Cultural Shifts in Southern Style with Alyssa Rosenheck



My guest this week is interiors photographer Alyssa Rosenheck.  She's just come out with her first book called "The New Southern Style: Interiors of a Lifestyle and Design Movement."  To define this new movement, she casts a wide net across the south, sharing the homes of activists, designers, chefs, and other creatives.  The focus of the book is on healing deep social divides using creativity as a means of communication and hope. 


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Hey there. Welcome to the Style Matters Podcast brought to you by little yellow couch. This show is for people who want to create a beautiful, meaningful home all while we're living real lives in real homes. 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 up and design and decorate your home.

That becomes your signature style. If you're not sure where to start with that, take our quiz and find out what the number one mistake is that you're currently making in your home that will help you know, what to do next. Just go to little yellow and click on the yellow quiz button. Now, another way to get on the right footing to creating your signature style is to join the Slow Style Society,

which we will be opening up officially to new members on January 14th, 2021. So to stay tuned, sign up for our weekly emails and you will be the first to know about it. All right, let's get on to today's episode. My guest this week is interior's photographer, Alyssa Rosenheck. She's just come out with her first book called the new Southern Style interiors of a lifestyle and design movement to define this new movement.

She casts a wide net across the South sharing the homes of activists, designers, chefs, and other creatives. The focus of the book is on healing, deep social divides, using creativity as a means of communication and hope. Let's do a deep dive Alyssa Rosen. Rosenheck welcome to the Style Matters Podcast. I am really delighted to have you here. Well,

thank you so much for having me. I it's a pleasure, and I'm just grateful to have this conversation with you. You have just written a book called the new Southern style, the interiors of a lifestyle and design movement, and we are going to dig into the book, but before we do, I just want to say that one thing that really resonated with me is how you started the book,

which was really about your own personal story, your personal journey and the development that you've had as an artist, but it's also kind of intertwined with that is this larger social journey, for lack of a better word about the changes that are taking place in Southern culture. And so I just love a design book that has that kind of meat to it. So this is why I'm so excited to have you here.

Thank you. Yeah, this was a really meaty project I will say. And, you know, I feel like a lot of the changes that I represent and share in the project, we're feeling them nationally as a country and, you know, that was really something very important to me and has always been important and almost like a responsibility I carried when I first moved to the South and we can definitely get into all that I'll have that.

Goodness. Absolutely. Let's do that. Let's talk about your personal journey first, because I want you to tell us how you came to pick up a camera and all of that good stuff. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I really believe life speaks to us and it's up to us to really pay attention and listen, and I'll say this, I wasn't listening for the first 32 years of my life.<inaudible> I,

I was chasing arbitrary levels of success for two fortune 100 companies. And I had this big blurring cancer diagnosis and it was telling me to stop at 32 and I've been listening, right? So we're going to give you cancer. We're going to give you cancer for you to just stop. And I will say life up until that point, I go into much more depth and meaning in the project and really was very vulnerable in sharing a lot of my truths in this book to where the night before it released and pumped,

I was, I turned to my husband and I was like, Oh, What have I done? But, you know, I really feel like our, our journey, our process, our pain, our healing, our beauty, when we really hone in on that truth and share it with others, it's a tremendous resource and it's a connection point. And so that's what I want this project to be.

So I definitely shared my shadows, my light, I'm an architectural photographer for those of you who don't know. And a lot of my photography philosophy really mirrors my life philosophy as well. And so there you open up the book and I really encourage people to start from the very beginning because I really go into what this movement's about. And then I go into my shadows and my light and how I reconciled both because you can't have one without the other and the book.

Yeah. And you know, this was the first time when I was diagnosed with cancer. I created space for myself and I paused and I took stock in how I was raised. And I was raised in a pretty chaotic environment. And there was, you know, there was some, there was some stuff that I was pretty ashamed of growing up and I really,

it's not until you take ownership of it and you start speaking it and you know, and healing from it. Do you just relinquish its power over you? And I, I really did that. And during this time when I was 32 years old, I started listening to myself for my, for the very first time. And I was listening to those little heart tugs,

telling myself to pick up a camera. And I listened to that core and I simply read the manual. This was about the camera manual, the camera manual. This was about six, six and a half ago. And this were really was my healing catharsis through cancer. And it allowed me being self-trained initially I was like, Hm, are people going to take me seriously?

