Mixing Different Cultural Styles In Your Home with The Good Abode

Uncategorized Sep 21, 2020


Today I'm talking with Christine Martin of The Good Abode.  The main thing I wanted to talk with her about was her extensive travel history and how her style keeps evolving to incorporate a mix of different cultural experiences.  And we do get into all of that.  But Christine has so much more to say as well.  We talk about the power of re-arranging furniture, the universal elements she uses to create well being in the homes of her clients and on our website, she's even sharing a quick guide on the best kinds of light bulbs to buy depending on your needs and moods.  



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Christine's blog post about why you should rearrange your furniture

Christine's tile headboard in guest bedroom







Christine Martin of the good abode. Welcome to the Style. Matters Podcast Thank you so much, Zandra, and so excited to be here. So I want to start off with a little bit of your background. What really caught my eye when I was looking through your beautiful website is all of the travel that you've done. You have traveled extensively, you've lived abroad.

You currently own a home in San Miguel,<inaudible> in Mexico, which you also designed. So we're going to talk definitely about that. I'm wondering if you can share some stories with us of how your style has evolved with each new home that you've lived in, because each of the cultures that you've kind of adopted in your, in your different homes. Um,

they're so different from one another. And so I think your style is incredibly varied. And so I don't know where you want to start. Like if you want to go home by home or how do you want to, how you want to answer that question? Yeah, thanks so much. This is one of my favorite things to talk about because it,

it really spanned a huge chapter in my life. I, prior to being an inter interior designer, I was, um, an international school teacher. So I had this, I had the privilege of not just visiting, um, other countries in cities, around the world, but actually making homes and in several of them for two, three, four years at a time.

So, yeah. And like you said, you know, they're all so distinct from each other. So I started out in Bogota, Columbia, and then moved to Tunis Tunisia, and then Seoul, Korea, and then the last place was then Miguel dig and they in Mexico in Tunis, um, we lived in an old duplex and, and it was architecturally consistent with the buildings in Carthage.

We lived in a suburb, um, uh, of the capital of Tunis. That's famous for its, you know, ancient baths and Rowan Roman ruins. So there's like, there's so much written richness in terms of, of history. And so architecturally, um, you would see things like arches everywhere and thick stone walls and ornate iron railings and just old beautiful tiles.

And so the, the home had a lot of character already. Yeah. When you say we, who, who was it at this point, At this point? It was my, my now ex husband who was also, um, an international teacher with. Yeah. And so, um, my approach to designing the interior of that, that space was to really just embrace this uniqueness and kind of lean more into,

to a vintage look to vintage pieces and kind of celebrate an eclectic style because I was in such a, a place that was rich with antiques and such. And so we were, we were incredibly lucky to have our decor shopping there, be comprised of things like, um, you know, small hole in the wall spots for, for art and ceramics.

And then you had in downtown that the Medina, the marketplace where you could just get lost in and treasure hunt every day, if you want. I'm so good. Yes. Yeah. So, um, so yeah, it was, it was, it was like a boho lover's heaven in a way, because it was just like, there was just so much to be had.

And, um, and then, you know, if you a short drive away, um, you would find yourself in small villages and towns where Berber rugs were made and the same kids, you know, pick things there. So that, that was the, the spirit of, of that home, you know, just with all the natural beauty there too bougainvillea would grow wildly everywhere.

So you can just imagine that as kind of a backdrop holler, the deep fuchsia color. Yes. The deep fuchsia. And then we had like, there, there was a part in the balcony where if you like, you, you angled yourself such, you just right. You would have a glimpse of the Mediterranean sea. So yeah. So there were,

there was that too. It was just like this very dreamy spot. Um, what a great color palette. Yeah, it was great. And then from there, um, we moved to Seoul to Korea and we downsized to a modern high rise apartment and there was no real time to the shell of it. The ceilings were low, that kitchen was very tiny.

