Creative Peacemeal

Designer, Anita Joyce

January 04, 2021 Tammy Season 1 Episode 3
Creative Peacemeal
Designer, Anita Joyce
Show Notes Transcript

Designer, Anita Joyce,  of Cedar Hill Farmhouse blog, and author of FRENCH ACCENTS, talks about:

  • How she got her start--hint: it may surprise you!
  • What inspires her.
  • Her favorite piece of furniture in her home (yes, I did make her choose just one), and more.

Her website is

Her book can be found here.

To get to know more about Anita, and other people in the creative and fine arts field, visit my blog and don't forget to click subscribe on the podcast!

Episode 3: Anita Joyce

Tammy: Welcome to Creative Peacemeal podcast my name is Tammy Takaishi and today I'm joined by designer Anita Joyce. Anita Joyce is a successful designer with a blog on French design at She also co-hosts a podcast Designer Tips and Tricks, and has a book called French Accents about decorating in the French country style, now in its second edition. Welcome to the podcast Anita, so great to have you

Anita: well it's wonderful to be here and it's always fun talking to you Tammy. so I'm excited to be here with you and congratulations on your new podcast.

Tammy: Thank you it's it's a very exciting endeavor. You're a podcast veteran though where where can we find your designing tips and tricks?

Anita: well it's decorating tips and tricks.

Tammy: decorating tips and tricks

Anita: hey as long as people find us we don't care what they call us! Well we're on apple podcast and really on any podcast app that people want to use spotify or whatever. We are there and you can go directly to our website if you'd like also so yeah so we have a lot of fun talking about decorating.

Tammy: excellent and I've listened to a few episodes it's a really great, relaxing and entertaining especially on long commutes and then you're like oh now I now I want to just stop at the store and pick up things to decorate!

Anita: I know it's it's better to listen to it when you're maybe doing a walk in the neighborhood so that when you finish the episode you can go back in your house and then do the stuff that we talked about in your room, so it's nice to be close by the house.

Tammy: I know you got your start many years ago and were inspired by French decorating and I absolutely love how you begin your book French Accents . It's very accessible and it's so interesting to hear about how you were inspired and where you came from but can you tell me a little more about your journey from there to now?
Anita: Well it's it's been a fun thing because I  decided to start the blog because I love design and decorating and I really wanted to create a wonderful place for other like-minded people to hang out, where there were beautiful photographs of of my home and and other places and where there was interesting where I had some interesting easy to follow ideas of things people could do in their own home that was interesting to read so I kind of just put my head down and started working. And really at first I only had two people that read my blog, my friends Peggy and Caroline. My own family thought it was a waste of my time and uh you know it was just kind of a long journey I've been doing this almost 10 years, Tammy so it took quite a while to build up a following and not...when I started Pinterest wasn't around Instagram wasn't around so it was it was a long time ago, but you know when you put yourself out there and really just kind of stick with it things usually happen and so I just kind of put my head down and worked and I didn't really care if anybody read my blog, or you know I just wasn't worried about the numbers or anything.

I just wanted to have a beautiful place and so I heard from readers that that they liked it and and so we kind of created a community and it's it's been a fun journey and along the way you know I got more of followers or more, I shouldn't call them followers really. The more like-minded people and and readers and it's just it's the blog has just been a wonderful opportunity for me to meet so many wonderful people that think like I do that love design or people that just want to learn more about design and then also it's opened up the door for me to with these publishers and so I've had really been blessed with lots of opportunities to be in print magazines and to work with wonderful sponsors and to have a few collections with like Soft Surroundings and Joss and Main, and you know all that came from my blog and I think it's, the story the the the moral of the story is, you know if if i can do it somebody else can do it because when I started my blog I was a nobody nobody knew who I was and you know not that there's a lot of people you know not you know it's just kind of my my little corner of the world people know about me but i guess the thing is you can start out with nobody knowing who you are and just kind of start a blog start a presence on the internet, on social media and and get some wonderful opportunities from it so it's been it's been such a fun ride and such an incredible blessing and it's really been one of the best things I've ever done in my whole life

Tammy: And it's a hallmark of a true artist when you're doing something and you can see the passion and the love that they put into their work and you know I love your designs and you know I've seen your work firsthand, and I can I see the love you put into it and the energy and you know like you said whether you have one like-minded follower or hundreds of thousands you know I can definitely tell that you're doing it because it's a passion of yours, and but you didn't start out being a designer you sort of fell into it along the way is that right?

