Incorporate Heirloom Pieces: I have a church pew that was taken out of a Boston church years ago. When I bought it, it was like 9 feet long. Shortly after, I had it shortened by a local woodworker and it now sits in my laundry room. I have often looked at it and considered the prayers that have been prayed by those who have occupied it over the years. Can you imagine? I believe heirloom pieces tell us stories about the lifetime they have lived. We must never forget that that old bargain-of-a-vintage sofa was once the place where someone’s precious memories were made. Our pieces tell stories and, one day, yours may too.
As part of my series on the “5 Things You Can Do To Help Your Living Space Spark More Joy”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alysha St. Germain-Heidke.
Alysha is an Interior Designer and color specialist located on the South Shore of Boston, MA. She believes that an interior space is a reflection of its occupants and that they can be leveraged to support us in all of our endeavors, both inside and outside of the home. She loves watching her clients come to life through their interior spaces.
Thank you so much for joining us in this series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I have gravitated toward beautiful interiors for as long as I can remember. I inherited a love for vintage and antique pieces from my grandmother and mother. They taught me that well-loved and unique items can add an element of character to a home in a way new ones cannot. With that, it wasn’t until we bought a 100-year-old fixer-upper in 2016 that I dove head-first into tailoring it to the needs of our family. It was then I realized how much I truly enjoyed the design process. Once my family and friends began to comment on my design abilities, I began to lean into the possibility of starting my career as an interior designer. The rest is Hello Pearl history.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
About a year ago, I took a 6-month long color course from the remarkable Karen Haller who is the author of the Little Book of Colour. The course focuses on the importance of color from a psychological standpoint. Shortly after, I was contacted by a dear friend requesting an in-depth re-design of her home. Like many of us, she had bought the lie that grey is a neutral and had painted her entire home in varying shades of grey. Despite her nerves, we were able to ease her into color by marrying a new color palette with one of her existing shades of grey. In this way, she was not jolted by color, but, rather, she was able to see how color can actually flow among spaces. When done correctly, transitioning the colors in your home is hardly noticeable. Since then, she has come out of her shell, lost 40 pounds, and feels better than ever before. Could it have been the introduction of color to her home? (I think so.) There is no way to truly know, but the coincidence makes me wonder if her willingness to step out of her comfort zone through her interior color palette and décor was the impetus she needed to step into her life fully.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I first made the decision to dive into an interior design career, I did so with trepidation. Starting a business is not only a huge time commitment, but can also trigger intense feelings of vulnerability. I am not a “trained” interior designer in the sense that I did not go to school to become one. Rather, I have learned by doing. So, when I began, I wondered whether or not I could actually wear the title. It was difficult to not feel like a fraud or an imposter by doing so. With that, I decided it was safer to refer to myself as an interior stylist. Although it felt safer, my inability to commit to the title kept me from being fully invested in my calling. This meant others failed to see me as a professional as well. A hard lesson, indeed. But, what do they say? “You live and learn”. Oh, and “Fake it til you make it.” I prefer the latter. Oh, and this reminds me — I must update my business cards!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I am currently working on an outdoor space that includes a raised deck, floating deck, and a 3-season porch. What many people fail to realize is that our interiors don’t stop when the walls of the house do. Instead, they extend into the outdoors. As an East Coast transplant, I was shocked to find that many of the homes in the Northeast do not allow for unobstructed access to the outdoors. Perhaps it’s the fact that winters are an actual thing here, or that these homes are typically bigger than the homes I grew up in on the West Coast. Whatever the reasoning, I am on a mission to change it. I believe our homes should extend to the outdoors whenever possible. Not only is nature an incredibly healing entity, but our outdoor spaces have the ability to add to our interior aesthetic if only we allow it to.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Carpe Diem, hands down. My late husband was an avid mountaineer and explorer who truly loved life. When we first connected, Carpe Diem was his MySpace tagline. That was the first time I had heard of it. With that said, he taught me the art of “seizing the day” as we experienced many adventures during our short time together. In the biggest turn of events, he was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer at the age of 31. He passed away, in our home, surrounded by his family and friends on March 18th, 2013 after a valiant 15-month long battle with cancer. He taught me so much about living life well and will always be my hero for so many reasons.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am, of course, eternally grateful to those who have trusted me enough to guide them through the design process — especially in the beginning of my career. But, when I first felt inclined to become a designer, a local business owner offered to help me flesh out my businesses focus and pinpoint my target market and more. She did all this out of the goodness of her own heart. Her own business was new and expanding, even, yet she graciously gifted me her time and energy. I have been meaning to reach out to her to thank her again — I think it’s time.
