I have always considered myself a practical person. In college I sensibly majored in accounting. After graduation, I quickly obtained a secure job as a CPA. And as soon as I was married and had our first child, I retired from full-time work to focus on our family. So, when I announced that I was going to open an antique shop, my family and friends were, to say the least, surprised. But, the jump from left-brain to right-brain really wasn’t all that unexpected.
I began my career as an accountant in Dallas. As I performed my accounting functions, I became known among my supervisors for the presentation of my work papers. Long before Excel spreadsheets, we worked with 10-column work papers, pencils and erasers, which provided me the opportunity to turn ordinary columns of numbers into something a little less ordinary. I once had a supervisor tell me that my work always came “wrapped in such a pretty package!” I started to acknowledge my emerging creative side, despite my practical voice asking me how I would make a living at “creative!” My journey of personal discovery was just beginning.
In 1985, I married my husband and moved to Denver. I retired from accounting and stayed home to take care of our children. As I became involved in various volunteer activities, I found myself exploring the more creative assignments such as event planning and the hospitality committees. In 1988, as we were settling into our first real home, I read a book that greatly influenced the way I set up housekeeping. The book, Living a Beautiful Life by Alexandra Stoddard, describes 500 ways to add elegance, order, beauty and joy to the little things that make up every day of your life. With an 18-month old and a new baby, I was in need of order. Elegance and beauty seemed an impossible dream!
I embraced the ideas and ideals presented by this book, and as I began the process of creating order and beauty in our home, I began to nurture my own creativity. Poring over decorating books and magazines became a passion. One day I happened upon a passage buried in an article in Country Living that gave new direction to my journey of personal discovery:
“My entire life, I wished to be an artist with a traditional medium. Then one day I looked around my home and realized that I am an artist. My home is my canvas.”
What began as a collection of ideas about home decorating gained new energy, blossomed into a passion and eventually grew into my first retail store.
I spread my entrepreneurial wings in 1996 with the opening of my first antique shop in our neighborhood shopping center. I immediately felt like I had found my place. I loved the challenge of keeping the store fresh and interesting. I loved taking a blank slate and making it beautiful. I loved searching for unique pieces, and I loved the interaction with so many wonderful customers. Since 1996 I have had several shops around town all with that unmistakable “Holly” style: a tasteful, carefully selected and curated combination of the uncommon, the unexpected and the beautiful. I also used to host the annual Old Glory Antiques Fair, a two-day outdoor event featuring over 70 antiques dealers from across the country, set in the foothills of the beautiful Rocky Mountains.
Today, I not only own and operate Old Glory Antiques, my retail boutique in Denver, but as a result of a buying trip to Texas, my husband and I found a charming property near Round Top that captured our hearts to further grow. Old Glory Antiques opened an occasional shop here and then, we expanded and moved Old Glory Antiques to the heart of Round Top, population 90 (except twice a year during Antique Week).
As I began to describe the elements of my signature style, I also discovered that I often draw inspiration from the ideas, spirits and the examples of people who played an important role in my life. This signature style I have developed over the years includes an appreciation of hard work and functionality, a love of beauty and creativity, a respect for the past with an eye toward the future and a pursuit of discovery, innovation and individuality.
These were ideas that I have come to know and love as part of the great American spirit. And so, my collection of ideas on decorating that had grown into my signature style was named the New Americana. The New Americana goes beyond stars and stripes. It captures the great American spirit in the design of spaces that are hardworking, practical, resourceful and honest, and that have an appreciation for the simple beauty in everyday life.
And, the story continues as my journey comes full circle with my new book: New Americana. My design work at Old Glory Antiques resonated with people—from the thoughtful selection of merchandise to the carefully curated displays. Visitors to my stores feel comfortable and inspired in an atmosphere that feels familiar, yet fresh and new. I am often asked what term I use to describe my style of decorating, and I did not have a succinct answer. I decided to give my collection of ideas a name and to define the elements that comprise my signature style so I could share my process. As I sat down to describe my approach, it was hard to determine if I was describing the decorating of a house or my attitudes about life. Indeed, I believe the two are closely intertwined. Home is not just where you live but how you live.
