Monday, January 16, 2012

Ask: Gabrielle Blair of Design Mom

Gabrielle, Ben, Ralph, Maude, Olive, Oscar, Betty, and June -- this might just be the most well named family in the world, and absolutely one of the loveliest.  

Today's designer likely needs no introduction, but I will offer a giant thank you to the lovely Gabrielle Blair of Design Mom for giving us such a warm interview today.

The ever inspirational Design Mom is currently written from France - from La Cressonnière, the Blair's savory dream of a farmhouse in the Normandy countryside. In addition to all the French lovelies Gabby has shared with readers since moving abroad, you will find home tours, birth and adoption stories, parenting resources (her children's book collection is just the best), and great food for thought on topics ranging from differing parenting styles the world over to topless beaches. 

Beyond pleasing our eyes and satiating our appetites for craft and design projects, Gabrielle has such a grace in her writing, which I'm guessing for Gabby comes from a similar grace in living.  She and Ben Blair have crafted a life full of adventure, coziness and beauty for their handsome family of eight. 

You can read their six beautiful children's name stories here, complete with their middle names and the reasons for their selection,but first let's talk to Gabby! 

1. I've enjoyed reading the birth and adoption stories on Design Mom. All of our experiences are so varied yet, at the same time, there are those very familiar features which draw us into every woman's story and make us feel instantly and so easily part of it. Can you say a little about why it can be such a good thing for women (who are comfortable doing so) to put our birth stories out there and to read the stories of other women? 

 I wholeheartedly believe in sharing information, and I love others who do, too. Whenever I talk to women who've had a few babies, and hear how different - and usually exponentially more wonderful - their experiences were from their first to their last, there's often a common phrase uttered: "I wish I'd known then..." Between all the stories that have been so generously shared on Design Mom, I think we've taken away a lot of the mystery, don't you?  Plus, I just love hearing how babies came into the world! They always find a way, don't they?

2. Do you have any current name crushes?

 For the past year living overseas, I’ve heard so many French names that have made me gasp with their beauty. I bet they’re super-common among the French, but they sound absolutely magical to me! Like Océane and ArchambaultHonore and Loyal because they are such incredible qualities. And anything hyphenated sounds twice as lovely.

3. What are a few names that don't really fit with the style you established for your own family, but which you love for someone else? An alter-Blair set?

 I lean towards names that don’t – at first glance – belong to a baby. I guess I like to name the person they’ll someday become. But when I hear poetic baby names like the ones she’s given hers and she’s given hers, I smile. Baby names are so full of hope, aren’t they?

4. Would you say the qualities you most appreciate in design mirror the qualities you most admire in names?

 Definitely! Sturdy and strong and timeless always win with me. The stuff that makes me smile and love it more as the years go by…that’s the greatest. I sometimes grin when I think of Ralph and Oscar carrying around their names and growing into them as they become men!

5. I've so enjoyed reading about your time in France! Has living in France altered your personal design aesthetic at all; how so? 

 It has definitely reinforced my long-held belief in quality over quantity, the timelessness of a good sweater, bag, and pair of flats, and never underestimating the power of a freshly-baked baguette and amazing cheese!

6. It's winter! Do you have any tips for those of us on a budget who would like to do a few quick, easy things to change out the decor of a room?

 By now, most of us have taken down our trees and seasonal decorations, right? We’re probably craving a fresh view, which is always when I change up my textiles. New pillow covers, cute tea towels, and maybe even bed linens, all in color combinations that startle you a little out of your comfort zone. Framed over-sized family photos are always a joy, too, as is displaying them like this. And January is also a really good month to start a new collection! Tiny bottles filled with mementos from all the places you’ve been – sand, dirt, or anything that reminds you of your travels, great and small – become such cool scrapbooks.

7. Three of your favorite words? 

 I enjoy sure in all of its definitions, insane but only when it means brilliance of the highest degree, and hope…especially when it means sure.

8. Three of your favorite smells?

 Babies. Overgrown lilac bushes. And Ben Blair.

9. I'd love you to create a name by doing the following:

For the first name: A name of a favorite designer
For the middle name: A color name

 Too fun! The first designer’s name that came to mind is Finn Juhl. His chairs, especially the Chieftain - bring chills all the way from my shoulders to my toes, and I think Juhl would be a great name for a boy or a girl. As for the color, I love any shade of greyJuhl Grey, it is!

 Juhl Grey - such a beautiful and inspired name.  Thank you again, Gabrielle, for such a delightful chat - so much fun!

Names from today's interview:

Juhl Grey













Flora 'June'




William 'Scout'

Reverie Lux

Boheme Shalom 

Archer Sage

Fable Luella 

(images: all courtesy of Gabrielle Blair at Design Mom, 1 & 2 by Paul Ferney, last image by Sarah Wert of modern kids)


  1. Her family has such lovely names!

    I also love the name Grey in the middle, for a boy or a girl. I've had it on my list before with Hugo (Hugo Grey) and with Adele (Adele Grey). I do like the color, but I also liked it as a possible short form or nod to Gregory, my father's name.

  2. This is such a great post. What a beautiful family. One of my favorite (clothing) designers is Heidi Merrick, and a color I love is ruby red. So, playing your name game, I've come up with: Ruby Merrick. xo.

  3. Absolutely gorgeous set of names she's used for her kids! Love pretty much all of the names she's used.

  4. She chose lovely names for her children -- particularly nice to see Ralph used.