Anita: well I sort of I mean you know I wanted to be an artist when I first was thinking about college and you know I kind of had that discussion that a lot of young people have with their parents where my dad said you know you're going to be poor, you're going to you know eat porridge every day, you're going to live in a van down by the river, you know do you really want that and I just pictured you know old newspapers on the wall, and ratty furniture and I thought I can't do this, and I just thought I want to be in a pretty house. So I just thought well I guess I'll just be an engineer so actually that's what I ended up doing, but that wasn't my original plan. But I actually, I like the engineering believe it or not, but uh so when I actually went back to but I've always loved design and that was my favorite thing to do as soon as we had my I had my own house was to decorate it so it's really been my passion for for my whole life almost.

Tammy: what is one of the biggest myths about design?

Anita: I think one of the biggest myth is that you have to have a real talent for it to have a pretty house. Or you have to hire someone. That's really not true and it's really evidenced by all the listeners of our podcast they contact us all the time and they say you know what I didn't think I really was good at decorating but I've been listening to your podcast and I now have confidence to go buy things for my house. I have confidence to do thing, and so I really think it's something that anybody can pick up even if they feel like they're not good at it you can really improve a lot and have a beautiful house that that suits you.  So it's sort of a practice makes perfect meeting a person's personal style essentially, yeah I think it's exactly I mean you're going to try things some things are going to work some things aren't and it's all about getting your own personal style. The real thing that we try to steer people away from are things that we know are going to be disasters you know because we've been doing this long enough we you know if you can make a mistake we've probably made it! And so we can steer people away from certain mistakes that are big mistakes because you want to be making little mistakes that you're learning from, but the big ones nobody wants to paint their you know pay painters to paint their entire exterior and then hate it.

Tammy: Very true, very true, and I notice especially in your book one of the pages I thought was so interesting was when you shared your progression of the décor above your bed and how it changed and there's no wrong or right answer it's just they're all different and I think that's something about design that people may find surprising as they as they learn that there's not really like a really wrong answer. There's certain things that you want to avoid like you said but there's so many right answers depending on the personality and the budget and what someone's going for.

Anita: Right and I think a real secret of learning good design is trying different things and it's you may not know before you do it if it's going to look right but most people can look in something and say that looks good or it doesn't so if you've tried 10 different things above your bed chances or whatever chances are one of those things looks really good and so you just keep trying it till you find something that that really works but you're right there isn't just one just perfect thing but that's also how I learned a lot is by constantly moving things around then you kind of figure out oh this sort of thing tends to work in this situation and this other thing doesn't.

Tammy: What's something that you wish you'd known when you first started out with the blog and everything?

Anita: Well Tammy you probably know this by now and that is that you know there's two approaches. The first approach I think is the one I'd had for a long time in life and that is I'll just try it. If it works it it works, if it doesn't it doesn't and that is not the way you are successful. What I learned is to be successful at whatever you're doing is you have to say I'm going to stick with this until it's successful.  I'm going to persevere because that's the thing I didn't understand as an entrepreneur when I tried things early early days before I started my blog I would have failures and I would think well this...I'm just not cut out to be an entrepreneur. I had no idea that all successful entrepreneurs have a you know many many failures that they've worked through and that that is part of the learning process and that is how you get good at anything is by making mistakes.

Tammy: Very true very true, and even when someone comes to something with a passion and absolutely loves it there's still mistakes they're still growing there's still room to learn. I'm wondering what is something that you're curious to learn about as we come into the new year?

Anita: Well, I don't know that it's really something that's going to help my career so to speak, but I will tell you my passion in design and decorating in antiques. I've always loved antiques  because it it marries my some of my loves one is history and, and interior design. So I love studying antiques so if I had more time, I would study antiques more that is just a real passion of mine. I always love to think about who had these these pieces of furniture how did they live what was life like and uh just what were their lives like and so I have so many old things and I just imagine you know what what like what what these pieces have seen.

Tammy: If only the furniture could talk right?

Anita: Well, right, right and it can tell us some things but not as much as I want to know, I want to know the whole kit and caboodle.

