west elm vanessa holden the style line

Studio Visit: Vanessa Holden of West Elm

The expression “home is where the heart is” proves to be nothing new for Vanessa Holden –

who currently serves as the Creative Director of the beloved lifestyle brand West Elm. Offering a fresh and fun perspective, we were lucky enough to catch up with Vanessa at her awe-inducing office at the West Elm headquarters in Brooklyn to chat with her about collaborative efforts, design and what makes West Elm’s experience uniquely special.

What first interested you in West Elm and how did this transition into securing a position with the company?

I saw that the opportunities were endless and the possibilities even greater. To move from  editorial, which I loved, into a brand like west elm where I knew I could be involved in everything from collaborations with designers and artists to actually bringing to life our seasonal product stories in the catalog, online and in stores was enticing. Now that I’m here it continues to challenge and excite me everyday.

What is the most important thing people should know about furnishing their home?

The most important thing people should know is that there is no secret recipe or rule! If you love  it then buy the piece, move the furniture, paint the wall, try it out and see what happens. Furnishing the home is best when it’s personal and we believe that you should build onto what  you have and what you love.

  • west elm vanessa holden the style line
  • west elm vanessa holden the style line
  • west elm vanessa holden the style line
  • west elm vanessa holden the style line
  • west elm vanessa holden the style line
  • west elm vanessa holden the style line
  • west elm vanessa holden the style line

How do you filter the myriad of lifestyle information in the media and find what will further the West Elm brand? 

We are a collaborative bunch here at West Elm and we are constantly collecting inspiration and  sharing what we see and what we do: everything from great imagery to galleries or restaurants  that are exciting places to be, or intriguing new destinations globally. From there we work  together to edit and refine concepts, most often with a seasonal focus, and challenge each other to develop the newest, most exciting ideas to bring to our customers. Whether it’s the design, the craft, or lifestyle point of view that drives a product or story through development, the passion for home that we share with our customer is the constant.

What are your thoughts on using social media for marketing and is it taken into account during the design and  development process? Do you think it makes more people familiar with West Elm? 

For us it’s all part of the process. Social media gives us the ability to really share the process behind what we do, how we design and source product, who we collaborate with, how we found  them and how it works. We are inspired by social media each and everyday and we hope to do the same on the West Elm blog – Front & Main – and in communities on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

Continuing with this idea, there is a lot going on in the digital space, tell us about the recent collaboration with West Elm and Etsy. What about Etsy meshes well with  the West Elm brand? 

We have actually been collaborating with Etsy for a few years now. Beyond the fact that they are our neighbors in Brooklyn, we share a mutual love for all things unique and handcrafted. Working with Etsy has introduced us to incredible designers, artists and craftspeople and bring their product into our stores both nationally and now internationally.

What does “awareness” in design mean to you?

Knowing that what we design makes a difference to peoples lives at home puts awareness and  responsibility at the center of what we do at west elm. Being conscious of what’s going on around us, whether that be socially, in terms of the work we do with artisans through partnerships with the Artisan Alliance or Craftmark, or our efforts to get a little greener everyday.

Story by Lauren Field, August 2013 – Photos by Rachel Schwartzmann