Um, and so here I had to be really spatially aware. Um, and it wasn't a space where you could pull out all the antique pieces of Tunisia or the vibrant things that I had collected in Columbia, unless I wanted the apartment to look like a Bazaar and they did. Okay. Um, so here it was about being selective. So picking my favorite pieces and being really intentional about merging those pieces with new found Korean ones.

So for example, I fell in love with a gorgeous, um, Korean wooden console that was like this deep burgundy color. And it had the flat hanging metal poles that just made it look all the more vintage and special. And we had it in the living room. And so above that, we, um, we printed and framed three large photographs from our travels of three different places.

But, um, but that pulled in a splash of that same burgundy color here and there. So it looked, you know, it looked good cause it was this subtle cohesion to that just little vignette there. You know, I think it's hard when people like to travel and, and bring things home and want to display them, knowing how to do it in a way that is visually appealing Or is one way you just mentioned to try to find similarities throughout.

And, and did you, the things that you decided not to display in your tiny South Korean apartment, did you put them in storage? Did you give them away? Did you hang onto them? You know, Sandra, I have a very, I don't know. I mean, quote unquote bad habit of, of like carrying my price positions around the world with me.

I've, I've stored them. I've paid for. So I don't know how much, how many thousands of dollars in storage just to like have, because they, each of these things mean something to me, you know, they share a story, a chapter of my life. So yeah, anything we didn't use, we would box up and I, and this was much to the chagrin of my ex husband.

He was like, you're such a minimalist. Um, but, um, but yeah, so I, I put them away and then actually this next home in Mexico was able to, to, to utilize a lot of them. So glad you kept them. Yes, absolutely. It was like, it's like Christmas morning, you know, wrapping something again,

seen in a long time, it's just like, it's, it really moves you. It touches you. So One, especially when you probably knew you weren't going to be in Seoul for ever. I mean, right. So you kind of, right. I think that, that makes that decision a little bit easier about whether to part with something or keep it for a future home because I do talk a lot about,

try not to live for a future home, you know, try to live with what you have in with happiness, with what you have. But I think in that case, it does make sense to hold onto some of that stuff. Yeah. I mean, I've always been a very transient person and just like have sort of a nomadic spirit to me.

And so it, it doesn't really lend to the LA lifestyle to have all these things, but because I was working at international schools, they would, um, they would pay for a shipment from country to country, which can be dangerous after a while. So before you knew it, all these teachers had really bugging boxes and boxes things around the world.

Did you take advantage of that? That is definitely a perk. So I'm sorry. Let's go back to, okay. So we're in Seoul and you were looking for ways to kind of tie things together. Well, for me, it was a real revelation. That empty space is not your enemy. It's actually really great to have, especially when you're living in small quarters like that.

So, and then Mexico fast forward a few years because I'm between Korea and Mexico. Um, I went back to California for three years by then my, um, my marriage ended and we were going separate ways. And so Mexico happened, uh, three years ago. I'd love it to go Happened. Yeah. It really just did it kind of,

um, it was an interesting invitation from the universe to get back out there. So do you know San Miguel Banga? Oh my gosh. Well, it's become the sort of design hotspot, which is probably not a good thing because now everyone's going to know about it. But yes, I I've through, through the Podcast I've met a couple of people who are making their homes.

They're both designers and love it and it just, I mean, it looks incredible. Yeah. It really is a little, um, piece of like this design heaven. It's got so much, um, colonial charm and it really does draw a lot of, you know, artists and healers and just people who, who appreciate beauty. Yeah. Let me just ask you,

did you, did you know you were going to be building yourself or were you at first looking for a place to move into? Yeah, we, we, we first started with a real estate agent and so we, yeah, we had considered buying a home already, but then she introduced us to a couple who had their home built by a New York architect who came out of retirement several years ago,

who was living in San Miguel when we saw her home, we thought, Oh my gosh, like, this is possible for, you know, the modest amount of money we had available. Then let's, let's talk to this man. You know, we really struck, um, like a kindred relationship with him and we're able to solidify working with him.

