Your Aesthetic is an Experiment in Who You Are with Sean Scherer



My guest this week is someone who I kind of consider to be a friend, even though we've only talked once before, and that was on this show, and we've never met in person.  His name is Sean Scherer and he's a painter by training and profession, and currently a passionate shop owner and creator of interior environments that envelope you in very particular atmospheres and emotions.  I guess I consider Sean a friend because he's so easy to talk with, he's generous with sharing pieces of himself, and we connect on many things regarding the benefits to one's life when you take the time to develop a signature aesthetic.  Sean has written his first book called Kabinett & Kammer: Creating Authentic Interiors.  The German words Kabinett & Kammer refer to the name of his well-sought after shop in the Catskills. 
In our conversation today, Sean talks about what different elements go into the creation of a home, a room, or even a small vignette, based on his years of training his eye on composition, balance and story telling.  Let's get started. 









Many historic homes have now re-opened using new Covid related safeguards. 

See my short reviews of my favorite historic homes HERE.



Hey there, welcome to another season of the Style Matters Podcast brought to you by little yellow couch. This show is for people with real lives and real homes, the kinds of lives and homes that have constraints and are sometimes messy and they are never perfect. But despite all of this, if you're still obsessed with creating a home, you love this podcast is definitely for you.

I'm Zandra your host. And I believe that how you set up your home can actually help you live your best life and how you set it up and how you design it and decorate it. That all becomes what we call your signature style. And the first step toward this, it has nothing to do with design rules. The first step is in knowing who you are.

So to that end, I do have a question for you. What do you think is the number one mistake that you're making in your home right now, if you're curious to know, go over to little yellow and take our quiz, and then I'll send you some actionable steps that you can take to start addressing that particular issue and hint, hint.

It probably has something to do with the shift in your mindset. Cause I love a good mindset shift. All right. So my guest this week is someone who I kind of considered to be a friend, even though we've only talked once before, and that was on this show and we've never even met in person, but he is just so warm and lovely.

His name is Sean Shearer, and he's a painter by training and profession. And currently has been a passionate shop owner and creator of interior environments that envelop you in very particular atmospheres and emotions. I guess I consider Sean a friend because he's so easy to talk with and he's generous with sharing pieces of himself and we connect on many things regarding the benefits to one's life.

When you take the time to develop a signature style or a signature aesthetic, Sean has written his first book and I am so thrilled for him. It's called cabinet and camer creating authentic interiors. And these are German words, cabinet and camera. They both begin with K and they refer to the name of his well sought after shop in the Catskills in New York in our conversation today,

Sean talks about what different elements go into the creation of a home or a room or even a small vignette based on his years of training his eye on composition balance and storytelling. I'm so excited. Let's just get started. Shawn Shearer. I am so happy to have you back on the Podcast. It is. It's just wonderful to reconnect with you Again.

Yes, me too. Good. Good. And now you have this beautiful new Book that has come out. When I first heard that you had a book to come out. I just thought, Oh my gosh, she's the perfect person for this because your interiors are so rich and layered. And there are so many little things to find within them. It's the kind of book that you can stare at the photos for a long time,

which is the kind of book I like, but I have to say, I loved your writing as well. You're a beautiful writer. Thank you. Yeah. And as I was saying before we started recording, I, um, I really enjoyed learning about your childhood because we didn't really cover that the last time I had you on the show. So I I'd like to just dive into that if that's okay.

Yes, absolutely. Okay, great. So you grew up in Miami, tell us a little bit about the architecture, the glamour, the decay that, that really became your first teachers in terms of cultivating your aesthetic. Yes. Yes. Well, Miami is a complete invention. Yeah. And I mean, in such a dramatic way because they really basically just created a city out of Swan plan.

Yeah, yeah. So, and even exists. Yeah. Yeah. No, it shouldn't. And it was always, it always had that element of make believe or fantasy. And I think, you know, early on it was sold, you know, as of course, uh, as it still is today, but as a place for northerners to escape the winters.

