NOTE: Our book review contributor recently chatted with Cynthia Zamaria. Here is their conversation, condensed for length. Unless otherwise noted, all images are (c) Cynthia Zamaria
I was fortunate to receive a copy of House+ Flower, by design maven Cynthia Zamaria. With her husband Graham Loughton, she lives her passion “rescuing” and renovating older homes of faded glory.
How did she do that? I wanted to know how can I make her design philosophy work for ME? I called her up. Here is the Q and A. I hope you are as energized and inspired as I am.
MAN: On your website (yes, I’ve been studying THAT, as well!), there is one block that caught my eye: the sunflowers were swaying when the other images were static!
CZ: I wanted the dance of the garden to come to life for my visitors. I created my site on the website-building app called Wix. It’s very user-friendly.
MAN: I am crazy about your hair. This has nothing to do with the homes and gardens but is artistic. Tell me about it.
CZ: I’ve had my hair short for such a long time that I don’t think about it, but I guess my “plume” has become my signature look. It’s another form of creativity and expression for me. Just as with our spaces, our personal style tells our story. During Covid, Graham and I learned how to shave the sides and keep the plume.
MAN: In the book, you call yourself a “Recreational Decorator,” and write that you do it for fun, with an insatiable passion.
CZ: Unravelling the potential of a home brings me incredible joy. I treat the home as someone, not something. Homes have souls, and I approach design as a meaningful undertaking. We’ve written “personaes” for the homes. We are the keepers of the house versus housekeepers.
MAN: On page 52, there is a full-page photograph showcasing an urn of narcissus which have “gone over.” I paused, looked at each blossom and the drooping leaves, and smiled back at the picture.
CZ: Well, there is much more to a flower bulb, and every phase of its being is beautiful to me … even in decay.
MAN: You talk about the four main elements of your design process, with techniques borrowed from floral design: form, filler, focal point, and supporting cast. Can you expand on this process?
CZ: Yes, it’s what works for us:
- Form is the shape or architectural direction of the room/space.
- Filler is the backdrop, weaving the space together, like paint or wallpaper.
- The focal point is the star of the show, something standout and unexpected for each room.
- Supporting cast means adding texture and layers, and visual interest details.
MAN: You also offered a simplified list of the items and materials you use time and again, home after home. It’s a great “short list” to keep front and center when working on a home “rescue.”
CZ: This is from a chapter in the book that talks about my design ethos, “You Do You.” The message is to follow your heart, please yourself, and live with the things that make you happy. For me, it’s a blend of
- Treasures and Trash
- Old and New
- Big Box and Boutique
- Inside and Out
CZ: Oh yes! Those are contemporary paintings done by a local artist, Janet Hill of Stratford, Ontario; we have collected those over the years. We pair them with flea market pieces.
MAN: They made me grin, and I suppose this goes with the idea of whimsy and not taking yourself too seriously?
CZ: Yes!! You should feel free to have fun at home. It’s your most intimate space, and it should make you smile.
MAN: Tell me about the flowers you are growing.
CZ: We downsized from more than 100 acres to our current city home, which has a 20-x-80 foot backyard shade garden. We clarified our objective for the new garden at the Leuty home this way:
We plant many spring bulbs that thrive before the trees’ leaves fill in. I’ve evolved my floral recipes and appreciate shade-loving perennials like astilbes, meadow rue, anemones, and ferns. We have a small sunny patch in our front yard. Each year we plant something different – this year, it was dahlias. In the past, we’ve grown broom corn, sunflowers, and amaranth.
Find and Follow:
Cynthia Zamaria on Instagram