Pattern Players: Jennifer Harrison of Flea Market Fab on Her "Recycled Glam" Style
If there was ever an Instagram feed in which we could lose ourselves for hours at a time, it's Flea Market Fab run by Jennifer Harrison. The interior stylist and all around creative super-force behind is known for combining her unique, playful style with some of the most ah-mazing flea market finds around to create spaces that are effortlessly layered, undeniably comfortable, and truly one-of-a-kind.
Naturally, Jennifer spends a lot of her time playing with pattern and the gorgeous combinations she creates are at the heart of her unmistakable style. We reached out to Jennifer to learn more about her wildly creative approach to attainable design, her tips and tricks for mixing pattern, and how she approached the design for her new grandson's nursery.
Hygge & West: We absolutely adore your style, especially the way you incorporate flea market and thrift store finds to create something thoroughly unique. Tell us a little about your 'recycled glam' style.
Jennifer Harrison: For years I have been collecting pieces. It started at a very young age with my mom dragging me to every garage and estate sale she could find. It didn't matter what it was, if there was junk/treasure to be had, she was there. Being taught by the best, you tend to learn quick, and that I did. I did go through a phase in my life where I didn't want that "recycled crap," as I would have called it then, in my home. But it stayed in my blood and eventually after I tried to get away from it, the love and comfort just wasn't there. So I started over and began collecting again, going for the "gold" as I call it. What that means is the best, the top notch that NO ONE WANTS. Stay ahead of the game. When you are chasing what everyone wants you are keeping with the trend, right? Well... not me. I chase the unwanted, the passed over. I go to the estate sales on the last day, when it's bottom barrel cheap and it's what everyone passed over. Because I want to be ahead of the trend, start something new, keep the ball rolling and the minds wondering, "Why in the heck did she buy that?" That thing is so ugly!" That is music to my ears! So ugly, it's cool! Then the process begins. It could be one piece, something as silly as a book, but when I see it, my mind just starts... it's really something I could never explain in words. It just happens and like that, a space is created. The hunt begins near and far. I take my time because you can't create a well curated and inexpensive space rushing to box stores. I created my brand, name, and business from shopping the bottom of the barrel, the "back of the line," and I love it. So you could say my style is all over the place. I love everything: color, texture, and pattern are my top weaknesses. They drive my train and are the most important elements in design. It's a lush, important element in a home to create comfort and bring all elements together. I design my house to how I am feeling at the time, because I do it in phases. I used [re-design] every 5 years, now I have been doing it once a year. It's easy when you can buy thing so cheap, because it makes it even easier to get rid of it and move on to the next. The beauty of recycled glam!
H&W: What's your approach to flea market shopping? Do you go with specific items in mind, or simply see what catches your eye? What are your tips & tricks for finding the best scores?
JH: I get this question so much. It's hard to answer because nothing is ever the same where you go. Every time I hit a flea, I stay open-minded - you have to, or you just set yourself up for failure. I mean, yes, you can go with a list, which for a client you have to, but you rarely find what you are looking for. Because you are looking! It's just like when your girlfriend is looking for a date/guy for her life and she keeps looking. Like the old saying goes, when you're not looking or least expect it, it will happen. Same goes for junking and fleaing. Keep your mind and eyes open and you will succeed. And make sure you love it; as long as you love every piece, it will all come together beautifully, at the least expected time. As I say in my Cruella De Vil voice, "Hahahaha, I conquered!" as I am carrying all my gold (loot) to my van. Make sure you keep yourself on a budget and don't buy huge projects. One project is enough from one sale because they add up so fast if you collect them and never find the time to get to them. So hurry up get fleaing!
H&W: What are your tips for successfully mixing old and new? What about mixing patterns?
JH: I really don't have a philosophy for this. I buy so much old that I focus on mixing new in accents. Curtains, curtain rods, those are new, unless you find old fabric. Recreations, or reproductions, they are so close nowadays. Lighting is a huge new addition to add. Also, it's really important to have a new sofa. Well-made sofas are a key element to a space. Buying one that is basic, simple, and white (preferably slipcovered) gives you the ability to do pretty much anything with a space. It's all in the lines I believe. The look and design can really allow anything to come together. I guess I am saying, stick to classic and add in the funky and it will all eventually come together as long as what you are buying you absolutely love. If not, leave it.