So they came up with very creative themed places like the city of coral Gables. And so there was always this, this artifice and since Miami is so new, uh, you know, the sense of history was also artificial. Okay. Right. That became my authentic history. So it, it, it's a very, very, uh, you know,

fascinating place to have grown up, especially realizing that after having left it and going to school in Chicago to the school artists, city of Chicago and then, you know, to New York and then other, other cities, it was only after like so many of us after we leave, realize, you know, how S w you know, what we experienced growing up.

And Miami was one of those places that just was so full of, you know, beautiful visuals from the plants and the animals to the architecture. Uh, it just really was a feast, you know, for the eyes. But since you grew up in the seventies and eighties, it was also starting to crumble. And so you, you, you and I feel like that that layer that's on top of the kind of glamour is I really see in your,

in your life now seeing a piece kind of fall apart. Yes. Yes. Uh, well, I think there's always been a romance in ruins, and I think that's why we love Arco loud archeological sites, but, um, uh, yes, I mean, Miami has been because of its nature. I mean, because of its precarious nature, environmentally also financially,

it's been through a few boom for such a young city. It's been through a few boom and bust cycles, you know, South beach wasn't even South speech. I mean, the whole art deco district was pretty much abandoned when I was a kid, But it had the, it had the begin, it had it in it because of those art deco.

Yes. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it had just this unbelievable wealth of, of historical architecture. We leave Miami. I want to ask you a little bit about Villa Vizcaya because it, um, it, it figures fairly prominently in your introduction. Tell us a little bit about it and why it was so magical to you. Well, the sky is a again,

to make believe Italianate Villa or Mediterranean Style Villa, uh, on Biscayne Bay, overlooking Miami. And it was part of the turn of the century, kind of the great houses, like were built all over, like in Newport and in Palm beach and things, but what makes this guy so, uh, different or why it stands out so much is that it's it's attention to the scale was so many of the other great houses were overblown.

You know, they really it's like, like I compare it to the Biltmore, which to me is just, it's like on steroids, but it doesn't, it doesn't impress me because it's just so inauthentic interesting. And the sky just had so much attention to that detail, but it also, it also has so much layering and it, it creates these really amazing moods from room to room.

And I think that is what really laid the groundwork for my aesthetic, or my idea of layering objects in interiors is that it really creates these, these moments that really transport you, transport you. And when I was a kid, you know, I, I, it was like being in Venice. I mean, it was, for me, it was so authentic.

I just thought this was, you know, a perfect Venetian Villa. Yeah. And, and, and I just, I love this idea of things that we encounter at particular ages in our childhood that stick with us, that then we keep coming back to as adults and, and realizing, Oh, that's why I felt that way. You know, you don't,

you didn't have the words for it, or the context for it as a kid. But when you think about it as an adult, it starts to all make a lot of sense. And I just, I loved that has stuck with you. Yes, no, absolutely. So right towards the beginning of your book, this might even be in the intro.

You don't, I don't know if you intend to define the word eclectic or the phrase eclectic style, but I think it's the best definition I've ever heard. I'm going to quote you here. You say eclectic Style is the merging of elements from different periods and styles with the emphasis on creating a mood or experience. And I loved it because so many other designers use the word as a sort of a throwaway term when they can't put a CA they can't give this mix of styles,

a category name, right. We just say, well, you know, it's a traditional, or it's shabby chic, or it's farmhouse, or it's industrial or anything else it's eclectic. Like it, it just, everything else kind of goes in this, in this other category, right? The reason I don't like that is simply because it's not helpful.

I think it's not helpful because so many people, they don't have a collection from one strict Style, you know, they don't have a fully art deco home or a fully midcentury modern, modern home because we get things from people. We get things from our relatives, or we bring things, you know, with us, from house to house, different,

different styles that we've been attracted to over the years. And so we all, most of us have some kind of mix. And the, the hardest thing for people to do is know how to mix it together and make it work. And so that's what I loved about this idea that you're saying that there's an emphasis on creating a particular mood or experience it's,

it's considered. In other words, it's not just thrown together, right. I'm talking too much. Tell me what you want. And that definitely comes. I, I don't know if that was describing Vizcaya with that same quote, but that definitely is the brilliance of properly creating. I don't think, like I said, they would have called it a collectic back then,

but really you're just trying to take objects from disparate time periods and put them together to create a setting a mood. Or if, if you want, you know, it's a great way to kind of think of, you know, do you want to transport people, you know, to another place in your room or your setting, and you can choose objects with that explicit intention.

