wonderful interview ~ thanks for sharing ~ Can't wait for my copy of the book to arrive!

Anonymous said...

Hi Maria,
what a wonderful interview, she seems like a very special lady!!
Congratulations on the opening of your shop, it's just wonderful!! I am already drooling over everything!
Have a lovely day.

ali v. said...

I need this book--WOW! Dreamy photos! Hope you're doing well :) Happy Wednesday! xoxo {av}

NanaDiana said...

Fabulous Fifi indeed....AND a fabulous interview. I can't wait to see this book up close and personal. Diana

Fishtail Cottage said...

Great Interview.....i'v already pre-ordered my copy! Sounds like a very amazing woman.

ps - congrats on opening your shop! excited to go take a peek. xoxo

Victoria Hayden said...

Maria, I love Fifi!! This was so inspiring to read...such great questions you asked her too. Thank you for sharing this...I will be buying this book, can't wait to see your home in it as well. I needed to read her words today...thank you! :)

So exciting for you on the Nate Berkus show...will be watching! Have a wonderful day and week ahead!!


Rachel Noelle Pallas said...

Great interview Maria!;) Cant wait to see you on the show today. I posted about it and your shop opening on my blog!! Hugs,Rachel

French Farmhouse 425

Lisa said...

Saw you on Nate today! You were great. Congratulations! Good cleaning tip, too.

abby jenkins said...

I hope I didn't miss you on Nate, just heard about it on Rachel's blog.

Love your site and Nate!


Free Art Printables said...

Maria I just saw you!! You were fantastic! You looked gorgeously fabulous and I got a great tip! Applause applause! applause!!!!!

Dawn-Hydrangea Home said...

Just remembered to turn on Nate and there you were!! I got it just in time. You looked great - I wish he featured more of your beautiful home!!!

Bring Pretty Back said...

Maria, Fifi and Nate!!! SO exciting! Great interview and I can't wzit to see you on Nate!
Have a pretty day!

My Shabby Streamside Studio said...

Maria, I'm so proud of you! Your Nate segment was wonderful! Thanks for sharing all your news - I'm sooo lucky I had a snow day today so I caught it!


Sandy @ My Shabby Streamside Studio

Sommer said...

Maria how wonderful! I have my dvr set to record also. I just love fifi, and you!

Anonymous said...

It is not hippy but "hippie era"

Unknown said...

Well I watch you on Nate I think you should have been on longer, But your doing better than most of us, You where great, And I can't wait to get my hands on Fifi's book it looks so dreamy.

Claudia said...


We are having a big storm here in New England today and I missed you on the Nate Show this morning because of power outage. We just got it back. Thank you for letting us know that you can watch it on You Tube. Congratulations and also for your on-line shop. It's fabulous! Can't wait to start shopping.

Tiffany @ Savor Home said...

Your style is very similar to Fifi's style! Love it! Gotta go- Im off to watch you on the Nate Show!

It's me said...

O yes !!! their she is our Fifi !!..great intervieuw !! thanks love

Unknown said...

GREAT interview Maria!!! Fifi is one of a kind...a rare mix of extremely talented but also very kind and considerate...her words of wisdom were superb!!!

Hugs ~

:) T

Tracie~MyPetiteMaison said...

Fifi's just the brightest star in the sky. There is truly no one out there like her that shares with her complete heart & does not expect anything in return. I love her for her talent & her friendship.

Completely from the heart,

Tracie~MyPetiteMaison said...

I can't believe it, Maria... I forgot about Nate. I should have programmed my TiVo right away.

I'll look for it on YouTube.

Tracie~MyPetiteMaison said...

Hi me again, Maria,
I couldn't find the segment and when I came back, I noticed your store said now open... went and took a look/see for myself.

~ Very, very nice, best of luck ~ bonne chance sweet lady!
Belle journée xoxo~Tracie

Annie Louise said...

Hi Maria,
I saw you on the Nate show--you did great--you did appear nervous at all--I would have been shaking in my boots. I just wish you could have been on longer and shown more of your wonderful way with whites. Fifi's book looks fabulous!
Take care and congratulations on your well deserved recognition on the Nate show.

Julia said...

What a wonderful interview and congratulations on being on the Nate Berkus Show! I love that guy and can't wait to watch it today:). You are so very talented!


La Dolfina said...

Just saw your segment on Nate and you were wonderful... so calm and lovely. What a great debut!!!
Can't wait to try your stain removal treatment!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Maria, My husband and I saw you on Nate's show today! Bravo!!! You are a natural. Thanks for the tip on removing a stain with aspirin. Who knew? Marcia

Fishtail Cottage said...

I missed you on Nate :(...I can't beieve it.
Hopefully I'll get a rerun in.

Love the interview, I can't wait for the book to come out!!

Fishtail Cottage said...

I missed you on Nate :(...I can't beieve it.
Hopefully I'll get a rerun in.

Love the interview, I can't wait for the book to come out!!

White Ironstone Cottage said...

Congrats you were great on Nate
Love your style and you joy for life

Allison said...