Because I'm self-trained. And there, there was a little bit of this imposter syndrome early on, but it allowed me to enter into a pretty archaic field with a fresh set of eyes. And it allowed me to innovate to be a better value add and of service to my clients six and a half years ago. And I really changed the way to do business then,

which was really synergistic for my clients. And my clients are designers and architects and magazines. And I was able to show a really strong return on investment with my services. And then I was also able to save magazines money too. And so it was really, it was really beautiful and that's what fast forward. Now I, you know, I've traveled all over the country.

I work with some of the most incredible clients and I've also, I'm a, I'm an, I'm a newly published author and with like a really incredible, you know, project that I think we all need right now. And it's, it's wild to think that I wrote it then to, for this time. Oh my God. I mean, really it,

it just so much has blown up in our country this year and your book is like ridiculously timely. Yeah. You know, back to, you know, my, my pivot in that season in my life, you know, cancer gave me so much more than it took away. And it was one of my greatest teachers in life. And I think sometimes we have to surrender in order to receive.

And it's really my goal through the projects that I'm putting out into the world to be a message for women daily, that, you know, we don't need cancer to start living a full life. We just need to show up for ourselves, incorporate stillness and really have the courage to stand in our worth. What, what I love about all of this is how we,

you and me with you are going to tie this stuff, this meaty important stuff into interiors, which we're going to get to. Yeah. But first, because I believe interiors, they hold our lives, they hold the stuff of our lives, our experiences and our deepest feelings, because we, we have kind of our deepest feelings when we're at home,

either alone or with people that we love or with all the time. But anyway, let's get right to your title of the book. It's, it's your subtitle in particular, it's the new Southern, Style the interiors of a lifestyle and a design movement. And throughout the book, this, you were defining a movement and it's huge. That's a huge idea.

Tell us about this new Southern movement. What is it who's involved? How is it showing up in our lives in our right now? Yes, It's a big title for sure. And I'm redefining what it means to be Southern. And the thing that makes the new Southern so special to me is that it is a movement and it's a movement grounded in cultural change and community while we're honoring and humanizing our differences through the lens of creativity.

And we really have to know where we've been to really understand where we're going. And the vehicle for me is creativity. And it's, it's definitely not a silver bullet solution, but it's an expansive tool to challenge old beliefs and to bring everyone to the table in a really inclusive way. And it's something that we all have within us. And I feel like I'm living,

breathing proof of that because I honestly never thought I had a creative bone in my body until I was 32 years old. Yeah. And creativity tells us the truth about the world. It connects us to ourselves and it connects us to our communities and it tells us the truth about ourselves. And so I'm really sharing my photography of over 30 home and studio tours,

along with our conversations that I've had with artists and chefs and designers and makers and activists and authors, where I'm documenting, how a paintbrush, a camera, a chef's knife, a poet's pen, and all kinds of creative tools connect us in a way that transcends division. And for me, this is the new Southern and the Genesis of it is really based off of my own personal story and moving to the South.

And when I found my creativity, I really found my community. Yeah. And I want to talk a little bit later about creativity a little bit more specifically, because I really lately on the podcast and in my other work for Lydia yellow couch, I feel like this idea of helping people find their own creativity, their own ability to be creative is, is,

is huge for me because otherwise I think you go, you come into your home and you'd feel immediately disconnected from your interiors. If you tell yourself, I don't know how to decorate, or I'm not a creative person, then you know, you probably won't be because you'd feel It's a limiting belief. So then how do you just to touch upon that a little bit more?

How do you harness your own creativity and then how do you share it? How do you encourage others to do the same? Have you thought of that? Oh, absolutely. That's yes. I mean, to me, it's about breaking down. Well, to me, it's about practice. It's simply about picking up the camera over and over again and take pictures and just keep taking them until you start to really kind of see a pattern into what your,

your eye is, the development of your own eye. And what's what is attracting you to different things. And of course, I mean, that can be applied way beyond cameras. I you're going to be applied to a vignette that you create or a mantle that you put out or the way you set the table just for regular dinner. So, yeah.