Right. And that, that is what you do so beautifully. And I love that. You just said, uh, what do you want to do in the room? Do you want to transport someone or yourself there? It's an elevated way of thinking of our homes? Um, I feel like the, the 90% of the time when I asked the question,

well, the first time I asked the question, what do you want to feel in this room? The answer is comfortable. And yes, I mean, of course that's, that's perfectly understandable, but it, it's not very, uh, there's not a lot to work with there because there's so many different ways in which one can be comfortable. Right.

A lot of us think of home as something that's fairly, uh, pedestrian simplistic, it's just for a regular everyday life. And the way you approach home, like I said, it's elevated. It's about having an experience even for yourself, even if you're the only one living there. And I just, Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. You know, there's a lot of fantasy or Umer in my,

in my work, but it's subtle. It's not, you know, it's not over the top. It's not like a themed room. I'm not trying to make it look like a Moroccan, you know, lounge or something. But I do start with a room or think of a room and do think of like, what is the mood or what is the intention here?

And what is, you know, what do I want people to feel here? So you kind of come up with that idea that the comfortable going to come, you know, that that's a given, that's a given exactly that's a given. So, so I always always kind of think of a theme it's often a very layered and traveled. You know,

it's always, it's often very worldly again, you know, this idea of a well-traveled individual who brings back the momentos, you know, and again, that goes with the idea of eclectic, because if you're traveling and like most of us do, you're just picking up pieces here and there, you know, then you put them together in this setting. Well,

and, and that's the, I mean that we talked about this in our first interview, but the name of your shop cabinet and camer, it refers, I believe, to sort of the cabinet of curiosities, the sense of the world traveler bringing things home, doesn't it? Yes. Yeah. And camera is a chamber or a, like a constant camera.

It could be an art gallery. So it's, it's definitely about that, that idea of collected life. So you have been, uh, keeping shop for quite a while now, a sort of a second career for you after working as an artist for many years. And I love the story you tell about selling a painting to Edward Alby. That was so cool.

Very cool. Um, but what compelled you to write a book? Well, I actually, um, I was contacted by an agent after the New York times article. We never wound up doing a project together cause it, I think it was just too early. Uh, but that, that is the first time that idea got planted. And then it just started basically working towards that this book is,

is literally no, you know, literally 10 years the making. Wow. So the first, the first shoot in this book is 10 years. Oh my gosh. Okay. All right. I want to play a little game with you. Uh, we we've talked about this, how your shop is had become kind of a laboratory for you for experimenting with how objects might come together.

And when you mix them in different ways, they can tell completely new stories. Um, and I always felt that that was an extension of how you live in your home as well. And maybe you've just run out of room in your home. And so now you're going to experiment the same way in your shop. Um, all right. So the game is,

let's imagine you're moving into another new place and you have blank walls, you have empty floor. You've probably chosen something that has great architectural interest just because that's who you are. What do you do first? Well, I'm, I'm actually in the process of doing just that really this new building and Franklin, um, is a renovation project. So it will be unfolding in the next couple of years.

So, um, I did do two rooms, a couple of rooms to start with, well, you know, we wait to renovate further, uh, you know, I start with the pallet, which are the, is the walls and the floor. Okay. So, uh, or the canvas, so to speak. So right as an artist,

that's your right. So you, you, you know, so choose your pink color dis one room that's that is in the book, the living room that has the tap Belgian tapestry with the Flamingo, you know, so that started out. I wanted to do something a little different because I used a lot of color in that, in my other house in Andes.

So this one was really kind of actually going into more earth tones, Brown tones. So I started with a tope wall color and dark chocolate Brown paint for the floor. And then, you know, I always think of, again, if you think of like an artist, how they layer paint or textures, and the next thing would come would be your floor covering.