You were wonderful on Nate, Maria! You're so sweet, poised and beautiful! I enjoyed seeing you. Great tip on stain removal with aspirin, too. Congratulations on your shop opening! I'll be taking a look. That's a wonderful interview with Fifi.

The Flying Bee said...

Hi Maria,

I saw you this morning on were great! I loved that tip...can't wait to try it.

Such a wonderful interview with Fifi! I love her words of wisdom. They were exactly what I needed to hear right now.


Debbi Beverage said...

Gonna have to get this book! I love her advice at the end of the interview, lots of wisdom.

Missy @ Chateau Chic Boutique said...

Hi Maria,
Thank you for sharing your interview with Fifi. I've been following her blog and now I love her even more. I look forward to seeing you on Nate. I'm a faithful watcher so I'll check it out tonight.
Have a blessed week!

Debbi Beverage said...

Help! Looked for it on You Tube and on Nate's site, but couldn't find the full episode. Any other suggestions? I live in NC near Wilmington and no local channels carry the show:(

Anne Lorys said...

Love, love, love this interview with Fifi! But than again, I adore both you and Fifi, so what's not to love? :-)

I'm headed over to your fabulous shop, so thrilled that it's open!


Aimee said...

Your spot on Nate was great! You didn't even look nervous (and your hair looked fabulous!) Congrats!!

Love your interview with Fifi. I'm hoping to order her book for the shop. Is that the mantel you bought at the shop??? Now I'm looking for one for our house. Keep your eyes open for me!

Lynne said...

A magic day! So glad it touched my life as well!

Burlap Luxe said...

I love this post, and I saw you dear one on the Nate show today!!

You poped on and I said to myself I know her and her beautiful site :)

You did a beautiful job :) just divine!

See you soon!

Deb said...

I loved your interview with Fifi and am looking forward to her book coming out...she sounds amazingly sweet!

You were awesome on the Nate show today Maria...congrats to you! Nice to see your shop open too...I love so many things! ~Deb~

Unknown said...

Hi Maria! thank you for this fab interview: it's so nice to know a little better fantastic women such as Fifi is!

Rie said...

Maria!!! So many wonderful things going on with you. WOW!!! Love the interview with Fifi, and can't wait for the book. I love everything in your shop, and I'm so sad I missed that divine blue clock. Bummer. If you ever get another just like it (ha, ha), let me know!!

Celeste said...

I saw you on Nate yesterday! I was kind of half listening while doing some sewing and I said, "Hey, I 'know' her!"
Amazing job!! I'm glad for your success!

Natalie @ Blossoming Visions said...

I just watched your cameo on The Nate Show. You did a great job! Your home looks just as beautiful on tv as it does in blogland. I'm surprised that you have 50 horses! I applaud you on having such gorgeous style and I'll have to try your asprin tip on my sofas : ) Congrats!

Lori @ Katies Rose Cottage Designs said...

It is so funny because I was watching
the Nate show and had been on your blog early this morning ~
That is so cool !!

Thank you for the tip on taking
out stains !


Lara said...

I'm a Martha girl, but I just had to watch Nate yesterday for you! :) You were very wonderful and lovely on your segment. You have a very pretty smile! I loved reading Fifi's words of wisdom. xx

Sandi~A Cottage Muse said...

Maria you were wonderful on Nate's show! Your smile just lit up the studio!

Anonymous said...

Hi Maria! I heart Fifi! In fact she's my 1st follower on my new blog! :) You we're a natural on the Nate Show!

Kathys Home said...

Hi, so happy to found your blog...and to read about Fifi...I just loved it! I will be back soon again..//Katarina

High Street Cottage said...

Hi Maria, what a wonderful interview with Fifi. She has such a charming personality. I also wanted to let you know I saw the most beautiful French Toile Lavender pillow ever, it was in your shop. I had to have it. Red is my favorite color, and it had such soft reds, I know it will smell divine, and can't wait to receive it. Congrats again on your new shop. xoxo tami

Candylei said...

Fifi gives everyone confidence that they can decorate with white charm and grace! Wishing her much success for all of her hard work.


Unknown said...

what a nice blog!

Simone @ Doberman's by the Sea said...

Nice book. I'm new to your blog and love it. I have to know though, where did you get the grain sacks on your shops page? They all feature towns near my home town, I'm so exited now.

Elise Lowerison said...

I just came across your blog, and your insights into home improvement, DIY projects, and overall design are very interesting. Your article about your interview with Fifi O'Neill was especially interesting. I really liked your comments on her style and flair for elegant design; her decor is beautiful! I am adding you to my favorites. Since you and your readers have a flair for interior decorating and interest in design, we thought you would especially be interested in our custom window coverings. Heritage Window Coverings is located in Huntington Beach, CA and we have a wide selection of treatments to complement any home’s interior design! Any feedback would be appreciated as well. As a special thanks to you and your readers, I would like to offer a 20% off coupon using this code upon checkout: BLG20.

cheap Online Pharmacy said...

Fifi's interview is great, it has a great advise for all and great words of wisdom. such an humble personality.

Glucosamine said...

FIFI's interview is so motivating to read it has all sincere advice and words of wisdom which would definitely help everybody in life