Mixing patterns is one of the hardest things to do. I feel this is a area a lot of people struggle with because they can't allow themselves to see a lot of [patterns] together. It's like the old "stripes and polka dots" theory. As long as the colors and patterns you are working with have some connection - like being in the color wheel - it will work. Think about nature. I use this in all of my design. Seriously, think about a sunset, think about the fall, think about an animal's coat. It all works as long as you can see and respect a natural combination of color. When you see a zebra standing in the green pasture or even dry elements, it makes sense. Black, whites, and greens... yum! Blacks, whites, and neutrals... yummier! This will allow you to see pattern much easier if you think of what is naturally created.
H&W: We love how you used Raindrops wallpaper tiles in your grandson's nursery! Tell us a little about this project and why you choose that pattern and colorway.
JH: When I found out I was going to be a grandmother, not only did my eyes pop out of my head, but the wheels started turning and the vision started to take place. It's a boy, and you have 5 months to have a room together!
We all know how fast kids grow and how long a nursery will be around, then you're into a more growing design. This mindset played a huge part for me, especially since this room is also a guest bedroom, and my daughter's old room. I started doing research and I wanted some kind of crazy mural for behind the crib, then after searching Pinterest I discovered I did not want a "limited time" piece. I needed wallpaper, something boyish, yet playful, and even better, removable. With him not living here I wanted to make sure everything could change easily in time, whether it be for myself or just for him growing up. I kept the design very simple. I wanted the wallpaper to be the anchoring element to the space. So all the major purchases stayed white. That way it gave the wallpaper and any other element in the space it's own standing ground; nothing is competing for the front-and-center. It all makes sense with the wallpaper adding that perfect "boy blue" color, with a simple and easy-to-incorporate-with-anything pattern. When you see the space, it's very obvious that it is a boy, but a visitor that had a little girl would feel comfortable also. Using traditional colors gives you that rather than going one route.
H&W: We hear you're using one of our Justina Blakeney papers in an upcoming project - exciting! Can you tell us a little about that and what about that pattern and colorway spoke to you?
JH: Since last year, when I heard Justina was launching a line, I was stoked because we all know her pattern creations are mesmerizing and beautiful. So of course being the boho junkie I am, I knew I would have one in my home. When they launched, I really wasn't sure which route to take because they are all so amazing. This past January, I visited a girlfriend in LA and Justina and I had a chance to meet. She was sweet enough to have me come to the Jungalow headquarters to see all the different patterns in person because she knew I was struggling with my decision. When I saw the Aja Khaki paper I knew then and there that was my next direction. I had quite a few traveling jobs in January and had to wait to get home to figure out exactly where I was going with everything in the house. Now, if you have been following me on Instagram you would know I was loaded with color, but kept the walls basic and white. So this transition was not easy. I was going neutral, with tons of added peeks of tribal and jungle in it. This direction with the large leaf print was just the perfect drama I needed. The neutral backdrop of the paper with the bold green was the perfect combo with all the wood and brass elements I was going to bring into the space, and of course my giant plants!
H&W: What are some design 'rules' that should be followed, and which ones should be broken?
JH:I plead the fifth on this question because I believe every rule is made to be broken. I don't follow anything really! I guess in today's time with social media being the interior design driver, there really is a part in this now that plays free-for-all. I think everything and anything today is possible and that as long as you design around your beliefs and what your goals are, you can create your own rules. That way nothing gets broken. I always say design around love and comfort, stay true to you, and be original.
H&W: If you could design a space for any person - real or fictional, dead or alive - who would it be for and what would it look like?
JH:I have thought about this question for a while now, to the point I almost lost an hour. I think if there was a cool, open-minded person in the world, it would have to be the late great David Bowie. I feel his home would cool, colorful, free, and so spiritual with love. He was that person and very passionate about creativity and was a risk-taker. That alone gets my crazy mind moving. He was a very cool dude. I could see lot of color and mid century pieces in one space, for example a mohair sofa with giant lighting bolts as the pattern. Then some calm and very neutral pieces, with a chic twist but lots of texture and patterns. I could see his place being open and cool.
H&W: 'Hygge' is a Danish concept that means 'coziness' - a theme that plays a large role in your style. How do you achieve hygge both in your work and your personal life?
JH: This is one of the most important factors in your home. You have to be able to come home from work and wind down, to come in the door, sit on a comfortable chair or sofa with a cup of coffee or glass of wine and say, "Ahhhh." That is a sign of comfort. It's the same for company - you want guests to find comfort and coziness in your home when they visit. If you can't have that, it plays cold. Those homes don't come with layers and textures and show warmth. Just adding a throw to a chair creates coziness. So I believe holding firm to what I said earlier, adding layers and patterned textiles and textures give you a cozy relaxed "I want to nap here" feel. That is hygge.
Photos by Erika Wolfe