Let your personality shine in your home
Words by Cara Clark and Tonia Trotter
Photos by Joel Hancock
Interior decorator and art aficionado Tonia Trotter has that eye for how decorative elements work together to create a cohesive whole. Like bringing together threads of all colors, she weaves a tapestry of unique beauty in her own home and others in which the home owners’ personalities are paramount. She shares tips for how you can combine the elements that appeal most strongly into a lovely Southern setting.
1. Art is the heart
“The number one way I approach by work is definitely art centric. I never advise someone to buy a painting to match the sofa, but rather buy a sofa to match your painting. It’s important to embrace original art and especially local artists.”
2. A quest for treasure
Don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and search for pieces,” Tonia says. “Get down and dirty to find treasures. I love shopping online for great pieces or investment pieces, but sometimes I find the best thing at thrift stores, antique stores, flea markets or facebook trading.”
Tonia said she loves to find second hand items, and in the same way some people collect antique dresses or jewelry, she finds a thrill in the right vintage rug or chandelier.
“There’s something sweet about connecting to another time,” Tonia says. “I’ve loved estate sales since I was a little girl, and my dad and I would go together.”
When she was only 13, she decided on a set of china fro an estate sale that she planned to keep until she was a grown-up. She and her dad bought the full set.
3. Every occasion is special
“My grandmother always said to use your fine china and silver every day if you wanted to,” Tonia says. “It was important to her to put out fancy pieces all the time. Everyone is always holding off on things for a perfection occasion. She would say, ‘Why can’t today be fancy?’”
4. Focal point finds
Tonia recommends finding a conversation piece to draw the eye and start a fun chat. In her own home, she has a stuffed leopard she discovered at an estate sale.
"It’s definitely a conversation piece, and that’s the kind of thing that makes living in your house fun — that makes your house fun.”
5. Embrace the bold
Don’t be afraid of bold choices and bold colors, Tonia advises. “I think a lot of times people either get nervous about taking a bold stance in terms of color or design or feel pressured not to. You often hear Realtors say bold choices are not good for retail value, but don’t design your house for resale.”
She advises homeowners to inject their personalities into the space. After all, if you do sell your house, the new owner is going to redecorate anyway.
“Design it, and enjoy it! And if you can make a bold choice, commit to it and go all the way with it. Good for you if you do.”
She remembers the 35,000-square-foot Manhattan apartment of artist Hunt Slonem, whom she represented at her former art gallery. Collectors loved to visit his studio.
“He had 13 parrots that flew around that space cursing and crazy furniture,” Tonia says. “Some things were really a shock to the system, but it really worked for him. Harpers and Vogue always wanted to see the space.”
“There’s nothing worse than living in a boring house. Your home is the place where you let your hair down, and people should see you and feel you when they come in,” Tonia advises.