APIECE APART WOMAN
On the two hour drive from Austin to Ann Edgerton’s family’s river house, it’s easy to transport yourself into someplace quieter, someplace slower. Walking outside, all you hear is gravel crunching beneath your feet and the rush of the Llano River. It’s where Edgerton—an Austin-based interior designer—goes to reset, to detach for a little bit—and where we discussed ideas about living and working. Raised in a dusty West Texas oil town, Edgerton creates spaces with a sense of place, referencing the materials and provenance of where she is (terra cotta, leather, Pecan, vast open space, and endless sky) while remaining rooted in a stripped-back self-awareness. And design work aside, Ann’s one of the most laid back, down-to-earth people we know, whose philosophies on cultivating a full, joyful life are inspiring to observe and discuss. Read on for our conversation on balancing acts, “Pinterest pressure,” and being present.
Ann wears STRIPED V-NECK WOVEN PONCHO and TAIYANA ELASTIC BACK SHORT
Joan Didion wrote: “We tell ourselves stories in order to live” — what is the current story you are telling about yourself (or to yourself)?
I keep hearing the words “brace yourself" in the back of my head. I recently found out that I’m pregnant, and the feeling of impending change is looming over me (along with extreme joy, etc. etc). I have spent the past five years building my business and learning how to control and take care of all the ins and outs. The balancing act of business ownership, the creative life, and motherhood is something you can only face once it is upon you. I am beginning to teach myself to ask for help and admit that at some point…I will not be able to do it all alone. I think there is freedom in this.
Backing up, can you share more about your upbringing and childhood: where did you grow up, what were you interested in as an adolescent, and what are some of the steps that have led you to where you are today?
I grew up in a small West Texas town in the middle of the desert where the closet natural water was three hours away. The land was flat, no trees to speak of, and I often played with tumbleweeds in our backyard. It was a pretty extreme landscape that as a child I did not fully respect. As I have grown older I have seen the ways this vast, simple, and open landscape shaped my aesthetic and way of life.
Midland, TX (where I grew up) is a conservative oil town where football is king, but neither my brother or I were interested in sports or cheerleading, so we found our way into the community theatre. We spent most of our childhood and adolescence in the theatre basement rehearsing lines for 'Les Miserables' and memorizing dances to 'The Sound of Music.’ Often before I went on stage for a big solo, both of my arms would go entirely numb from fear and nerves. I am so grateful that at a young age I was taught to work hard at something, put myself out there, and know that if it doesn't go perfectly (as it often didn't) you still have to wake up and face your peers the next day.
My brother and I are children of an accountant and engineer. Today, my brother is a musician and I’m a designer. My parents could have easily encouraged us to follow a safer path out of fear for our futures, but instead they stayed up late with us practicing piano, encouraged all of our weird ideas, and never once questioned our creative instincts. This is the biggest gift I could have ever been given and I hope that one day I will pass this on to children of my own.
Brass tacks: what are some of your surefire ways to make a room or space feel better (without costing a lot of money or requiring days of work)?
1) Take a look at how your art is hung. If you hang all your art in a room at the same middle point—61-63 inches is average—the room will feel anchored and balanced (there are exceptions to this of course, but it’s a good general rule to follow).
2) Pull your furniture off the walls. Out of reflex I think a lot of people just put their furniture against the walls. If you allow some space between the wall and the furniture the room will flow better and feel more open.
3) Arrange your furniture for conversation. Unless you have a specific media room, do not arrange the furniture so that the focus is the TV. Instead think about the room if you were to have your friends over: How would you want to sit in order to connect? Having a TV in a room is sometimes unavoidable but if you hang it off centered, place art around it, and don't face all the furniture in its direction it will become less of a focus.
Do you ever feel pressure to blend your style into pervasively popular styles or make it more “Pinterest-friendly”? How do you find your own taste in the sea of inspiration boards telling you what you “should” like?
I have always had a very strong sense of my personal taste. My mother tells a story of when she dressed me as a two year old and my only words for her were, "Not cute." That said, I do not necessarily feel pressure to do things a certain way. However, I do think the lines between personal taste and trends are blurry. There is no way to escape being influenced by what we see and that is ok. If it were up to me I would sell everything in our home every two years so I could start over. Trends are fun but can also be cheap, easy, and tempting. Before puling the trigger on a design I ask myself, "Is this honest?" and "How will this age?" If I stay true to my personal taste and allow myself to have fun with trends I end up finding a good balance that I can feel proud of.
We have recently become interested in Sister Corita Kent’s list of “rules.” What are some of your own “rules” for living + working?
Most of my work is designing spaces for other people. It’s easy to get confused and lost along the way when you are not necessarily personally drawn to the specific aesthetic you are creating. My one rule for design is that I have to actually like everything that goes into each space.
My rule for living is to always be having fun.
What is your best quality?
I let things roll off my shoulders pretty easily…Not too many things really get to me.
What do you make for dinner by yourself?
When I eat alone I like the feeling of treating myself. Even if the dish may be very simple like fresh tomatoes and pasta or shakshuka and crusty bread I like to plate it nicely: using a cloth napkin, sitting down at the table with a glass of wine, and enjoying the moment. This doesn’t always happen…sometimes I end up with popcorn in front of too many episodes of Broad City.
What do you make when you are entertaining?
When entertaining I like to challenge myself. This often involves some sort of ethnic food with homemade bread, tons of dips and spreads. I like the type of dinner party where you have a lot of different things on your plate that all taste really good together and the combinations are endless. I am always trying to create that image of the long Italian dinner table where everyone is laughing and pouring wine and the table is completely full of fresh-looking goodies.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
"Wherever you are, be all there.” Connect with each friend, enjoy each bite, embrace each new landscape.
Photography by KATE LESUEUR | Story and Styling by LEIGH PATTERSON