And, um, and yeah. And you got to design it with him though. Yeah, it was awesome because, um, you know, it was an opportunity to be part of, of, of selecting structural elements that would, that would really like influence the feel of the home. And, uh, and that is, that is priceless, you know,

and then, you know, inside it's a fusion of all my favorite things that I've collected throughout my travels. So it's, you know, the art from Tunis, um, a wooden Buddha from Cambodia that have lugged around for ever, uh, batik wall hanging from long pro bong from Laos. Um, and so, and these, these handmade items work seamlessly,

like they worked so well with Mexican decor. Cause that's what the soul of Mexican decor is too. So The handmade element, I mean, yeah, I do think that when you, when it represents who you are and your travels, I do think that it really, it works together. I mean, there are times when I feel like people say,

Oh, I was, I don't know, I'm going to make something up here. I was traveling to, uh, Japan and I bought all of these Japanese, um, you know, coy, ceramic, uh, objects to hang on my wall and I get them home and they, they just don't work with the rest of my house. And why do you think that is?

Why do you think sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Oh, you know, I don't know that it's, that's interesting. I think, I think sometimes it just comes down to really knowing, just knowing, knowing your home and your Style to begin with. So, and just feeling very comfortable in it. It's almost like, um, like,

like getting comfortable with your wardrobe, like, you know, which, you know, what w what jeans look good and what w which fit and how they combine well with other things. It's, it's, it's not a, um, it's not necessarily something that is intrinsic. It's something that you have to learn. Yeah. And a lot of times there's,

um, there's a level of trial and error that happens. So you just kind of learn along the way you might say, Oh, yeah, that was those, that bright, shiny, ceramic doesn't look good with, you know, my muted palette or whatever it is. I mean, you, it's just kind of a learning process as you go.

Um, You can't do that. You said about your wardrobe, because when you think about it, we've all bought pieces that we bought, because we wanted to be someone else a little bit, you know, or we wanted to be, you know, super fancy. And so we bought this gorgeous shawl or dress that then sat in our closet for five years.

And I think that it's a recognition that there are things that you admire out there in the world that, that looked beautiful, like that beautiful dress, but they're not really who you are at your core. And so you end up not using them. And that's such a relatable thing in our wardrobes, the things that we are most comfortable in, not just comfortable,

like, you know, Oh, kind of sweatpant comfortable, but I mean that you feel good about yourself when you're wearing them. Right. Right. And I guess you could apply that to something that you might have your eye on when you're traveling, wondering, gee, is that really me? Should I bring that home? Is that w is that kind of mean?

Absolutely. Yeah. And then, you know, there's also, um, it's, it's funny, cause it also works the other way around when you were, or for me anyway, when I was living overseas, I would see these beautiful things that are locally made, but I would, I wouldn't buy them and have them in my home in the country that may,

it's funny. Cause that made them, I was like, how can I put that tapestry up? That's that's being sold on every block here, but then I would kick myself because I'd go and go to another country and think, Oh man, that tapestry would look amazing here. It's just so unique and interesting. Yeah, it is. It's, it's a funny,

there's a funny line there of just figuring it out and feeling through it. But, but yeah, the, the, I think the analogy of, uh, of your wardrobe and what feels right to, and, and trying to, and not trying too hard, You find that your experiences when you've traveled, I'm sure they brought out different parts of who you are and that you have evolved over time with these incredible experiences that have been,

I'm imagining kind of, they stretched you sometimes they might've challenged, you you've got different languages that you're dealing with, different cultures and cultural norms. Do you feel like all of those different layers or experiences have influenced how you design now or how you, how you think of yourself creatively? Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it, they, they do,

they do almost all feel like separate chapters of my life. And I, you know, I'll look, I'll look up photos of the spaces that I lived in and really have like, be flooded with memories of who I was at that time, what I was going through. Um, relationship wise, relationship to myself, um, you know, to my career because,

you know, I was in education and really kind of came to, to a ahead of, with, with feeling like I was burnt out in, in education and really was craving something that would inspire me creatively. And the funny thing is about design and designing and all of these different places and environments is that it was the one constant that I kept that I,

that I traveled with. So for as different as the cultures and environments were the one thing that I had to do, it was almost like it was second nature was make home, but yeah, it's, it's interesting cause it really kind of defines the evolution of, of me and where I am today. I want to ask you about some specific blog posts that you've written because I've really enjoyed looking through your blog.