Tammy: I think that's what draws me to antiques too. I just like to, well it's been a while, but I love just sort of browsing the stores and seeing like oh you know where where did this belong who owned this you know and it's very true also with musical instruments you know except they come with a little more detailed story of who owned it and things like that. But with antiques you know you get such a wide variety. You know you can get something mid-century and or you can get something from the the French style you know the 1800s or or if you're really lucky something from like way centuries back you know and just imagining the kind of history that comes with that. I imagine you also like to go to museums as well?

Anita: I do actually I  was planning to be a docent at Bayou Bend here in Houston, uh until I found out the time requirement. Because I love their collections there and it's all American history uh all and it's furniture so it's it's in a historic home setting so if I had more time I would do it it's it's very involved and you have to agree to do a tour a week basically, So if it weren't so involved I would have done that, but yeah.

Tammy: What's your favorite piece that you currently own in your home?

Anita: Oh ooh that's a tough one oh really so you're going to ask me like see next the next question is who's your favorite child right? I know that's coming because that's how that sounds. Um, probably the armoire in my in my breakfast room. It was one of the first pieces, actually, I think that is the first piece antique piece I bought. And I, we converted it into a china cabinet so it has all my favorite little antique pieces of French dishes in there and English and American dishes and I think that's what started my love of French antiques was that beautiful piece so it's probably that one I think.

Tammy: I remember that one, it's gorgeous

Anita: Oh thank you!

Tammy: Everything in your home is gorgeous.

Anita: Oh you're so sweet thanks.

Tammy: So what is the best compliment you've ever received?

Anita: Well,  I think the best compliment was when country French magazine which if you're into the country French design, I mean that's kind of the crème de la crème. There's several French décor magazines but country French magazine by Meredith is kind of the crème de la crème in that, in my field, and so when they uh asked to put my house in their magazine and actually put my house, a picture from my house, on their cover that was one of the biggest compliments and then in their next issue they actually listed me as one of their favorite style makers and so I just thought you know it's kind of like I can't get any better than this.

This is just wonderful and it's always been my favorite magazine so that was probably it for me even though most people probably haven't heard of that magazine. But for me and and gosh what you have to know is these other houses that they feature in there are these multi-million dollar chateaus and here's my wee little you know craftsman style house in there. And actually the funny thing is my house is the only one that they didn't show the front of my house because I actually have you know a small craftsman style house whereas all the other houses like I said are these massive chateaus so anyway but anyway it was it was a real honor.

Tammy: That sounds that sounds wonderful and you've been featured quite a lot across various publications and I'm sure that's always a highlight no matter when it happens.

Anita: it is it is and it's just it's I it' still wonderful and I just found out a few weeks ago I was in a magazine I didn't even know about that was on the shelf. Somebody said hey this is your house. So that happens too so yeah it's it's always fun and um yeah even if it's happens several times which, which is has happened just from having the blog so it's really a great way for people to get their name out and whatever their business is is to have a blog or have an Instagram account. And you know it's amazing how many people find you there.

Tammy: Do you have any advice for someone who wants to make a career out of design?

Anita: Well, I you know I mean obviously you need to be honing your craft and so if somebody has no experience and they didn't go to you know interior design school, I would say the place to start if you wanted to design or maybe a decorator or whatever is to start working with friends and just do work for free. Start your portfolio. Get good with your camera skills. Take lots of photos of your work of your own house of other people's houses move things around so you have lots of photos and then you're going to need a website you're going to need a presence on social media and just start posting things and start posting opinions, see if you can get featured in some magazines. I know a lot of bloggers that will only work with a magazine if they get paid for their their photos and I that's never been my philosophy. I've always said if you want them I will give you the pictures, you can use my photos I'm not going to charge you but just mention my book. Or you know please promote this or that and I've always seen it as free advertising. So I think that's you know you're going to be looking for ways to get some free advertising like that and so again I mean you just but I will say it takes a lot of hard work.  I'm telling you my family thought I was nuts for a long time have they changed their tune since then. Well, only I think that first check my husband's like now who gave you money I what they paid you money I still remember that he thought it was a waste of time until I got that first check then he's like okay this sounds good. Because you know as a as a blogger and an Instagrammer I do that's one of the things I do a lot is work with sponsors so you know I have ads and there's affiliate income but also the sponsors so you do get paid for it. So I mean if you have a you know a certain size following of course.