“There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but only a few will catch your heart. Pursue those.”
— Michael Nola
After three decades spent pursuing my passion, I have learned a few things. As an entrepreneur with a degree in accounting and an undeniable urge to create, I bring to my business a rare combination of business expertise and creative intuition. Three elements are at the core of my success:
Passion for what I do. Passion is the driving force behind the development of my business and what fuels me, providing the energy and enthusiasm for the day-to-day rigors of small business.
Patience in recognizing that a successful business does not sprout overnight. It took many years to establish my business. Establishing and growing a business is a process, a process that requires a lot of hard work, constant observation, occasional tweaking and the ability to be open-minded and flexible. One day I looked around and realized that with the hard work I perform consistently and with purpose day after day, I have accomplished a lot. I live by one of my favorite quotes: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” – Aristotle
Perseverance in learning to balance the demands of family and business and remaining flexible through difficult economic times. I believe that a strong sense of personal values has provided a strong foundation for my business and helped me weather some difficult times. Every decision I make is drawn from an awareness of who I am and what is important in my life. This has made difficult decisions easier.
I thoroughly enjoy the day-to-day tasks that make up my life as a shop owner: the thrill of the hunt for new merchandise, interaction with enthusiastic customers and the creative rush of making something from nothing as I build a new display. The satisfaction I feel as I lock the door each night and look back at a beautifully displayed and well-cared-for shop and the joy of sharing the events of the day with my family each evening, make me realize what a worthwhile journey it has been. I love what I do.
The Art of Display:
Keeping a shop fresh and beautifully merchandised can be a daunting task, even for someone who thrives on creative challenges. I have a sort of mental checklist, my go-to guide, to keep me focused on the process of building an effective display.
Tell your story…
As I start a new display, I refer back to my tagline: the uncommon, the unexpected, the beautiful. I want every display in my shop to include at least something of each of these elements. The result is a cohesive look and a familiar feel. Carefully thought-out and beautifully executed displays not only sell product but are also an opportunity to further your brand.
Prepare to be surprised…
I strive to provide a new experience for my customers when they visit my shop. As I start a new display I think, “What would one expect to see here?” Then, I go in the direction of the unpredictable. Customers come into my shop for fresh ideas and inspiration, and I love the challenge of discovering new uses for ordinary things and pairing items in unexpected combinations.
My Go-To Guide for Retail Display
A blank slate…
I carry a lot of large furniture in my shop. Each time a large piece sells, I see an opportunity to rearrange the shop and create a new space. While it might be easier sometimes to just slide another piece of furniture into the space left empty by the sale, I prefer to start with a blank slate and create a new story to share with my customers. In a similar way, as new merchandise arrives at the shop from manufacturers, I like to start a fresh display with the new inventory. I will clear a tabletop and start fresh rather than adding the new merchandise to an existing display. The chance to rearrange, refresh and recreate is one of my favorite parts of my job!
It’s all about the details…
My mantra in creating displays is “keep it simple.” I prefer a clean, edited and carefully thought-out display. But, in fact, keeping it simple is anything but easy. In a carefully curated display the details are more important than ever. Be intentional about the combination of textures, colors and finishes included in the display. Group like items in collections for greater impact, but edit the collection for the greatest impact. Vary heights within the display, build layers for interest, leave blank space to let the eye rest and edit, edit, edit.
Elements of style…
Decorating, regardless of whether it is with the displays in my store or the rooms in a customer’s home, is about more than creating a beautiful space or adopting the latest design trends. It is about creating a quality of life and a space that reflects how your customer lives every day. Style should be based on the belief that authenticity—creating a space that reflects how the customer lives and what makes them happy—and comfort—making their space welcoming, familiar and intimately charming—are the foundations of beautiful instore displays that will create a beautiful home.
the design of my displays starts with what is important in life, both mine and my customers, and then being intentional about the design choices. The best starting point when I build my displays is to think beyond design and the specifics of furniture selection and to focus on how the customer intends to live in her space and examine what will make her feel peaceful, safe and comfortable. My displays help each customer, regardless of how different each may be, to make intentional design choices around what they have determined is important in their life.