Sandra @chiclecticblog has fast become a great “Insta Friend!” It is clear from all her comments and posts that she is an incredibly fun and witty woman; this impression was only cemented when she and I started chatting about her new build. I’ve had a blast getting to know Sandra; she is bursting with personality and has a knack for visual references when discussing her property. Its really no wonder that her home is full of character, individuality and a unique spirit; her home really does reflect her personality!
Its clear from taking a tour around Sandra’s home that there is a strong travel influence throughout. I was keen to find out all the wonderful places Sandra has lived and visited; unsurprisingly it was vast! Born in and raised in Germany on an Army base, Sandra moved to Hawaii and then to Chicago to complete her Art degree (another influence that can be seen throughout her home.) On meeting her husband, they moved to Florida and settled there for 10 years before relocating to live in Leeds.
Sandra, you have such a huge wealth of cultural influences from living in so many different countries. On moving to the UK, what attracted you to buying your new build?
Firstly, not having to rewire an entire 1920s house and dealing with all the building regulations, permits, and inspections that go along with that kind of project! Don’t get me wrong; we’ve had a lot of fun renovating before. A few years ago we renovated a post WWII co-op home in one of the U.S.’s first ‘planned suburban communities’ of the 1950s. This time around however we wanted something ready to move into. Relocating from the US to the UK and living in a new country, there were so many unknowns; we didn’t know if we’d have the time for all of that with both of us working full time.
Secondly, there’s always that “blank canvas” appeal to a new build. This of course comes with its downsides. You now have to figure out where to go from zero. Also if, like me, you love those wonderful historic architectural details, you also have to add ceiling roses and cornice moulding; which we haven’t even gotten around to yet!
Thirdly, we were looking for something close enough to the city, ideally only a 15-minute walk, and far enough out to experience the river and countryside. The new development we found was built right on the river, so we jumped at the chance to scoop up one of the properties before they all sold.
With your artistic background and visionary nature, I imagine that the “blank canvas” was very exciting for you when it can be so daunting to so many people. What has been your biggest challenge with decorating your home?
My significant other! He’s the polar opposite of me when it comes to design and decorating; he likes modern, minimalist, sleek, and greyscale. But then, he also has this hideous resin frog wearing a graduation cap and monocle that he won’t get rid of. Try and figure that one out! And don’t get me started on his obsession with moose!
So, we compromise on some things. Take the brown leather reclining sofa in the living room, for example; it definitely leans more toward the male aesthetic—especially the reclining parts. (What is it about men and their recliners?!) I agreed to let him pick the sofa, keeping within reasonable bounds of course, if I can “have at it” in the rest of the room. And that’s exactly what I did! Plus, I promised he gets to do whatever he pleases with his very own man cave—starting with a sleek, modern Barcelona chair to keep him happy. Now I’ve discovered I can put mood boards together for him to “gently nudge” the design direction.
That’s so funny! I must say I think I’m very lucky that Mr PHD has a similar aesthetic to me. That or he’s incredibly compliant! Sounds like you’ve got a real knack for helping your partner understand your vision, so how would you describe your style?
The more eclectic, colourful, maximalist, and wild things get, the more I feel at home. I would say my style’s constantly evolving, though. You know how Geminis are; so fickle! Having gone to art school in Chicago, people can describe me as the crazy artist type; laid-back, sun-loving, quirky! I think that really shows throughout our home. My time spent in Hawaii and Florida definitely have a great influence on my interior styling. My mother lovingly calls it “tropical chaos.”
Wow, all the places you have lived must have such a profound effect on your influences; not to mention the amount of amazing, unique pieces you’ve collected over the years. I think the phrase “tropical chaos” is spot on, I love that description!
Well I’ve ALWAYS loved anything to do with the tropics / island paradises. I’d have to say my favourite places to live have been Florida and Hawaii, because you can take the girl out of the tropics but you can’t take the tropics out of the girl! I love, love, love classic British Colonial style. Combine that with fusing the “out of the ordinary” with a touch of travel collection nostalgia and you’ve got me! Think Ernest Hemingway’s Key West island-bungalow style, a splash of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory whimsical eccentricity and a pinch of sumptuous, shiny Hollywood chic (because shiny and sparkly go with everything!)
Your home is coming together so beautifully. I know, like me, you are the kind of person that never sees a house as “finished” but what advice would you give a new build homeowner starting to decorate?
Don’t ever ask your partner you’d like to have his/her decorating input; you’ll regret it! Get on Pinterest and Instagram way beforehand to get some design inspiration. Since starting decorating our home, I personally love looking at Instagram for some ideas and to help me craft the look I want to achieve.
So who are your favourite instagrammers for inspiration Sandra?
I want be like @jillsorensen when I grow up; talk about fearless design! Every square has an eclectic mix of styles, furniture eras, colours, patterns, textures. She’s a genius at injecting her interiors with her very own distinctive chic factor.
I also love @TheRathProject. In her living room, Diane Rath has a large-scale photo print of a red dog pooping; what’s not to love about that?! She’s eclectic, bold, whimsical and isn’t afraid to mix styles, time periods, and thrift-store / flea market finds into her chic mid-century ranch house.
I get so much inspiration from @lisadawson. Her out-on-a-limb styling, especially seeing how her style has evolved in the past year or so, is mesmerizing. She had me at “Cole & Son DECO PALM PINK wallpaper” in her hallway!
Looking back, I think that we didn’t look for inspiration beforehand enough and it was a big mistake because when we moved in we had no clue what design direction we wanted to go in.
Oh don’t get me started on Palm wallpapers, they’re a favourite of mine too! Sounds like we are similar in having a fairly spontaneous approach to our homes look, what decisions did you find yourself taking more time over?
The two things we didn’t do on the fly and decided to put some real thought into and splurge on: the sofa and the bed. They were both chosen as bold, foundational statement pieces and everything else just evolved from there.
As you can see from my feed, so far we’ve only painted the dining room and then Venetian plastered the en-suite shower and downstairs WC/loo. Given that, I’ve decided to inject all the rooms and hallways with a colour pop by way of my quirky “hoarded” miscellany.
Its lovely knowing there are still fun projects ahead! Any other snippets of advice?
Well, all kidding aside, I think the single most-important piece of advice I can give anyone is to buy your new-build home as a freehold; rather than as a leasehold. We were just lucky enough to have bought our freehold before the developer sold our leasehold to another company. Now, that same company raised the cost to buy a freehold on our estate anywhere from 3 to 4 times.
If like me when you read Sandra’s advice about purchasing Freehold you had a little panic (seriously, I emailed our solicitor immediately to double check!) fear not; just make sure you do your research so that you can make an informed decision on what’s best for you. For more information on the difference between Freehold and Lease hold try The Money Advice Service and this article gives a good summary about what Freehold / Leasehold means for New Build buyers.
Talking to Sandra about her eclectic home has been such a joy. Sandra has such an eye for taking individual items and blending them together with a non contrived harmony. She certainly has achieved her namesakes objective of a home that is both Chic and Eclectic also known as Chiclectic!
You can read more from Sandra by checking out her blog at www.chiclectic.com
Do you have a New Build Home and would like to be featured? Or perhaps you know someone doing a great job of adding character to their New Build? Please contact me here to get in touch!