So in this case I have a rush or sizel mat again, but it's in that, you know, it's like a juice. So it's in that natural range with texture, right? So in this pallet or this room, the color scheme is very textual, but it's very Browns and naturals or neutrals with a hit of color here and there. So then on one wall to get that jolt of color,

uh, I painted one of the walls, this great blue and in front of that blue is the mustard cabinet. Yeah. Again, it's how your eye moves around a room and making sure that your eye does float it, doesn't get too held up on one thing or one corner or one object, right. Because if you're always doing that, then you know,

you're out of, it's out of balance. Why? Because you love color and certainly not afraid of it. And you have an entire chapter about not being afraid of color in the book. And you're open to probably every single shade on the color wheel. How do you pick, I mean, you know, sort of the opposite problem. I mean,

a lot of people are there, they're there, they're choosing between, you know, beige and tope, you know, whereas you have the entire color wheel at your disposal because you'd be happy to use anything. How do you, how do you know, I mean, is it a mood that you start with? Is it a, like how fully formed is,

is the room in your mind when you start, like you said, the first thing you think about are the walls and the floor. How do you No. You know, the one thing I also don't think, I think people should think about too is how a room or each room or rooms in a house unfold into the next. So I always am thinking of,

you know, the transition or the progression. So even if they're separate rooms, you have a doorway or an opening and you often see rooms from another room. So you want to kind of pick up, bring that. So like this room, this living room, when we were talking about this mostly earth tones, you want to kind of carry that through to the next,

even if you're going to up the color scheme, but she wanted to maybe continue it with a sizable rug. So it picks up on the other sides of the rug. You know, you just pick, you choose things, you can choose colors that also lead in to the next room, not to think of them as completely separate entities. Right. Cause then it filled their house as a whole feels a little bit,

Right? Yeah. It gets to just jointed. Right. Right. So, and then other things away about thinking of color is, is your environment. There are certain colors. I loved that. I would not use an upstate New York as much as I would in Miami. Interesting. Like what so upstate New York is, you know, we have a lot of 19th century buildings and a lot of the 19th century buildings would have had these colors or at least a mustard color paint,

or they would have the 19th century. They weren't afraid of color. It was only, you know, more recently that we started to paint everything white, you know, but then there's like, you know, I don't think I would have, you know, used a pink here, but I might use a pink in a trot subtropical house. Right.

Because it picks up on the flowers outside or things like that. So I guess it's also think of the context. How can you work with colors that are in your, your region or your environment that helps also create the authenticity of a room? Oh, I love thinking about that as the, as the color being the sort of underlying storyline through line for the home as a whole.

Yes. And I often, because I do do a lot of historical restorations, I also often tried to find existing color in the house. So there's, there's this one house that has art, this Farrow and ball color called arsenic, which is that really acidy green and the floors are painted Greenville. Those colors were actually found in an old uncovered, in an old piece of wood under our door trim.

So I was just picking up on the colors that were once already in the house, The way you have set up cabinet and camera, the shop is experiential. And you've talked about an, I certainly can imagine that it is a destination shop in the book. You talk about taking ordinary practical utilitarian pieces and creating narratives around them, which is why I think walking into the shop is an experience.

And I just love this approach. Whenever I'm pulling a whole room together or just working on a little shelf, rearranging you are truly the best when it comes to that, by the way to visual compositions, you are talk a little bit about what you mean when you say you create narratives with your objects. Well, there's that great quote by Ford, every object tells a story if you know how to read it.

