Design and lifestyle guru Charlotte Moss is very much a woman of the world. And we mean that literally. Raised in a traditional, “very Southern” household, she has made traveling, absorbing other cultures and observing this wonderful varied world we live in an integral part of her life and career.
We were lucky enough to pick her brain over coffee al fresco on a lovely spring morning in NYC and learn more about her fascinating take on design, entertaining, and inspiration.
Charlotte, tell us a little about yourself and your upbringing.
My upbringing was very Southern. I grew up in Virginia as the oldest of five siblings. My mother’s and grandmother’s houses were very different from the way I design now; however, I have definitely always carried those values of Southern hospitality and graciousness into my work.
How did your career path lead to your current role, and is this something you always aspired to?
I had always felt pulled to the arts and wanted to pursue a creative field, but I played it safe and majored in English. I worked on Wall Street for many years, which was actually a huge help in developing a business acumen when I took an entrepreneurial step later in my career. I eventually left Wall Street, picked up and traveled to England where I fell in love with the English country style of design and decorating. I bought a container full of antiques and just went for it! At the time I purchased those first pieces, that look and aesthetic happened to be very on-trend and in demand and so it took off from there.
You have many published books – incredible! What are your favorite topics to cover?
A Visual Life is my most personal book. It has so much of my soul in it, and it reflects my collections and passions over the years. I believe we do the best work outside of our comfort zone and this book pushed me to put myself out there to the world. It has a scrapbook feel and is filled with many of my own photos and inspirations. I don’t want to say “you have to do things this particular way”—I look to offer different options and avenues and the reader can choose what resonates with them. This is one way of doing it and here’s a starting point…My end goal is designing rooms with “open arms,” rooms that welcome you and that you want to spend time and relax in.
At Etienne Aigner, we are all about building on our classic heritage and expertise in craftsmanship. How do you use your experience and skill set to evolve your own unique brand?
You have to do what I call your “visual homework.” Immerse yourself in the field, read everything you can on the subject for background and context. I went to lectures, I read books, I reviewed technical documents. All of this gave me the background and expertise I needed, even if it wasn’t immediately put to use. Eventually this knowledge and the skills become useful. You absolutely have to pay attention and acutely observe the world around you.
From an interior design perspective, I want to create a home and lifestyle that is hospitable and inviting. I like to collaborate with my client to get a feel for who they are and what their end goal is. You can still have elegance and beauty without sacrificing comfort. Honoring heritage is key, but I think building on the concepts that work, and adding a modern twist or a new touch keeps it fresh.
What advice would you give to someone looking to take an entrepreneurial step in their career, particularly women?
I think that men tend to take big bold risks in business and not apologize for it. As women, we may play it safer and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We do our research and our homework and that prepares us well when we do need to take calculated risks which is an important part of any business.
I think now more than ever, women are open to these types of opportunities. Etsy, for example, has given women a creative platform where they can sell their goods and take the first step to business ownership. The time has come.
You seem to be the poster person for leading a well-lived life. How can we do this every day?
It’s all about prioritizing time for you to do what you love and really be who you are authentically. You have to proactively make time. I like to start my mornings with my own routine, and that sets the right tone for the rest of the day even if you are being pulled in a million different directions. I also think the ability to say no to things is just as important—time management at work and in your personal life is critical.
Also, making time to do things properly and with civility is something I practice. For instance, when you sit down for a meal, take time to enjoy it and savor it rather than making it another item to check off your list for the day. Just a small act like lighting candles or putting down nice napkins for dinner can make a huge impact.
We noticed you posted a throwback photo of one of Etienne Aigner’s signature basket bags. What would you say is your signature look in both what you wear, and how you design?
That bag ties back to a fond memory of my youth; it was really one of my first “status” bags. I was touring the Alamo in Texas in this photo. I think for a signature style you have to look at what works for you and what you’re drawn to. Interesting colors, artisan jewelry–things that make you take notice personally. I do love the basket bags so much. They really work for summer and remind me of growing up in the south.
Your books are so varied and have so much great content. What inspires you?
The places I visit often inspire me, but I would say the number one source of my inspiration are actually the people I meet along the way. And to be more specific, the passion that people have for certain areas and things; seeing that really makes me want to put my own mark on the world. Other people inspire me daily, so I want to inspire and impact others by what I am creating. Passion is a good spark to set things off.
Charlotte’s latest book “Charlotte Moss Entertains” is a feast for the eyes and soul.
It aims to inspire readers how to host their own gatherings, with style, hospitality and grace.