GOOD BOOKS

Designing Women

North Carolina novelist and interior design blogger creates characters who share a sense of style

North Carolina author Kristy Woodson Harvey.
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By Kathy Des Jardins Cioffi
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When North Carolina author Kristy Woodson Harvey was in the area to launch her third novel, one of her stops was a Mother’s Day tea at Roswell’s Urban Relics.

Since her latest release, “Slightly South of Simple,” features a character with an interior design business, and since Harvey herself writes a popular website blog, Design Chic, fans were treated to a double bill: book talk plus design tips surrounded by Urban Relic’s decor resources.

Harvey, whose first novel, “Dear Carolina,” was long-listed for the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize, recently took time from her book tour to discuss combining her twin passions – writing and interior design.

Your new novel’s main character, Ansley Murphy, has a waterfront interior design business and is a mom of three grown daughters. You and your own mother blog at mydesignchic.com. What do writing and designing have in common?

For me, the process of writing and the process of designing are so similar. In both cases, you start with something blank and hope to transform it into something meaningful that creates an emotional response. But, on a surface level, it’s just a fun combination! Since my protagonist is an interior designer, it seemed like a fun way to combine two of the things I love.

Given your blog and the book’s themes, what interior design questions are most often asked at signings?

A lot of women want tips for downsizing or want to know something very specific. Like, at my last event, a woman asked how to create a British Colonial look in a small bathroom. Someone wanted to know something about stripes and how they affect the feel of a room. I love talking about coastal decor as well because people assume that’s easy, but I always think that’s one of the trickiest things to implement well without it looking cheesy or overdone.

Any suggestions for adding style and sophistication to either a bare room or a small space, as Ansley deals with when her high school sweetheart moves back to her coastal town and needs design help?

The first step in adding style to any space, big or small, is focusing on using things you love. Especially in a small space, you want your home to be a reflection of who you are and what is important to you, so prominently display that beautiful vase or handmade bowl. It will make you happy and immediately give you good feelings when you walk in your home. The most important thing when it comes to decorating small spaces is streamlining everything. In a larger space, it might work well to have a table full of favorite picture frames. In a small space, that can be overwhelming. Try to simplify your accessories and pare down to the necessities so that everything has a place. Clutter makes a home of any size feel closed in.

As in your new book, finances can be a concern. How is it possible to affordably create beautiful spaces that reflect a family’s unique interests?

One of the least expensive, easiest ways to begin to do that is with family photos. From gallery walls to frames of favorite memories, it’s instant art with an inexpensive price tag.

Since romance is at the heart of all your work – your second book, “Lies and Other Acts of Love,” was, among other accolades, a Romantic Times top pick – questions about bedding and bedrooms must be popular. What are some general guidelines?

Do keep your bedding white and cotton. Dark bedding screams “college dorm room” and can be very off-putting to some people, as can your Hello Kitty sheets. Silks and satins … just, no. Please, no. (Unless it is your satin pillowcase that keeps your blowout looking fresh. You get a pass for that one.) Do keep your bedroom clean and clutter-free. It is so important! Plus, simple actions like making your bed every morning can be a wonderful boost for your frame of mind, which can only help you to put your best foot forward when it comes to finding love.

“Slightly South of Simple” is the first title in your Peachtree Bluff series. Will the next book also feature interior design?

The next book, “The Secret to Southern Charm,” is really the middle sister Sloane’s book and focuses on her love story with her husband, Adam, and a new phase in her life where she is dealing with something that no military wife ever wants to. Interior design actually plays an even bigger role because Sloane, a trained interior designer, decides to put her degree back to work and start helping her mom out again.

How can readers keep up with you and your work?
People can follow me at kristywoodsonharvey.com, mydesignchic.com, on Instagram and Twitter at @kristywharvey and on Facebook at Facebook.com/kristywoodsonharvey. And come see me June 28 when I’ll be speaking at the Gainesville Newcomers Club Luncheon at the Chattahoochee Country Club. ■

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