Three takes on the Vignette.
Q&A with BarbaraWestbrook, Ginny Branch Stelling and Linda Horsley
Interview by Sheyda Mehrara • Photos by Whitney Ott
What happens when you ask three beauties like super star stylist Ginny Branch Stelling, antiques dealer and display artist Linda Horsley and world-class designer Barbara Westbrook to create their version of “the perfect vignette?” Oh and why don’t we go ahead and ask them to all come to Barbara’s office, one at a time, on the same day and choose from the same ingredients? The Barbara Westbrook Vignette Experiment turned into a day of creativity and bonding and so much fun. Of course, I had to ask these brilliant women a few questions…
Vignettes. Why, oh why, do we create them?
BARBARA — I cannot help myself.
GINNY — I'm drawn to vignettes because I think they are so romantic and painterly. It's kind of like peeking into someone's sketchbook since it feels like a work in progress. It's just a nice way to experiment with texture and composition, and it can ever evolve. As a collector, it's also a way to rotate my current treasures.
LINDA — Because I think vignettes give consumers ideas and choices they would never have thought about.
There's a light versus darkness power play going on in these images. With which side do you identify with, and how does it inspire your design?
BARBARA — My palette tends towards the savory as opposed to the sweet, but I do love anything white.
GINNY — I think my spirit is inherently light and I am drawn to soft neutrals and textures that echo that. However, in the winter I am very much drawn to moody colors and the kind of Dutch master's light. I tend to evolve with the seasons so I can embrace the present.
LINDA — I can make both light and dark work equally.
Ginny Branch Stelling, her bio states that she is a prop stylist but, more accurately, a romantic with affection for seeking out beautiful moments and vignettes. We find this to be true. That, and she’s a beauty, inside and out.
Is there a scent you like to fill your home? Do you use scented candles?
BARBARA — There is no one scent that I gravitate to for my home - just so it is not flowery. I have a selection of candles that usually given to me as gifts. Big White Yeti's Kitten Toots is the name of the latest candle given to me. It is surprising light and pleasant. Scent is very personal so I do not select scented candles for clients.
GINNY — I am constantly trying to recreate the smell of my childhood lake house which is a mix of a burning fire and mothballs-ha! (Such a weirdo). At home we burn cedar incense and papier d'armenie but my husband prefers the former. He calls it "the good smelling stuff".
LINDA — No and no
Barbara Westbrook, our fearless leader is the creator of WORKBOOK. Her day job can best be described as Interior Designer and Author. Her book, “Gracious Rooms” published by Rizzoli, will be on store shelves and shipping from Amazon and Barnes and Noble on March 17th.
That animal skull looks like he had vices that ultimately got the best of him. Which begs me to ask, what are your indulgences?
BARBARA — Bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches from Cafe at Pharr. I drink too much caffeine!
GINNY — I'm a Taurus so I'm inherently indulgent. I'm a mad hat collector and have amassed quite a collection over the past 10 years. I also live for beautiful and utilitarian things like cleaning brushes and office supplies (although I'm neither tidy nor organized). I also have an insatiable sweet tooth and will never turn a good dessert down, and if given the opportunity, would probably eat it first. Gosh I have so many vices, how much time do we have?
LINDA — Anything beautiful and stylish that might have an unusual look.
I have a habit of following Gwyneth Paltrow into dark places - that includes her juicing phase. Do you always use fruits and vegetables in your vignettes? Or has Gwynnie gotten the best of you as well?
BARBARA — Gwyneth is not on my radar so I cannot blame her for the use of fruits and vegetables. As a designer, every vignette has to stand on its own without any perishable fruit or veggies. It is not practical for a client, but it is great for a photo! Love the rich colors. If I was creating this vignette for a client, the oranges would have been a great crusty antique blue and white bowl.
GINNY — I am totally #teamgwyneth so the haters are gonna have to hate. I try and add some sort of botanical, edible, or floral element into my work. They're so appealing in still lifes and a natural way to incorporate color. I love researching the symbolism behind different items commonly used in old master's still lifes.
LINDA — I don't follow Miss Paltrow so I can't speak to that. Fruits and vegetables throw off perfect colors.
Linda Horsley is an avid collector and purveyor of antiques. She creates beautiful pillows and art pieces with her business partner, Margaret Kaufman, for their company, Horsley-Kaufman. No one can put together a vignette like Linda.
In ten words or less, describe your dream vignette.
BARBARA — Yamamoto photography, objects in white and charcoal, books, and boxes.
GINNY — A collection of items both sentimental, botanical, curious and careworn.
SHEYDA — Barbara, Ginny and Linda, It's refreshing to see three stylists come together with differing aesthetics, yet compliment each other like you all do. Your vignettes remind me that playing up the richness of antiques with the vividness of the edibles and fauna bring our surroundings back to life. I'm grateful you took time to not only produce these, but to also reveal a little more about the art behind your craft.
We should celebrate with a round of juice. My treat.
~ W ~