And there's a lot of, I think you have a way of distilling some information about design in a way that's very accessible. And so I want to just talk about a few of them. The first one being the power of rearranging furniture. What I loved about this is that a lot of designers, they don't talk about this because part of what they're doing is buying new furniture for their clients.

So what, what were the, I think you had maybe five reasons why rearranging furniture was such a good idea. Could you, do you remember what they were? Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I, and, and yeah, I really just to say, like, I think we are arranging as one of the most, uh, powerful, unsung design secrets.

There are out there. I really believe in it. Um, yeah. So one of the, the first, the first reason is that it's budget friendly. The other thing, looking at the pieces you have and seeing if you can revamp them in a simple way. So taking, you know, a wooden chair and giving it a fresh coat of paint.

The second thing about it is like you get to practice sustainability, obviously. So we we're, we're, we're kind of leaning into that by saying, you know, interior design can get consumer heavy. So with the coming and going of trends, and this is in now, and this is out now, and it can be extremely frustrating as, as a,

as a consumer and someone who who's a homeowner and wants to design their home. And all of a sudden that velvet sofa is irrelevant, you know? So it's, um, it's one of the things I ha I've had a problem with it, you know, kind of, sort of a moral dilemma with in terms of is the, the amount of over-consumption waste that can happen when,

um, when design is shows up as, okay, here's your, here's your shopping list and it's, everything is new. The third thing I, Oh yeah, it uplifts your mood. So, you know, change is good. People feel good, especially like, you know, watching homemaker overs or, or seeing them, you know, on publications,

like seeing the before and afters, it actually like does something to your mood. So it's an energetic shake, shake up that can be positive. And then the four and five are pretty tied to together. I say, rearranging can like, can, can be a jumpstart to, to your organization. So something has, What did you mean by that?

That was a cool one. When you re start rearranging and moving things around, you actually get to see what accumulates. So when you find a better place for one item, it's kind of this trickle effect of finding, it leads you to finding a better place for the other thing. So for example, you know, you might, you might find that you've got this wire basket in your kitchen.

That's just sitting there. It's not really holding too much. It works better in your entryway for incoming mail. And then that kind of organization also like clicks into, okay, you're looking at your space, you're figuring out how you use it. And it, it leads into functionality. Um, so for example, you know, some I've, I've seen a lot of people,

you know, with, with, they've got a long floor mirror that might be like tucked in a corner behind a chair, something like that. It's not really getting so much use, um, maybe flipping it horizontally and hanging it on a wall, you know, can, can do something as simple, as reflecting more light and opening up the space.

And, you know, it has just a different function in that way. Yeah. It is such a simple thing. I mean, once you do it here, it's like, why didn't I think of this before? Why didn't I do this? This is so simple. I didn't spend any money. I got this great uplifted mood. And I really learned something more about my space where maybe I have now,

I've now lived in it long enough to know that something's not working. And so rearranging now solves that problem, whatever wasn't working. And I, it's funny because it's one of those things I'm sure in your world, you, you automatically do that now. I'm sure you go in with a client and you start already kind of mentally rearranging things. But I do think sometimes it takes somebody else to kind of shake you and go,

Hey, you know, you can move that dresser from the second floor down to the first floor and use it for a completely different thing. Right. You had another great post specifically about a headboard. Well, I don't know if the post was about the headboard, but that's what I really focused on. I don't know if you remember, know what I'm talking about.

