Vanessa Holden of West Elm
by lauren field
The expression “home is where the heart is” proves to be nothing new to 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 the West Elm offices 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 must you constantly be aware of in order to prepare for the differences in West Elm’s catalog, online, and store experiences?
At west elm, our mission is to help people express their personal style at home, and everything we do in planning for the catalog, online and in store experiences is in support of bringing that mission to life: making the connections between product and inspiration. Our homes tell the story of our lives and when designing, creating and selling product we are surfacing the back story of this process and giving context for how that product can fit into your home.
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.
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 + 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, so 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.
Who is the West Elm customer?
Everyone! The one thing I would say our customers would agree on is that they want their home to be a reflection of them. They are attracted to a mix of styles and live in various environments from lofts and apartments to family homes. They also know good value when the see it and many of them are socially conscious and do their best to live greener each day.
What’s your story? Who are you and what do you want people to know about you?
I’m Vanessa Holden, and I’m the Creative Director at west elm.