Tammy: Of course, and I'm sure it's always nice to see that hard work pay off you know and you know then you can use that to reinvest in your business, or you know or to get more pieces for decorating and what have you. It sounds like design is again just like all the other creative arts you know you, you have to work hard you have to have a clear passion for it and you know if it's meant to be you know with all of those factors it's meant to be.

Anita: Yes, yes it that's true but it's it's a lot of work I will say no matter if someone wants to be an entrepreneur you know as as you know it's it's a lot of work you can't just expect instant success it's not going to happen the first week or first month you're going to have to put a lot of time in before you get get paid.

Tammy: So obviously you love design but, do you do any other creative pursuits?

Anita: I will say since I started my blog which was almost 10 years ago I haven't had a lot of time to do much else but I my second love I always said if I didn't do a blog on interior design I would do it on cooking and baking because that's something I love but the the funny thing was when I started my blog it was going to be about design and kind of other things travel and and uh and baking and cooking but when you start doing surveys and looking at the analytics of your blog or whatever I began to see what my readers wanted and I found out that they wanted design from me but they didn't want any recipes from me which was just kind of funny because I love to cook but when I saw that I thought well I mean because when I would post a recipe they wouldn't even show up so I thought okay okay I get it I will do that on my own time but I'm not going to share it on my blog.

Tammy: It's funny you mention recipes because that is a hallmark signature of something that I do both on my creative arts blog as well as the podcast is ask for recipes from my guests which we'll get to shortly. But but I feel that culinary arts as a whole is just as interesting as all the other arts so it's that's one of the reasons why I like to ask for recipes.

Anita: But it is interesting that you mentioned that well and I will say if you love to cook you will never be alone on a holiday you never have to worry about that and you will always have friends that will come over uh of course right now you know it's it's during this uh a time where people are staying home and not not doing a lot of socializing but so I mean just in normal times but yes it's a great way to uh it's a great gift to people too I love cooking for other people. It is such a nice a nice gift very nurturing.

Tammy: I know I'm not very good at cooking but I definitely try to get better did you happen to jump on the sourdough bread bandwagon?

Anita: Oh well interesting that you asked that. We're gluten-free here and so I was a little panicked because I wasn't able to find the gluten-free bread so I decided I was going to make bread at home and  so I did start some gluten-free sourdough starter. But you know it doesn't really the recipe I had was not really good with the gluten-free I think it would have worked very well with regular flour because I did used to make sourdough bread all the time so I actually found a recipe...well I finally found some when you could finally get some yeast, I came across a book on Amazon that's, I'll have to find it for you so you can, put it in your show notes but it's about bread making a gluten-free bread making.

And so actually I am making I make this bread every week because my family demands it. But basically you do add some yeast to it but you make the bread on let's say Monday and then you store it let it rise and put it in overnight. Then you just scoop out enough to make bread every day and that's a week's worth of bread. So all you have to do every day once you've mixed it up and it's because it's gluten-free you don't even have to knead it so you just kind of shape it up heat up your oven pop it in and um it really takes maybe 15 minutes or maybe 10 minutes of your active time not the baking time but time you're involved in it 10 minutes. And I fresh bread every day now and because it's  in the refrigerator all week it has a sourdough flavor to it.

Tammy: Oh that sounds lovely.

Anita:  It's, yeah it's pretty good

Tammy: Is it the kind that you can put like jam on it and things like that?

Anita: yes or honey yes.

Tammy: that sounds wonderful

Anita: Interesting that we're talking about bread because it always reminds me of France like fresh baked bread and things like that.

Tammy: You've done some traveling in France correct?

Anita: yes yes, I have and that's really what kicked off my love of French décor was my first trip to France and I didn't you know I just had this real affinity for it. And I just fell in love with the people, the culture, the furniture, and then I found out that I had French ancestry but i didn't know it because these ancestors of mine were called lee master but actually they had Anglo, anglicized it it was actually a Lemaitre so um maybe anyway, so apparently I have some French blood that may be why I love the French style so much.

Tammy: That's always exciting. Have you traced your genealogy at all?

Anita: uh no.  I mean I've thought about doing that i haven't again I just I've just now been stopped working so frantically where I have no free time so I may I might be able to do that now, but that I think the people came over I think they might have been the Huguenots and they might have come over uh because of religious persecution in France that because they'd been here a long time so yeah that would be interesting I should do that.