So every, everything is every object in our lives is embedded with, with history, meaning memory, whether it's personal from, you know, a hand me down or heirloom from your family or a favorite, uh, item purchased on a vacation or what, whatever. Uh, so there's those personal meanings that we embed into every object, but then there's their historical context where they're made when they were made,

who made them. So then when you start thinking about how these objects, you know, it's almost like putting two people in a room or composing a cocktail party and your guest list you want to create and invite enough people that are get along, but are, you know, have different enough backgrounds that it's interesting and interested in each other. You know,

what conversation are these two vases going to have? What does that boss going to say to that box sitting on the coffee table? You know, so it's really about that communication. They can be like minded objects, meaning they could have similar color or texture or tone or pattern, but they can also be very disparate opposite objects that oppose each other in one sense,

but have enough in common that they are adding to each other, you know, you could put a mid century ceramic that has a really beautiful modeled glaze next to a 19th century jar. That also has a very modeled handmade. And they're very, you know, they're a hundred years apart, but they have this great compassionate symbiosis together, right? So it's,

it's that kind of thing, which is just, which I, I really love is how they already have a natural, you know, bond Such a great and fun way to think of our objects and playing around with them. I wonder how much of this just comes so naturally to you because of your training and your work as an artist and the eye that you've developed?

I think it definitely, I mean, that's why I, you know, I, I still, I mean, I, I consider everything, I do my art, so I still considered, I'm still an artist, you know? So, um, whether, you know, I take a hiatus from painting or not. I consider all these compositions also my,

my art. Yes. I think, yes. I think that I, I seek out things and I seek out or I make juxtapositions and dialogues between different objects that are heavily based in my background and education as an artist. And I think I, I really tried to stress that in the book cause a lot of the, you know, a lot of the references to the chapters are based on famous artists as well,

and there's famous artists quotes throughout. So I really wanted it to kind of ground it in also in, you know, my background as being an artist. Um, so, but I do think it's something, anybody can, it, it, you know, your education comes from looking and looking and looking and looking so, and I've been doing this since I was 16.

Right? Wait, I want to ask one more question about the book, which is it's your chapter called more, is less, how can we keep an abundance of objects from looking like clutter? Well, uh, as I say in the book, the best way is to work with modernist or, uh, ideals, which is, uh, balance or cemetery.

And that's a lot of what I do in my vignettes is that there's often a central focal focal point, or even across motif, meaning, you know, you start out with a center object and go out left and right, and top and bottom. And that already gives a sense of balance. And I think what people mistakenly do or what, why a lot of times having a lot of stuff goes awry is that they don't incorporate a strict structure,

a geometric structure because basically what happens in what these are, techniques are things I've learned as an artist is that your, you, your eye goes, your eye likes balance your eye, like cemetery, it's unconscious, as opposed to something that's scattered all over, you know, that makes you feel disjointed. So if you can incorporate a sense of cemetery or balance in,

uh, like a, uh, salon Style hanging, you know, then basically what happens is your eye reads it as one object. It, it just, it merges all the empty spaces. So it's not reading it as 50 objects. Right. So, and that's where housing, you know, collections in a cabinet or in a shelf, a niche in a shelf or on a tabletop.

It's the same thing. Yeah. So like, uh, you know, old glass bottles that people kind of dig up when you're digging up the foundations of old homes, you'll find different wavy glass bottles. Some of them are Brown. Some of them are green and putting them all together in one place, maybe varying the Heights a little bit. If you want to,

or maybe putting all the same colored ones together, it's, it's the amassing of them. It's the grouping of them that makes them feel like Object. Yes. Yes. Just like you can fill an entire glass cabinet filled with your iron stone collection or paper dishes, right? Again, it's one, it becomes this, it becomes an installation. Basically,

if you think of things as an installation, then you can have a lot more things. Which of course is our goal. Always my goal. How do I get more in this room without it feeling too overwhelming Goal as well? Uh, we are, we are on the same page with that. Well, it's been such a pleasure catching up with you again.

And I just, I love your book. I love your, the depth to which you, you create experiences for people and for yourself. And it's, it's very inspirational. Thank you. Thank you. Well, I'm glad you liked it. Yes. I hope these episodes leave you feeling energized and inspired to create a home that gives something back to you because in this crazy world we live in.

It's good to remember that things like beauty and happiness are within reach. Now don't forget to take the quiz. What's the number one mistake you're making in your home [email protected] And we really appreciate all of the reviews that you've been giving us over on iTunes, or I guess it's called Apple podcasts now, whatever. Please keep them coming in because they help other people find us,

which makes it possible to keep this show running. Have a great day. And I'll be back in your earbuds next week.




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