Interior design expert Julia Buckingham from Chicago knows which way the wind blows. More specifically, she knows just what a sheep can contribute to the perfect American home. We went round Ambiente together so we could get to know more about her philosophy: “Beauty is found in the unexpected”. Her enthusiasm and sense of style won us over. We enjoyed our treasure hunt!
Julia Buckingham has found inspiration: “Just look, I’m taking this sheep back home to Chicago!” The American style guru sits atop a fleecy stool which she wants to sell from her showroom back home. “It’s so eyecatching!” The entrepreneur and blogger from Illinois is in the very best of moods, having hooked – sorry, rounded up – various sheep by Creative Light. One is a black sheep, with a fleece made of lots of black suede strips. You couldn’t imagine greater warmth: Julia Buckingham is radiant, and chats about her son who lives in Berlin.
Her classic modern interiors have won awards in the US. Julia has a passion for collecting antiques, at markets and in stores worldwide. She combines these in unlikely ways with items carefully chosen according to the latest trends in the States. Julia is also one of four “Material Girls” from New York, Dallas, Houston and Los Angeles who run a design blog, with a mission to share insider tips from coast to coast. “It’s where we explain what’s going on in our studios and showrooms, what inspires us and what’s really fashionable.” Julia studied textiles management and is completely absorbed in her work: “I’m always redecorating, even at home. The only thing I won’t share with my customers is my husband and three children”, she laughs.
We discuss how Germany is different to the US. For Julia, a house without a real fireplace is inconceivable. How else would Santa Claus get in, if not down the chimney? “Elegant fur throws for couches and chairs are absolutely part of that fireside look. In the cooler Chicago climate anyway. It’s great that fake fur is getting better and better”, Julia says, looking at the convincingly real “faux furs” by German furrier Thomas Albrecht. She then goes weak at the knees for his (real) springbok-covered stools and cushions. “The dyed lilac stool is an excellent match for my interior design philosophy: always have something completely unexpected in a room! It shows your personality and really helps you communicate. It’s impossible not to talk about it, people just really want to know the story behind it. That’s what I want to happen with my sheep.” To round off the topic, Julia confides that she has now removed all faux leopardskin outfits from her wardrobe. “The leopardskin look is so passé. It was everywhere, even on carpets and wallpaper. It was too much, and lost that special feeling.”
The next big thing, which this interiors expert believes no-one can do without, is copper in furniture and accessories. “It’s a material with a hint of vintage but looks precious – as well as being warm and luxurious.” When we tell her these metallic pieces are already on the way out in Germany, Julia Buckingham isn’t surprised: “In many ways, we’re often three or four years behind Europe. In decor, tableware or fashion. Anyway, in the States we’re in that phase of appreciating copper and gold items at the moment At Ambiente, I can see far into our future.”
Yes, that’s what we call them, too. Granny Smiths. These crunchy bright green apples, arranged decoratively in a bowl, remind our blogger of the evergreens in the American colour palette. “Green and blue are always winners. Everywhere. They’re an ideal combination with the current mega-trend for wall panelling. This requires beautiful fabrics and leather. I find light and neutral colours on the walls important, for instance the lightly rusted brown we call ‘marsala’.”
We walk past the delicate petal vases by Des Pots. “Now flower patterns have moved outside children’s and teenagers’ rooms – they’ve taken over the whole living room. The latest in flowers is giant ‘oversized’ blossoms. It is making something traditional into something very modern.” Julia Buckingham tells us she’s seen many real US magnolias at Ambiente. “The magnolia is very ‘southern’. Sadly it hasn’t a hope at home in Chicago, because of our climate.” The next floral treasure she unearths is still redolent of earthy attraction. The voluminous bulbs of amaryllis are like museum exhibits in their glass containers. “In themselves, dry bulbs or roots are an ugly thing, too neutral, or even boring, but this way they really win out. They sit there like in a cabinet of curiosities. I find this European style fascinating.”
As we finish our rounds, the scent of blossom fills the air. What a lovely surprise! “Kartell does room fragrances now, I really like them! The brand is very well known in the USA.” Julia Buckingham enthuses over the cool black stand from Kartell Fragrances and sniffs the diffusers on display. She believes room fragrances, and particularly scented candles, are must-haves in the home. “Absolutely everyone has scented candles which fit both the room and the mood.”