Yeah. I, I think, I believe it's about practice and I think I'll just leave it at that, that that's sort of my simple, quick answer. I think that's great. Well, I think it's true. And we can talk a little bit more about it too, because I think it, I do think helping women reconnect to their creativity,

that's what this book is about as well. You know, I will say with moving to the South, you know, it was an interesting landscape and Tell us, because people don't know where, where are you living right now? I'm I am based out of Nashville, Tennessee. I am in the heart of the South in music city. And it is such an incredible city.

I know that travel has been very limited this year, but you know, if we can, if we can support and, you know, start supporting travel again, when things opening up, open up, I highly encourage you guys to come visit. I mean, it's on my list and it has been for a few years. I there's so much there that I know nothing about.

And I love going to places that I'm completely ignorant about because it's just, it's just so much more interesting when you go in completely eyes open. Yeah. We're a pretty sophisticated little city. We're a big town and we're, we have a really incredible food scene here. We not just have country music. We have all genres of music. And then we have a really incredible health healthcare system and hospital system here.

And some tech is moving our way as well. So It, it, it sounds like a really cool part of the country. Absolutely. All right. So let's, let's, let's dig into the book. So let me just say that, I feel like you have wrapped every chapter in this blanket of love and generosity. And what I mean is it seems like those feelings love and generosity are your starting point.

That's your point of view? That's where you come from, that's your perspective. And what I got from this foundation is that those feelings are the parts of Southern culture that you want to celebrate and highlight and bring with you into this new movement. I am I on the right track here. There is a warmth to Southern culture that needs to be celebrated for sure,

but there is a very complex, painful history in this part of the country that we're feeling. And the Genesis came from, again, my journey, moving to the South as a young Jewish woman. And at the time I didn't feel like I belonged. I definitely experienced hate in this part of the country. I experienced this sense of being othered and I know definite privilege because of the way I look,

but I also know discrimination off of my culture and my religion in this part of the country. And I was also young and fiercely independent, and I wasn't relying on a man to support me. And, you know, I didn't necessarily come from the right quote unquote family. And I did an outsider. Yeah, I was, I was a little bit of an outsider and I didn't subscribe to what a traditional Southern lady quote unquote embodied.

And, you know, this project really started out as a simple idea, but quickly grew into a story that's a little less safe to tell but necessary. And it's a story about celebrating our differences and finding solidarity through creativity. And it's really important to me to definitely have balance between style and substance with this project. Yes. I want you to have beautiful practical takeaways.

There are six beautiful distinct design was in this project, but I also want you to explore the subjects that you normally wouldn't find in a book like this. And I've really paired my Style advice with sections called substance. And you're going to find really my back to basic rituals and approaches to instill more awareness and stillness and creativity in our lives and the conversations that I'm having.

I'm using creative creativity as a tool and my images as a conduit to explore deeper conversations center around race and social justice and equality and vulnerability and self-love and how we can continue to be our own agents of change. And it starts within our home. It starts with using curiosity to deepen our, our communities. And it starts with really attaching an emotional awareness to your space.

Cause this is where we, we live in, we grow in, we heal and we love it. And we change. How do you see design or more broadly creativity helping to heal the, the, like, as you said, the hurt, the hatred, the, the, the anger, the, you know, the incredible miss justices that have happened.

I think it is, it is not a silver bullet. And I'm very quick to tell you that. And I am not a historian. I'm a mirror visual storyteller here and in a woman who is really passionate about showing up for myself every day and showing up for my community every day and this, the gift of creativity when it's done in a really vulnerable way,

it tells us the truth about how we're feeling. And it tells us the truth about the world when you're just the act of sharing it. You're putting, you're putting movement behind it. And hopefully it's coming from a place of love. It can also come from a place of deep pain and the viewer on the other side that can heal that. Yeah.

And I think you're right about that vulnerability. When you showing your truth, as you call it, putting it out there is putting your, your kind of your insides out. And, and, but when you do, I think you give motivation to other to other people to do the same. And then once you both are able to come to the table with those vulnerabilities,

sort of out in the open, then you have real dialogue that can indeed be ha ha healing. And I think that using creativity to promote that kind of conversation is, is such a beautiful thing. Thank you. And it doesn't always have to be this beautiful, peaceful element I've seen really powerful works that are triggering, and it's, those triggers are your own mirrors.

