A Creative Life: Designer Annette Tatum

by Cat on June 22, 2010

Annette Tatum answers questions about her “Creative Life” which involves juggling four kids and a busy career as designer and now author. I’m so impressed with Annette finds a way to remain detailed and attentive to her work and clients all the while balancing all of the to-dos in her day. She’s also got some great tips on decorating your kid spaces!

Your gorgeous book, “The Well-Dressed Home” is so inspiring in how it bridges one’s fashion aesthetic with their decor sense. What’s your advice for moms constantly on the go who may have lost touch with their personal style?

As a mom of four, I am constantly dressing myself and my home for whatever is easiest. Sometimes I even get stuck in a “style” rut. To get back in my groove I try to look for inspiration in magazines, on blogs and from friends. I found that as my children get older it is much easier to find my personal style. As my own time has become more available , I begun to update not only in my wardrobe, but my home. Magazines, blogs, and friends are often a great, quick way to “check” in to style trends and ideas. I think that when our children are young we are so busy taking care of little ones that our personal style for ourselves often gets put to the wayside. As time goes by and children get older I find it much easier to pursue my own style interests.


I love that readers can see themselves in each of the categories…from couture bohemian to retro resort. How do you assess your clients’ styles when you have your first sit down meeting?

I don’t want to stereotype anyone upon the first meeting so I am usually careful to remain open and not judge a book by its cover. I have been pleasantly surprised over and over by clients’ choices for home decor that, had I opened their closets and taken a peek into their wardrobe first, I would have seen many other styles they actually were attracted to. I cannot tell you how many times when we were making this book that I explored the closets of the homeowners only to find that their wardrobes often reflected their choices for home decor. Our lifestyles are made up of many layers of styles and I think it is important to remember that each client has his or her own “dress” code already in development. How open a client is to adding more layers is what makes the process fun. Many times I have begun a project with a person who states that there style is one way or another, only to find by the end that they are happy to add another style layer to their home. I think we all buy what we like or love. Our homes should reflect that too regardless of what defines our style.

What are some inexpensive but instant ways to spruce up a kid’s room? If there was just one item to splurge on, what would it be?

A quick way to spruce up a child’s room is bedding. It is easy to change and usually needs refreshing every now and then. I just today re-dressed my 9 year old Lena’s bedding. She choose the pattern “daisy” from the Annette Tatum Collection. When the bed was all made, it made such a statement and instantly updated the room. When it comes to “splurging” on an item for the room I usually invest in something that I consider one- of – kind; wall art, a small decorative chair or an interesting new chandelier. I love finding a treasure that sets the room apart and makes the room feel special. I also like to splurge on framing my child art for the room. It costs a little bit more, but a work of art is worth it.

Were you rearranging furniture and dreaming in colors from the time you were young? How did you become a leading interior designer?

I have asked my mother the same question! I don’t think I did. I think I liked “organizing” which in turn lead to moving existing furniture around to give the room a whole new feel. I often still do this in my own home. I try different pieces in new locations. I love moving things around and it often creates surprising results. Once for a photo shoot, I moved the living room into the family room and created an all pink tea party for the day. My girls loved it and wanted it to stay that way forever. Smaller moves have also helped me find homes for pieces of furniture that I thought were never right. The path leading up to interior design has been a winding road. I have studied architecture, product design, fashion and textile design. So I have done a little of everything and lot of somethings. I don’t know if “interior” designer is the final phase but the book has inspired me more to be open to the lifestyle aspect of design more that just the product itself. I am loving the fashion angle to home decor because I love how fashion moves through seasons. It is fast paced and exciting. Full of drama and detail. I would love to see more of this in home decor.

You mention you are a family of six with four kids…I’d love to know what a typical day-in-your-life is like! Any personal tips on how you’ve managed to balance such a busy career and family life?

I am a good juggler!! I don’t know how I get through some days and sometimes things fall through the cracks. I always try to take my kids to school and pick up them up – and then I work in between. This is a fairly new routine due to my youngest in now out of kindergarten. I think I often mentally make a list of priorities too. I know that as my oldest just went off to college that time passes so quickly, so I try and find time to slow down. Sometimes I just have to say, “nothing at work is that important.” I also have found that in this group of 4 children, they are often able to help each other, which in turn is a great help to me. My children come to my office after school. They have been around my work since they were little so it all seems so natural. They have all been to a trade show!! So, aside from the day to day schedule of school and work I try and create pockets of time for my family. Weekends I try not to work and after school I leave the cell phone in the car..most of the time. And just when I get it all figured out and it seems like there is a routine, it all changes again. Someone starts ballet, another one has baseball and the balancing act begins again.
You’ve worked with some of the top celebrity moms out there…Minnie Driver, Maria Shriver, Marcia Cross Sara Michelle Gellar, … How much did their children’s styles factor into the design process of their decor? Who was the most fun to work with?

Working with celebrity moms is always fun and many who I have worked with I now call my friends. Working with a new mom can create a bond when you are designing the “nest” for their new baby to come home to. I try to keep the process simple, easy and low key. Many celebrities are often bombarded daily with requests and demands. I try and keep this part of their lives personal and private. It is not like they are sporting the newest handbag. A baby is coming and like any new mom to be this time is special and I try and honor that. Since the baby has not usually arrived yet, the design choices usually reflect the mom’s personal style. I loved working with Marcia because creating a room for twins is unique and exciting. Minnie was great as well. She had two separate nurseries to design. One more classic and beachy, the other more bohemian. We have many celebrity moms that visit our shop and know our products. I am always happy to be asked to help create something that is unique and expresses their own special style.


What’s your next big venture? Do you have any plans to write another book (if so, any hints on what it might be about)?

Next… a book possibly.. maybe two. Two different subjects so that could keep my plate full. I am still traveling on a book tour for The Well Dressed Home and that has been fun meeting so many people in other towns across the country. I love the small discussions that result from the book and have really got to see first hand how many people love the book. They are actually using the philosophy in their own home designs. I am also launching an online store for www.annettetatum.com finally and working on new patterns and products for Little House as well. Somehow… even if I don’t plan my next big venture… it finds me!

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Serendipity Antiques June 24, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Love this interview! We are hosting an evening with Annette Tatum on July 21st at Serendipity Antiques in Old Town Temecula, CA. Surrounded with antiques/vintage collectibles should be very interesting as a backdrop to her discussion about how the book came about. Your interview gives me some ideas for our event! The Well-Dressed Home is a very creative and inspiring book!

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