Plucky Pioneer Interview No.1


Picture 26Welcome to our first ever Plucky Pioneer interview!  Every Monday here on The Neo-Traditionalist I’ll be featuring a different “pioneer girl on the design frontier” and I am truly honored to be kicking things off with Heather Clawson of Habitually Chic!  The decorating darling and Manhattan girl-about-town not only writes her own wildly successful design blog (I’m a huge fan—read it HERE), but has also managed to found her own successful interior design company.  Heather’s fantastically chic eye for design has landed her in the pages of Domino, LonnyHouse Beautiful and Elle Decor to name a few and that’s only the beginning!  Read on to learn what inspired Heather to start her own business, the ups and downs of being her own boss, and where she hopes to take Habitually Chic in the future. Thank you Heather for all the inspiration!  [Above, the stylish Ms. Clawson on a recent jaunt to Paris]

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Five words used to describe yourself.

Funny, Optimistic, Busy, Happy, Creative. [Above, a vignette of Heather’s all too chic desk during the holiday-card-writing season. Wouldn’t you just die for that alabaster lamp?]

What inspires you creatively?

Everything! It could be another designer, something in a store, a museum exhibition, a painting or a flower in the park. I’m a very visual person so I’m inspired by what I see everyday!

Who are your design mentors?

Right now, I consider all the top designers to be my mentors. I love attending lectures like the Women in Design event sponsored by Elle Decor. I learned a lot by listening to the stories and advice of Charlotte Moss, Kelly Wearstler, Michelle Nussbaumer and Holly Hunt. It definitely made me feel better to hear about some of their mistakes as well as triumphs!  [Below, a stunning interior designed by Habitually Chic.]

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How would you describe your personal design aesthetic?

I never know what to call my style. Traditional with a twist is as close as I’ve come to defining it. I like my designs to look collected rather than decorated so I use a lot of vintage pieces or reproductions. I really like the juxtaposition of piece from the 1970’s sitting next to an 18th-century French chair underneath an abstract painting. Artwork is very important to my work and is the finishing touch that gives a room soul. I want the spaces I design to look like the owner might have had someone come in and style what they already owned instead of like a designer picked it all out for them. I leave at the end of a project and it’s very important that my designs reflect the client and they feel personal to them.

What propelled you to found your own company?

I was laid off in December of 2008 and I had already worked on some projects on my own so it seemed like the best time. Getting laid off was the best thing that ever happened to a lot of us last year since it just hastened the decision we were too scared to make on our own!  [Below, a handsome bachelor pad designed by Habitually Chic]

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Most glamourous part of owning your own company?

I don’t know if anything is really glamorous about owning my own company, but I do like having the option to attend daytime functions and events. I could never do that when I was working for someone else.

Least glamourous part of owning your own company?

The fact that I have to do everything! It takes a lot of work to type up every purchase order and deal with all the other paperwork! And unlike other designers, I’m juggling everything with writing the blog. Sometimes I work from the minute I wake up until right before I go to bed!  [Below, Heather snapped with the dashing Thomas O’Brien of Aero Studios]

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Best business advice you’ve been given?

Trademark Habitually Chic! Someone already bought the domain name so it was important to me to protect the brand that I am building.

Creative businesswoman you admire?

There are so many but lately it’s Kelly Wearstler. She marches to the beat of her own drummer and doesn’t care what other people think. She thinks outside the box. She is curious and always learning like myself. She visits museums and galleries in every city she visits and collects art and design books. She’s also a great mother and stays home most nights with her family. She said she wanted to be a designer and own her own firm early on and made it a reality. I admire people who know what they want and make it happen!

What keeps your organized and on task?

I have to write everything down! I have a small calendar that sits on my desk and the minute I schedule something, I write it down. I love my BlackBerry but I have to write things down and make lists to keep myself organized. Working from home can be very distracting so it’s a constant struggle to keep on track. I think I’m still figuring this one out but I think an office will definitely help! [Below, an interior by Todd Romano that Heather references as one of her favorites]

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Moment you knew you’d “made it”?

I always feel like I’m still trying to make it! But probably the first time someone recognized me in an elevator at the D&D building was pretty exciting! And now to hear designers, whom I admire, tell me that they love my blog is beyond amazing!

Describe your typical work day…

When you work for yourself, there is no typical day but I begin most everyday by answering emails from the night before. My days usually involve trips to the D&D, project site visits, paperwork, conference calls, follow ups, blog posts, and sometimes a fun event at night.

Your dream project?