Thank you for that. Here is the main question of our discussion. What are your “5 Things You Can Do To Help Your Living Space Spark More Joy” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1.) Add Color: It is the most inexpensive way to change the complete look of a space. Don’t forget that the ceiling is an option too! It is often overlooked and can add help a ceiling appear higher or add to the cozy factor of a room. If you don’t like it, you can always paint over it. I am a huge fan of semi-gloss finish because it elevates the look and is mostly washable. Just be aware that a semi-gloss paint will make any blemishes in the wall more visible, whereas an eggshell finish will hide them. When we first moved into our home I allowed the painting crew to talk me into painting the walls in an eggshell finish throughout the house. I also avoided color as it felt too final. After a while our home began to feel devoid of life. Once we repainted the interior I began to see color as a life force! Another easy way to add joy to your space is to use removable wallpaper — apply it to an accent wall or the whole room. What’s stopping you?
2.) Decrease Visual Clutter: Everything needs a home. Just ask my husband <cackles>. I have had clients who have assumed their space was in need of a complete overhaul, when, really all they needed was to approach their space and its systems in a more thoughtful way. Ask yourself if there are any problems with the way your space is set up now. Perhaps you could add a basket for shoes in the entryway, add hooks to the wall, or create designated storage bins for specific toys so that your children can put them away on their own when asked. There are endless ways to create flow, reduce clutter, and create ease of living in your space *today*. Of course, no system is foolproof. Although my entry way is set up with storage and organization in mind, as a family, we must still purge our entryway monthly in order to minimize overwhelm. It’s a process, but once you know which process suits you and your family best, you can achieve a sense of peace and calm within your home.
3.) Create Space for What You Love: How can you incorporate your hobbies and interests into your home design? There are so many ways, but first we must know what we love. When we tailor our spaces to our needs, we make room for more joy in our lives. Joy can be found in practicing our hobbies on a more consistent basis. For example, my children love art and creation. With that in mind, we created a space that caters to their desire to practice their craft on a daily basis. We painted it a bright shade of Persimmon to inspire their inner artist and created an organizational system that allows them to access art supplies when the mood strikes. I also mounted a paper roll on their art table. This way, they can drive their own creative process. Not only have I enjoyed watching their art skills evolve, but I have found that the accessibility of the space discourages the overuse of electronics.
4.) Let the Light Shine In: I am a firm believer that natural light is an often-overlooked interior design element. A current client noted that they have been living with the same drapes for 10 years! Not only are they the same drapes that came with the house, but they don’t even open! Thankfully, they have agreed to update them. There is something special about natural light. It lifts the mood and helps us to feel connected to the outdoors. I am a firm believer that window coverings should never remain closed. There is a reason why darkness is associated with evil and light is associated with purity and goodness. The best part about it is that light is absolutely free.
5.) Incorporate Heirloom Pieces: I have a church pew that was taken out of a Boston church years ago. When I bought it, it was like 9 feet long. Shortly after, I had it shortened by a local woodworker and it now sits in my laundry room. I have often looked at it and considered the prayers that have been prayed by those who have occupied it over the years. Can you imagine? I believe heirloom pieces tell us stories about the lifetime they have lived. We must never forget that that old bargain-of-a-vintage sofa was once the place where someone’s precious memories were made. Our pieces tell stories and, one day, yours may too.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I am a firm believer in color. #BANTHEGREY and while I would like for that to be the movement I spearhead, I think there is another movement that deserves my full attention. I have always wanted to start a non-profit for families transitioning out of domestic violence. Unfortunately, a dear family member and her children have recently met this reality head-on. I believe our homes can support our healing journeys and support our emotional health in countless ways. This is why I can think of no greater gift to give a family in this predicament, than to give them a beautifully curated space in which they can exercise their newfound sense of security. I am grateful that Joybird has agreed to partner with me in gifting this dear family a new living space. It is my hope that this project will be the beginning of a very good thing.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
Oh, I would LOVE to talk with Sophie Robinson, the color queen herself. It would be such an honor. Perhaps we could discuss British Textiles of which I am a huge fan. But, most of all, I’d love to chat about our mutual love of color!!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!