As if critically acclaimed country singer and songwriter weren't enough accomplishments for one lifetime, Holly Williams has also added retail shop owner (she owns a clothing boutique, H. Audrey, in Nashville, as well as a White's Mercantile, a modern-day general store with several retail locations across the country), owner/designer of luxury vacation rentals (White's Room & Board), and serial home renovator to her laundry list of titles. We caught up with the artist, entrepreneur, wife, and mom (oh, did we forget to mention Holly also has three kids?) to chat music, what it's like coming from a family of legendary creatives, and of course, pattern.
What has it been like to come from a family of creatives? How did it impact your upbringing and the way you approach both life and design today?
I come from a long line of creatives! From my grandfather, Hank Williams Sr., who is a true legend and inspired our modern day songwriting heroes, such as Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, to my insanely talented father, Hank Williams Jr., who has sold 70 million records and made a huge career writing and playing what was true to him, to my maternal grandparents, Warren and June White, and their history of retail and farming and business sense, there have been lots of ideas swirling in our history. My momma is a beautiful woman, full of wisdom and kindness and intention—things that matter in life whether you are running a business or not. They all inspired me in different ways, but her teaching my sister and me the way that people should be treated helps me to work with my amazing team of creatives around me. My grandparents’ style was classic, warm, and welcoming; not about all modern, all shabby chic, all retro, just a mix of things that made their heart and home feel like a breath of fresh air!
What do you think are the similarities between music and design/pattern? How does one affect the other
They both are very important forms of self-expression. Creating and writing a song is not that different than creating and designing a room. I start with a lyric or melody that's in my head, I layer in story, verses, a chorus, music instruments, harmonies, and voila, we have a song. On the other hand, I start with a blank and empty room. The wallpaper or paint is always the first thing for me, then I layer the furniture, the hardware, the finishes, the fabrics, the floors, the lighting, the details, and voila, we have a room! I love taking a break from music to design and taking a break from design to work on music.
You describe White's Mercantile as a “general store for the modern-day tastemaker." How does pattern factor into both of design of your store and the items you stock it with?
The beautiful thing about White’s Mercantile is that it’s a mash up of my favorite things and it is meant to be a place that feels good. I start each store with an understanding of the space—how it feels, where it is located, what might be missing, and then I think about how it will feel once full of our shoppers—men, women, babies, pups, and friends. It is so important to me that the shopping experience is emotional, and to me that happens because we use antique fixtures, great lighting, touches of wallpaper, vintage signs, and intriguing props. We source things from the past and we layer in all of these cool, fun, quirky, fine products to make you feel good and live life a little brighter. To me, it’s the juxtaposition of old and new, highly thought-out design mixed with a lot of DIY, plus we layer in elements of smell, sound, and personality.
One of your most recent projects is White's Room & Board, luxury vacation rentals that you renovated and design yourself. Tell us about what that process was like and how pattern factored in.
It all started on a whim when we bought a falling apart farmhouse in Cornersville, TN. I wanted to be able to use it here and there, but we didn't want to take on the cost of another property, so I decided to start renting them out after they were renovated and designed. I love to serve people who just need a break from the chaos and who want to get out in the country. All of my design is on a whim—antiques from a cool shop I found on the side of the road, wallpaper discovered at a friend's house or in a magazine, etc. The cabins called for an extra dose of country cozy with an edge. I love Nethercote for a dining room, Daydream for kids rooms (all the color options are incredible!), and a classic stripe for a foyer on these projects.
You've used several H&W papers, including Daydream in Blush and Gold and Nethercote Large in Gold. Why did you choose these patterns for their respective spaces and what do you think they add to the overall aesthetic of those spaces?
I was so excited when I found those for the spaces I was looking for; those birds do something to a child's mind and my little girls absolutely love them so much! I think it literally pushes them to daydream, as they are called! And Nethercote looks incredible on the back wall of the Charleston store—the gold really pops!
What's your approach to creating spaces with pattern? What tips or tricks do you have for people who want to add more pattern to their homes?
I believe in doing something bold in a powder bath or small area. Or, if you're just starting out with pattern then do something maybe more neutral in color, but layered with texture so you can still design around it. You can still add lighting and paintings and fabrics, and fab things on top of that pattern since it's not taking over. I have been so scared before pasting so many wallpapers, but I have never in my life had a single regret about it!
Hygge is a Danish concept of finding coziness in life's smallest pleasures and simplest joys. What brings a sense of hygge to your busy life?
Snuggles with my children, especially napping with them in the afternoon on occasion when emails and the world are calling your name and you know you aren't getting this time back. Baking with them is also essential.