It's like you had a client in Mexico and you created this headboard and it's not what normally people would think of, of using for a headboard. You know what I'm referring? Uh huh. Yeah, exactly. I do. So what we used was, um, were cement and caustic tiles of the ones that we use for this particular project, um,

are made by hand and sourced locally. So, uh, just outside of San Miguel, they, again, they you'd, off-road into this dusty neighborhood and there's a tile maker there and he has a support shop beneath his home and it's very modest and, and it looks incomplete Instructure and you know, but it's been there for years and you wouldn't find it unless you had someone drive you there it's,

It's a hidden kind of secret. Yeah. Yeah. And the process is really amazing. Each child is done by hand and he has tons of samples that he actually has lining the walls of the workshop. And including like he doesn't have enough room on the walls, the floors of, of his own home. So I'll take you into your, into his house and it's kind of like,

that's the showroom. Um, yeah. And, and you can copy any design that you bring him. So what we decided to do for that room, it's a, it was a guest bedroom. So normally these cement tiles are seen on the floors of spaces and sometimes in the walls of bathroom at the AMS, the American clients we're working with, um,

this was their retirement home. And what they wanted to do was use Mexican elements in, in unique ways. So for this guest room, we decided to do away with a headboard altogether because they wanted, um, some, uh, an idea that had flexibility, um, of having two twin bit beds pushed together or pulled apart, depending on who was coming to stay.

Okay. Right. So they didn't want a sets bed size with one headboard. Got it. Exactly. So what we created was the appearance of a headboard instead with using these tiles. And so we had the, have the tiles coming from the floor about a little, about a little bit over the halfway Mark of the wall. And they end with a gorgeous,

raw edge floating wall shelf that we also sourced locally, which functions as you know, um, a place for table lamps and decor. And so it's, it's functional. And then it just gives it this complete look. And the look is consistent, whether the beds are separated or together the wall. Right. Cause the, the, the tile goes across the whole wall.

Right. So, yeah. And then another post I want to talk about is the one you wrote about Wabi Sabi. Now I know I've heard that phrase before, but I don't think I really knew what it meant or anything. What, what is Wabi Sabi? I love this concept. Sabi is, is embracing the perfectly imperfect, right. Things,

things are perfectly imperfect. And so I started to dig into it and I was like, Oh my gosh, I can really, really relate to this and understand it. Cause it's a, it's rooted in this traditional Japanese, um, practice that comes from, um, if you look at a tea ceremony, they like to explain it as having a lovely,

handmade tea cup that is that you have for a long time. So it's cracked and shipped by the use of, by the use and, you know, and time doing that and the lines and the imperfections are reminders that nothing is permanent, that things, things are always changing. And so Wabi Sabi is this practice of, of finding acceptance in the impermanence and,

and also like beauty in the imperfections. I think it's just an inspiring way to, to look at the design of your home, but also having an outlook on life too. I was thinking about those lines that are sort of the cracks that you find in the porcelain over time. You know, not that different than the wrinkles that we get on our faces,

you know, that, you know, we've earned them all and they tell a story. And, and like you just said, there's beauty in the evolution there, as opposed to trying to get back to some sort of perfect before it hasn't been touched kind of place in the object's life to just love the fact that it has been used. And there are some chips and it's a such a good life lesson.

It really is. They're the three questions that Wabi Sabi asks. Is it useful? Is it beautiful? Is it meaningful? So it, you know, when you, if you can answer that, um, you know, then, then it ha the answer yes. To those things that it has a place in your home. Yeah, yeah. Again,

very simple questions, but really, really they help you make very important, powerful decisions about your space. Yeah, absolutely. Let's talk a little bit about what we started to talk about before I was recording us, which is a place that you are in your life with your design work, which is the connection between our homes and our wellbeing. And there are a lot of different ways we define wellbeing.

