Living Space with Holley Dovel

Interview with Holley Dovel - @holleydovel

Q: How old were you the first time that you were able to create/design your own living space?

A: I lived in a few places throughout college in Asheville that were my first houses without a parent, but it wasn’t until I moved back to Winston-Salem from Asheville that I moved into a spot that I was very careful and intentional about decorating. I was about 24 living with my best friend Tara and we had a super cute little house in West End that we were both very proud of, design wise. I have a very simplistic and minimal sense of style and she had a lot of cute 1970’s inspired pieces and those two visions actually melded together really well.

Q: Where did you live?

A:^^ (Asheville, NC)

Q: What were you inspired by? What are the key aspects of creating your own perfect space? (color palettes, etc)...

A: I love a clean, uncluttered space as far as furniture is concerned.  But I remember reading an article on Refinery 29 a few years ago about how even though it’s super trendy (think Marie Kondo), not everyone has to relate to minimalism. I have a lot of sentimental items in my home that I refuse to part with. For example, I have a tiny little greeting card that says, “feel better”, with a picture of a band aid on it on my bedside table. I bought it for myself when a boyfriend broke up with me like, five or six years ago and it has rings on it from cups of coffee and water accidentally being set on it, but I won’t ever throw it away because it’s a daily reminder of how far I’ve come since I bought it.  I like to keep little things like that around my space.  I also have a collection of tiny elephants that I have been working on for 10+ years. Nothing in my apartment is very bold.  I mostly like muted tones, but I am soon going to take a huge step and reupholster two striped chairs of mine with this wild ass floral fabric that I found after scouring the Internet for hours and hours. I am so excited!

Q: Creating your own space can be seen as an essential part of self-development and self-expression, did having the opportunity to create your own living space ever feel like a pivotal moment? If so, what was it like?

A: Moving into the apartment that I am in now has been absolutely life changing.  It’s the most transformative experience I have ever had.  I think a lot of new and good beginnings come from the aftermath of devastation—in my case a breakup with someone I, naively, thought I would be with forever and I was so crushed when it didn’t end up that way.  I signed a lease on my new apartment the day after we broke up and have been cultivating my little space ever since.  To be a woman and live alone is a very special and very specific experience.  I feel like it’s an experience crucial for every woman because the alone time forces you to learn things about yourself that could otherwise be eclipsed by partners or roommates.  I have for almost a year now been working very hard on building a life around me - full of pieces that remind me of my friends, family, travels, my sadness, my happiness, and everything in between. Living alone is a good time to work on loving yourself and all the drama that comes with it.

Q: Where do you try to save and splurge on items? 

A: I splurge on candles. Some people don’t understand because they are so ephemeral, but they make me happy and I always get compliments when people walk into my apartment.  A lot of my furniture has been acquired over the years from my mother and grandmother. They have good taste, but I also style the pieces differently so that they fit within my aesthetic at home.  Also, flowers are a must.  I especially love them because they are meant to die in a few days, unlike all my houseplants that have experienced premature deaths. Oops.

Q. Do you have any advice for others in the process of making their own living space?

A: I think to go slowly and not forcing any sort of look or aesthetic into your home just because it looks cool on Instagram is super important.  Like, I have a dry cleaner’s coat hanger from the early 90’s framed on my wall because I wrote a sad note about how my mom takes it out on me when she is mad.  It sounds sad but is so funny to us now.  Personalize your space.  Make it so that every few feet you’d be able to pick up an item and tell a story about it if you had friends over for dinner.  In this hyper-curated world of social media, Pinterest, and the like it’s more important now than ever to try not to just blend in. Life is hard and stressful, your home should be a source of bespoke comfort and well-being.

Q: Your kitchen table is genius, the chairs tuck perfectly into it. Where did you get it? And when you picked it out, was the functionality a big part of the appeal?

A: I actually lived in these same apartments several years ago for a short time and purchased that table and chairs then. My apartment then was a one bedroom rather than a studio, but the kitchen was the same size. I actually found that table and chairs at Ikea. It’s the only remaining item I have from my first and typical Ikea sweep when I was 23. I love it. The chairs aren’t the most comfortable but its functionality is so attractive to me.

Q: I love that you have a lamp in your kitchen. It makes your apartment even more cozy. I feel like it's a pretty unique touch? How did you decide on it's location?

A: My kitchen has been so tricky because there is NO counter space and even with my compact table and chairs there is not much room for anything else like a side table, so utilizing the surface on top of the cabinets was crucial. I think the lamp looks sweet there and thank god because the overhead lighting is atrocious!

Q: You have mirrored window frames next to your windows and throughout your apartment. I love it, is the placement at all strategic?

A: My mom made those years ago and when she moved a few years ago I snagged them from her. I am glad I did because I feel like they add dimension to my mouse house of an apartment!

Q: Your striped chairs, are they vintage or thrifted or both? What style are they considered?

A: Those are my grandmother’s old chairs, she got them from Salem College years and years ago when they were going to throw them out. They were passed down to my mom who got them reupholstered the way they are currently. I’m not crazy about the fabric and have been actively searching for a wild floral pattern to get them reupholstered with again!

Q: Can you tell me about the art above your bed? They're stylistically unique pieces.

A: So the Native American piece is part of a set but they cannot be hung near each other because the frames aren’t identical and so when they are side by side they constantly look crooked. I didn’t figure out they were minutely different until recently and it was a real game changer because I havr driven myself crazy trying to straighten them out over the years. The piece in the middle is a framed t-shirt with a 1987 Keith Haring print on it. My mom wore the t-shirt while she was pregnant with me (I was born in 1987) and then continued to wear it as a nightgown as I was growing up. When I was little I loved knowing
that she wore it while I was in her belly. She surprised me by getting it framed for me as a gift for my 25 th birthday. It was honestly the most amazing gift that will never, ever be topped! And on the right is just a sconce I bought from Anthropologie a few years ago.