Tammy: What are some of your favorite places to have traveled in France, and then if you could travel anywhere else safely uh where would you go?

Anita: uh well of course Paris is Paris. I mean if anyone has, if you've never been to France I mean that's that would be that first place I would recommend to people to go because it is just a one of a kind.  But i fell in love really on this first trip to France in the lubaron valley. We actually stayed in a little town called Lacoste with cobbled streets and little charming cafes and it was a quieter simpler life than Paris. Really charming at beautiful vistas and I think when the owner of the bed and breakfast we were staying at when he threw open those shutters and I saw the valley below and banu this little town on the other side of the lubaron valley I just gasped.

I thought it was the most beautiful scene I had ever seen and I just saw how people just love to sit around and eat and communicate you know talk and laugh and spend time together and I just felt it meant so much to me and I thought this is so different from what I was raised with with the strong work ethic and you know you work to live you know rather than no you lived to work or whatever I mean it was the the opposite of that it was kind of the work work work that's what I was raised with and this was more of a well you know you work.

But you also enjoy life you spend time away from work and have a it was a much more relaxed lifestyle so it wasn't just France that I fell in love with but this lifestyle that was just so beautiful.

Tammy: I think we can all get behind the nice relaxed work-life balance lifestyle especially if you're in such a lovely place like France,

Anita: Exactly and I you know I realized it wasn't practical to live there. I mean I had no, uh you know delusions that I was going to get to move there. But I just had the feeling like, why can't I incorporate some of that beauty in my home home? Why can't I just incorporate some of these concepts in my own life? And that's really what I chose to do and that's part of my journey of making my house have these French accents and then uh just kind of embracing that whole enjoying life.

You know like when I have my tea you know tea in the morning I set up and have a silver spoon.  I have a beautiful china cup I pour it from a teapot and it's just a beautiful experience every morning rather than getting a Styrofoam cup and pouring the tea in and stirring it. it's just it's just such a more beautiful experience.

Tammy: That's what life's about you know like finding those small moments and beautiful experiences and looking for the beauty and all around you.

Anita: oh I think so, and really to have that kind of experience every day you just need one silver spoon. You just need one pretty teacup and just wash it every day.

Tammy: Have you noticed you know after you started transitioning your home to be the French country style, did you notice that things just felt more relaxed as well?

Anita: Yeah because it just felt cozy and warm and the French country French style is a very relaxed style. It has an elegance to it, but very much it's relaxed and and you know keep in mind I'm doing you know what I call my style is country farmhouse French or updated country French. So it's not the old style country French from the 70s you know where the it's got the traditional the blue the cornflower blue and the yellow and the orange.  It's just it's a very peaceful uh relaxing design I think.

Tammy: yeah I think atmosphere has so much to do with it.  And you know when when you've decorated a room and it just clicks you know you can feel it. 

Anita: Well right, and I think it's even more important now because I'm a homebody so I'm home all the time, and it's very important to me to have a beautiful home. So I was kind of ahead of the curve I had already worked on making my home beautiful to me but I think for so many people that are now working from home they kind of got caught off guard where they were used to kind of living their life outside. And now they're stuck at home and so I think now it's really really important for everyone to have a beautiful home because you don't want to be sitting around staring at a basket of laundry or boxes that you didn't unpack when you moved into your house two years ago. I mean this is stressful for people.

Tammy: Very true, I think people really underestimate the importance and mental health aspect of having a home that's organized having a home that's decorated that's true to yourself.

Anita: Right, and it doesn't have to be expensively done we're not talking about spending a lot of money. We're not talking about necessarily hiring somebody, but something that works for you, and a lot I mean really one of the main things we tell people all the time on the podcast is to declutter. That is one of the best things that anybody can do for their own for just their own peace of mind in their home.

Tammy: I was sort of forced into decluttering when I moved and I was like I can't believe I owned this much stuff.

Anita: I know, I know I just you don't realize it. And then you don't realize how it was too much until you get rid of it and then you think why didn't I do this before.

Tammy: It's a it's a very cleansing feeling too, and then when you declutter you're able to figure out more of who you are, what you can live with, what you can't live with, and and almost make a fresh start in terms of decorating and organizing.