So I'm going to leave it there. And have you talk a little bit about your thoughts on that? Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think more than ever in, in, in our current reality, people are realizing how much their environments impact their, their physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing. For me, it's always been about bringing in intentionality into your space,

not just going online and looking at, you know, the beautifully put together rooms from your favorite, you know, online store and saying, okay, I'm going to shop this. Look, it has to work for you. And it also has to resonate with, with what you need, um, and who you are in the moment. So what do you think some of the elements are in design that really have an effect on our,

our, our wellbeing, I guess physically certainly, but definitely emotionally or mentally. Are there, are there some ones that you kind of go to because you know how powerful they are or, or do you think it's just completely different for everybody? No. I think that there are definitely some basics that that can, that are universal. So one, one being elements of nature.

If you don't have a green thumb and you tend to kill your plants and you really don't want to have that, um, experience, that's, that's not a problem. There are other ways to bring organic elements into your house, whether it's having a vase of dry dried flowers, having prints of, you know, on your accent pillows of, you know,

something that maybe isn't the color of, of Sage green or something that brings in that home that comes with the color because color, color psychology is a real thing. I truly believe in that. Um, And I always, I always like finding color palettes that are in nature. I talk a lot about birds. For example, birds can have crazy different combinations of colors and all you have to do is copy that,

you know, and you're going to have a gorgeous room because mother nature knows how to do it. Oh yeah. I love that. Yeah, no, that's, that's a beautiful example for sure. And then also lighting lighting is super, it just really impacts us as humans. We live in the circadian rhythm of, of things. So, so being mindful of that,

like knowing when warm lighting is helpful and when you know, more bright, cool lighting is helpful as is, is important. So if you're working from home, it's important to know, you know, what kind of lighting will, will keep you productive and alert and you know, that kind of thing as to the times of days and moments in your day when you want to really chill.

Right. So you talking about even the different kinds of bulbs are Yeah, absolutely. The different kinds of bulbs. Yeah. I mean, I haven't, I've been living, uh, four months it from Airbnb to Airbnb because I left Mexico and now I'm in San Diego and, um, yeah. So, and I haven't figured out my, my full time situation just yet.

So, but I've been known and I have done this, um, in this span of time, I will go out and buy light bulbs and change in this person's home, just so that it suits my needs. Cause it really makes an impact on me. So if it's like a Colt light bulb in the bedroom, I'm like, no way I'm going and I'm going to go into target and I'm changing that thing,

you know, it's so simple. Yeah. It's, it's very simple, you know, um, Do that. That is such a good idea. So I want to wrap up with the question about Style Matters that I ask everyone on the show. Um, I mean, I feel like we've really kind of touched on it or we're getting there with this,

with this whole idea of these things that you can do to really connect your wellbeing with your environment. But how else might you answer that question? Why does Style matter? Why does creating a signature Style why w what does that do for someone? Yeah, I mean, I love this question. It just feels, um, it feels like it's really,

it's really going deep. Like it's going under the surface of what Style usually means to people. And so, I mean, for me, it's, um, Style is, is a visual manifestation of who we are as individuals. And it matters because as humans we need to communicate and Style does that, it's communicating in a soulful way, as people,

as an individual where the evolution is constant, even if it's in small Slow ways we're changing and the things we select to, to design in our homes with they carry that energy of, of these small Slow transformation. So it's an evitable that each person's home is nuanced with their own unique personal touch. For me personally, I believe that Style is, comes from its source from how you want to feel.

Do you want to feel bold? Do you want to feel tranquil? Do you want to feel sexy? Do you want to feel energized? And the magic of, of design when it's done intentionally is that you can support those feelings. And when you have an environment that, um, that reflects you and who you, who you want to be and how you want to feel wellness just happens.

It really does. It just does Well, Christine, thank you so much for that. And thank you so much for your philosophy with us and your approach and your stories. And I'm really excited to share some photos of the work that you've done and, you know, just give the visual side of, of all of everything we've been talking about today.

Thank you so much for coming on the show. Oh, you're welcome. It was such a pleasure. I love speaking with you and your questions really just brought me a lot of joy for, for, for, for real. It really did. It was, it was such a lovely experience. Thank you.




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