You have to pursue creativity with curiosity. And if you're being triggered by a piece of work or by the creator of the work, that's a really beautiful invitation for awareness, for challenging old beliefs for going inward and creating stillness around those concepts. So you can understand why you're reacting that way because it's a teacher. Hmm. Gosh, that is so, so well said and really the best way to approach consuming art for lack of a better word.

All right, let let's get, let's get specific about some of these Southern attitudes. I want to say attitudes towards design, I guess, is what I would call them or design that I think has this particularly Southern point of view. And you've divided the book into diff I think six, six different kind of categories of Style I'll say, and I'd like you to talk about them.

However you want to just sort of give us a visual about what we can find in the book. Like what, what are we seeing here? What are some of the through lines, but also what are some of our things that are specific? And before you do that, though, I actually have another question, which is, I was really intrigued by the fact that for you,

the homes that you've featured in here, and the people are across the entire country, that across the entire South, not just in what we call the South, which tends to be the only over on the East side of the country. Why did you do that? And then let's talk about all of the different styles. Of course. So I don't have Southern quote unquote styles.

And here I will say, I think there is, I was debunking a lot of misconceptions of the South with this project. I think people go into the South with the biggest misconception that there's one set material Style or would there's one set material view or perspective of this region of the country. And traditional Southern style has a strict formality attached to it and a structure to it and an exclusiveness to it.

And these are things that are meant to be seen and not touched in the home and words meant to be heard and not repeated or explored and appearances to be very buttoned up and polished and perfect. And that's just the old guard. And the old guard is still very much alive and well, but it's based on dated perspectives, in my opinion. And I wrote this book to capture the substance,

the inclusiveness, the creativity, fueling the energy of the South. And not just those who are in this particular region, I'm sharing individuals who have old and new ties to the South. Yeah. And, and you, by choosing the people that you've chosen to, to highlight in the book, you are saying, look, look, this is the new South.

These are the people that are bringing in. Yeah. All right. So let's go ahead and take us into some of the Zandra. Yeah. So again, part of me debunking the myth that there's one set material Style I said, no, we're not just doing beautiful floral wallpaper and really tight roses on a dining room like that out. So I introduced the laid back,

new Southern, the collected new Southern, the coastal new Southern, the minimal new Southern, the playful new Southern and the preppy new Southern yes, Alex L who is in the laid back chapter. She is just a writing goddess. She is a self-love activist. She teaches workshops and is committed to really helping women find their voice through their own, their own inward self-love journey.

And within the laid back, John rhe, these are old souls with fresh ideas and patina, and it's a relaxed, you know, it's think of a really beautiful old Warren linen couch where you're just taking a big inhale and a very, a longer exhale. And you're just sitting and staying awhile in this chapter. Okay. Yes. I'm looking at it right now.

It is a breath of fresh air it's so it's so calm and beautiful. Yeah. Then we go into collected and collected is about, you know, found objects that serve as a roadmap commemorating our weeks and our months and our years of a life well explored. And I'm sharing, you know, just incredible ways to collect there's Liam Ford is in this project,

the objects that are found, you know, in her home and on these, in this book, in these pages, you know, they're really, it's really a journey through, through the lives of those. I featured in this genre, coastal, you have Raquel Garcia in Connecticut. Who's amazing. She has Southern ties in Florida and gray Malin. Who's amazing.

He's an incredible, fine art photographer. He is, he is so much his work. I already knew of his work and it's, he takes these amazing aerial photographs of coastal scenes. And then also he really playful photography of the animals too. But anyway, yes, I was delighted to see him in the book, Coastal, you're not going to see a bunch of Navy blue stripes.

Everything's a fresh new spin on these genres. So coastal, you always think of second homes. These are primary residences, and it's more about a mindset. And so I have from coast to coast from LA to Florida, and then I go, I take you guys into minimal editing spaces are really important. And I think that there's more thoughtfulness and mindfulness and intention creating minimal spaces.