Anita: Right and I will say I did do the Marie Kondo thing with the closets uh two years ago and did all all my clothes in the drawers are all rolled so I can see everything in my drawers I did that two years ago and I've kept it. And it's been one of the best things I did. I got all the organizer drawers in the in all the drawers in the house and it really lowered my stress level. Because now I know where everything is and you know otherwise you end up buying a tape dispenser and then you can't find it and you buy another one and then they're in three or four places around the house and you don't even know where they are and it drives you nuts like I'm not gonna go buy another one I know there's four in here somewhere so uh it it really is so helpful for everybody to do that.

Tammy: I love Marie Kondo. Have you seen her show on Netflix?

Anita: I have not in a while but uh I saw right around the time I was doing that. And yeah I think she's got some some great great techniques and I think the concept of decluttering and organizing everything in your house is really important.

Tammy: You also talk in your book about like when you find something and it just speaks to you like whether or not it's on trend, the importance of just sort of going with your true self when it comes to um selecting something. Is there anything in your home where when you were out looking at antiques or shopping that you were like oh I have to have that I don't care I need it?

Anita: Right now yeah my house is full of those things! It's not just one thing there's so many things like that. And you know if it's something that's just very unique, yeah I mean in fact I you know my my ridiculous thing now that I've done, uh the latest goofy thing I did was I bought the six I mean they're matching six hand-painted uh chairs from the early eighteen hundreds uh probably Boston. A federal style uh they're amazing I got them for you know a a good price a pretty good price and, but I don't really have a room room for them. I have no idea what I'm I mean, they're just kind of...I have them shoved in little corners which is not good because then you know it's kind of cluttering a little bit.

But that was the last thing I got that was just kind of I don't need this but I couldn't stop myself the next thing I knew they were in my car I'm gonna have to start driving a smaller SUV that doesn't fit large things in it

Tammy: There you go there you go or get uh get a bicycle around town.

Anita: I've been wanting yeah I've been wanting one of those Vespa's so see that might save me. 

Tammy: And it's very European.

Anita: yes exactly, exactly.

Tammy: But I completely understand that about seeing something and being like okay I've got to have that.

Anita: oh I'm so bad it's so bad it's a disease it is.

Tammy: But you're a designer so I feel like you can get away with it more than more than other people.

Anita: Well I could get away with it more at one point because I had a booth at an antique mall. And then I had an online store so you know I would buy something new and then get you know if I brought something in I would send something out, but I don't really have, I'm not selling things right now so yeah I'm gonna have to do a round up for the the consignment store again I think.

Tammy: And speaking of stores, in your book you mentioned some really great places for people to go. What's one of your favorites right now to find decorations and antiques.

Anita: Well my favorite...I don't know if you've been to it it's Height's Antiques on Yale here in the heights and it's been my favorite for a long time and Christy the owner is just delightful to work with. They have really good prices and some pretty beautiful pieces and nice sales uh so it's well displayed so that's, I think that's actually they won some reader's choice a reward or something so it's it's very popular here.

Tammy: Oh that's wonderful! Yeah I haven't been there in a long time but I'm glad to hear that they're doing well.

Anita: Oh yeah, it's a great store.

Tammy: So before we go, is there any question that you wish I would have asked you?

Anita: Oh no not really. I mean it's, I think, um I mean to me the point of this is hopefully for somebody listening to this to have a spark of excitement about pursuing their own dreams and about following their own passions and spending time on their own creativity. So I'm hoping that what we've done is encourage somebody to do that, so if we've done that then I think we've...that's a good thing.

Tammy: Agreed, and that's part of what you know had me start the podcast as well as you know sharing the world of these different creative artists. What inspires them and hoping to inspire other people to pursue the arts whether it's just a hobby or even more more professionally on a professional level. So before we go where can we find you again on social media?

Anita: Social media I'm Cedar Hill Farmhouse on Instagram and then my page is Cedar Hill Farmhouse on Facebook and those are the two places that I hang out besides my blog, Cedar Hill Farmhouse. And then of course the podcast that we talked about, Decorating Tips and Tricks

Tammy: Excellent well thank you so much Anita for being on the show today and listeners I hope you check out her book as well called French Accents available at your local amazon and bookstores.

Anita: Thanks for having me Tammy it's always delightful to talk with you!