Hmmm…I’d love to do a room in a showhouse and maybe work on a boutique hotel. I’d also love more bachelor projects. I’m not overly girly in my designs and they fit my aesthetic perfectly! [Below, a vignette by Heather. Love the hyacinths and Diptyque!]

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What goals do you have for your business in the future?

I’d love to get an office, even if it’s one that I share. I’d love to grow to be able to hire employees. I’m looking into consulting and other opportunities as meeting with publishers. I would definitely love to see a Habitually Chic book published!

Advice to other budding creative entrepreneurs?

Just do it! It’s a lot easier to start a side business when you are working for someone else so buy a business book, seek out advice and take your time to do it right from the start. Definitely don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Check back in tomorrow to see Heather’s “Cheat Sheet”—her top picks for film, art, travel and more!

30 comments on “Plucky Pioneer Interview No.1

  1. the NEO-traditionalist Post author

    Thank you Paula! I’m with you—isn’t Heather’s desk phenomenal? I want to run out and buy orange magazine holders and silver pencil cups! She styles the best vignettes! XX Kate

  2. Haydee

    Great interview right out of the gates ladies! Congratulations I definitely look forward to reading these every Monday. I love the photos you chose to go along with this too. Especially Ms. Clawson’s desk … l-o-v-e.

  3. Katie

    I agree with what Amanda said – this will definitely be a brightener to Mondays! Looking forward to enjoying it in weeks to come!

    P.S. I hear yah on the alabaster lamp. D-Vine.

  4. the NEO-traditionalist Post author

    Katie, Haydee + Abbie — Ohhh yay! I’m so happy for all this positive feedback. As two young women eager to someday launch our own companies, Jane and I are so excited to be doing this series. Heather was a natural first choice!
    XX Kate

  5. Stevi

    This is such an awesome idea! It is great to read about women like her! It will be something I anticipate every Monday.

    P.S. Thanks for the congrats on my acceptance. You are so great! I’m glad your grandparents loved UC, I’m sure I will too!

  6. mary

    Nicely Done, Kate! Take Heather’s ‘best advice’ to heart and get yourself a trademark for the neotraditionalist!!!!!

  7. Habitually Chic

    Thanks Kate! It was such an honor to be considered a Plucky Pioneer and I hope my advice can help everyone become one themselves! Can’t wait to come back next Monday and see who’s next!

  8. Ivy Lane

    Kate, Just found you via Habitually Chic!! LOVE your blog!! Will definitely visit often…adding you to my blog roll!

    Can’t wait to see Heather’s “cheat sheets”!!!

    Have a Great Week!

  9. the NEO-traditionalist Post author

    Ivy Lane — So glad you found me and that I’ve found you! Your enthusiasm for the new series in much appreciated. I’m very excited to share Heather’s cheat sheet tomorrow—her answers were superb if I do say so myself : )
    XX Kate

  10. CashmereLibrarisn

    Heather is so great, and this is a great series! I can’t wait to see Heather’s pics tomorrow, either!

  11. gwen driscoll


    Loved this post. I started my interior design business 10 years ago and, still today, there is something new I learn from one of my clients or design friends (especially now with the blogosphere). I started my blog at the end of last year because I so love learning from others with my same passion and hopeful I can contribute something to this great group. I so excited about this series on Mondays. I always need a little lift. Hope you are well.

    Gwen Driscoll
    Ragland Hill Social

  12. Jill Sharp Brinson

    It is a wonder that any of us get out of the house to lead our lives and earn livings- there are SOOOO many wonderful things to read on SO many wonderful blogs – THIS INTERVIEW idea, being my latest and greatest crush!- lovely concept – will look forward to all future posts!

  13. Cathy Whitlock

    I met Heather at the HIckory Chair showroom at HIgh Point and had been following her career prior. It has been fascinating to watch! Bravo Heather!
    And Kate, great website and idea by the way!

  14. style maniac

    lovely interview … Heather & her Habitually Chic blog have been such a positive inspiration for my own blogging endeavors … and through her site i always discover another great blog–such as yours! … like you, i am lucky to have had grandmothers who taught me so much about style & life … i look forward to getting to know you and your style icons better

  15. Rachel

    Great interview! I always love reading interviews of other women who have followed their hearts and started their own businesses – it’s total motivation for me to get off my butt and do something too!
    Thanks for sharing – and I look forward to next week!

  16. Victoria

    Wonderful, she sounds determent and smart and I love how she will not be put in a particular design corner. Looking forward to the next interview!
    I read in her blog regularly!

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