And I'm capturing simple geometries and clean lines in this genre. And I have Charlotte Bravo cannon of the vintage Vogue. She's an incredible interior designer. And she also is a maker and has all of her goods through like Westelm and anthropology and like, really she's amazing. And then I take you into preppy and I'm tossing out all the rules of exclusivity and I'm throwing the doors open to freedom of expression and pattern play at its best.

Yeah. Especially that one. Right. I mean, preppy is, to me in my mind, preppy is quintessentially Martha's vineyard, but yeah, there's certainly a preppy that's part of the, the Southern kind of, you know, the debutante. No, yeah. We are like deconstructing formality here. I am like the black sheep of debutantes Southern formality.

You know, this is all about forward thinking, strong women. And I have Draper James Reese, Witherspoon's Brandon here because they very much embody that. And Haley Mitchell, who's a fabulous artist based out of Austin, Texas. And then Jen sor who's incredible and really incorporates pattern play at its best. Caitlin Wilson's in this chapter. She is a beautiful textile and interior designer really.

And she's had a really incredible journey from San Francisco to Portland to now Dallas is her hometown. So she is amazing. And then I take you into playful. This is, this is, these are spirited spaces bursting with saturated color. And it's for the wander, the tech Maven, the James Beard nominated chef Maneet show Hahn. She is a huge restaurant tour in Nashville.

She's one of the food networks hosts first chopped. And she has totally re imagined like she has just changed the culinary landscape in Nashville. And I, she is as new Southern as it gets. She Sounds like a reason for me to go to Nashville all By. I know we have, yeah, she, she has like four really incredible restaurants. She also just came out with a cookbook called chat and it's about Indian street food and yeah.

So she takes, she's taking you on a really beautiful journey with that as well. I will say I was more personality driven in defining my design, John Rez. And so at the beginning of each John rhe, you have to, you have a full spread and it really breaks down the personality of the John rhe. Because again, I am a interiors and architectural photographer.

I'm an interior stylist and I'm not a designer and I'm more attracted to the palpable humanity and the substance that I want to continue to put out there with projects like this and future projects come Great. I'd like to wrap up by asking you my signature question, which is why does Style matter? What, what is, we've been talking so much about this already,

the substance? Why should we care about Style? And most importantly, I think what does developing a personal aesthetic or paying attention to your own home? What does it do for your quality of life? I will say this. I am somebody who leads with substance and I feel like S Style is the halo to our substance. I love that. You said that I wrote that down.

Style Style is the halo to our substance. I am the type of gal who's progress over perfection and things don't need to be fully buttoned up. And I like things a little undone, but I do believe in reassigning, meaning to our space, whether that's our workspace or our home or the space in which we're showing up emotionally for ourselves. Can you give us an example of what you mean by that let's signing meaning?

Yes. So A simple example for this, I came out recently with my a little print shop and I have prints that it's a really beautiful patina faucet. And on one handle you have love. And on the other handle, you have fear. And the way I are Reese reassigned, meaning to one of my spaces is I framed that print and I put it next to my coffee station or coffee,

where we get it every morning. That's where the first place we go. We go, and for me, it just sets the tone of a reminder and affirmation for me to continue to choose love today and to make places from a place of abundance and to have love with my creativity and to understand that it's all flowing through me and through my choices and connected.

And so to me, that's reassigning, meaning to my space, it could just be a coffee station where we're just fueling up to go to the day. But now it's more of an intentional reminder for, for me to show up, not only for myself, but for others. Yeah. And the faucet is such an apt metaphor because you have a choice of which model you,

you, you turn on. Correct. And it's empowering. I think to realize we, we have a choice cause someone it's so much of the time we feel like life is happening to Us. No, it happens. Life happens for us. And again, it's up to us to listen and, you know, cancer was very much part of my story and that's what made me wake up,

but we don't need cancer to do that. We, we can make the choice every day and we could even make the choice the night before to set, to set a good tone for the day before. So yeah, It is good to go to bed like that. Right. Well, Alyssa, thank you so much for coming on and talking with me about this very important topic and thank you for creating this great resource.

It was such a pleasure for all those listening. Thank you for tuning in. And I'm really grateful for everyone's time. 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 we'll be back in your earbuds.



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