In the Trenches: Spotlight on Manuela of The Feathered Nest

Manuela’s FlowersI’m so excited to bring you the first “In the Trenches” interview today. And we couldn’t have started with a better designer! I first stumbled across Manuela’s blog, The Feathered Nest, when I was looking for inspiration for a friend’s dining room. Before I knew it, I’d spent over an hour compulsively reading the archives!

Everything about Manuela is gracious and welcoming. It starts with your first glimpse of her blog, which has one of the prettiest designs I’ve ever seen, and then continues with her writing style and the beautiful, beautiful photographs of her home and garden. Even her response to my request for an interview was very sweet… she replied to me:

Well I’m speechless! Thank you for asking!
You know I’m not a “decorator” right?! I’m just a woman redecorating her home cause we decided to stay put instead of moving- to bloom where we’re planted! If you still want me to do it – sure, I’d be honored!

We should all be so blessed to bloom where we’re planted as exceptionally as she has! But enough of my gushing and on to the interview (which, I’m certain, will make you fall in love with her too, so we can gush together later!):

*****************

Manuela’s Living RoomFrom the first time I laid eyes on your blog, I was in love with your decorating style. It’s not exactly what I’d expect from a Jersey Girl though. (smile) Can you describe your style for us and tell us how it developed?

Thank you for that lovely compliment! Well I’m not a real Jersey Girl! I grew up in Europe and the West Coast, moved to NYC and only lived in NJ when I got married. So I was only there for about 4 or 5 years before we moved to Georgia. I consider myself a New Yorker! I would say my style is a fusion of French Country with Shabby Chic.

How it developed…..I think that decorating style is something that is constantly evolving and changing, at least for me. When I first got married I was very into the southwest style, then I wanted everything Mary Englebriet, then I was into Tuscan and British Colonial and now this.
This was not suppose to be our “forever” house. We original bought it 8 years ago with the intention of living in it for about 3 or 4 years and then selling. Well life happens, things change and we realized last year that we would be here at the very least another 4 years- maybe more. I had always put off what I really wanted to do with the house because I always thought I’d be living somewhere else! I was one of those “someday I’m going to __(you fill in the blank)__” people!
Well when I realized that “someday” just wasn’t going to be happening and that I really did have to “bloom where you’re planted” I began looking at all those magazine clippings I had been saving for years. I noticed that the common denominator for all the rooms I really loved were that they all had white or black furniture, light colored walls and lots of red. Plus, I decided that I really wanted to include the two things I love, toile and transferware and just went from there. I just follow my instincts.

One of the things I love about your blog is that you talk a lot about the big and little projects you do around your home to make things more special. Of the projects that you’ve completed in your Atlanta home to date, which has made the greatest impact on your decor? Which project was your favorite? Have there been any projects you attempted that didn’t work as expected?

Manuela’s Dining RoomThe turning point for me was when I re-did my living room last year, that’s what jump started this whole process for me. I think my most favorite project will be the dining room which is what I’m working on now. I’ll have painted every piece of furniture in that room! What didn’t work – Well I painted my kitchen a pale gray after I remodeled it and it just didn’t work! I tried to talk myself into it being o.k. because the thought of having to repaint the whole kitchen just made me want to cry! But the color was all wrong and I did repaint it a kiwi green and now I couldn’t be happier with it.

Do you have a specific decorating plan developed for you home?

I have a very general decorating plan for my home. I have a notebook in which I keep notes on things I want to accomplish in each room. Honestly, I’m not that analytical! Basically I’m just going room by room. I see it, I like it, I make it work. My approach is very organic!

One question I hear a lot is “how do you go about determining a realistic budget for your decorating goals, especially when you’re working on a tight budget?”. Do you have any tips for my readers about developing a decorating budget and managing it effectively?

So far the only two areas I had a lump sum set budget was for the sunroom addition and the kitchen remodel. The money I had was the money I had period! The first contractor I talked to about the sunroom addition laughed at me when I told him my budget! The second was willing to work within the budget I had and I just had to realize that I wasn’t going to get everything I wanted. I had to compromise. I could have waited another year and saved more money but the things I let go really weren’t that important to me when it came down to it.

Other than those two instances, I basically see what excess money we have leftover after I do my monthlyManuela’s Sconce makeover budget and that, sometimes combined with my personal spending money, is what I use to accomplish my projects. I re-use a lot of the things I already have – I’m not afraid to paint anything! I also use the splurge-save strategy. I may splurge on something that I think is really vital to the look of a room – like when I bought my vintage chandelier for the dining room and then save in other areas – like when I decided to paint my pine table white instead of buying a new table.
A tight budget is not an excuse for not having the home you want! Sometimes you just have to see things with a fresh eye – using things in a way they’re not meant to be used, or changing the color, or even altering a piece.

I know that you are a mom. Sometimes creating a beautiful home that is also child friendly can be a serious dilemma. Have you had to make any adjustments to your decorating plan to accommodate your child? Do you have any tips or suggestions for readers with children?

My daughter is 15 so I feel I can pretty much do what I want now. I do have to tell you that, I’ve wanted a white slipcovered couch for years and years and only got one last year. When she was little I had a patterned sofa because that’s better for hiding dirt and spills. I know people say you can wash and bleach a white slipcover – so supposedly they’re kid friendly. But do you really want to be pulling off that slipcover every other day to wash it? My hands were full enough when she was little without having to add the extra job of slipcover Manuela’s Chalkboard projectwashing. I would just say that having small kids is a season in your life. So you compromise. Unless you’re lucky and have a separate family room and formal living room that the kiddies stay out of, you’re going to have to take them into account when decorating.

Since we’re both in Atlanta, I’m going to ask you a self indulgent question! : o) Would you share with us some of your favorite thrifty haunts–on and offline?

My Favorite Place in Chamblee is one of my favorite places. It’s a true junque shop! The aisles are so packed you have to walk sideways and stuff is piled to the ceiling. The other place I go to a lot is The Classy Flea in Marietta. I also love the Lakewood Flea Market but I haven’t been since they moved it to Cumming. My favorite thrift store is Goodwill – I usually go to the one in Smyrna and Marietta. As to online, I would say my best sources are other bloggers that have their own stores and Ebay.

Finally, I have to ask– The last time I tried to paint something in an attempt to get a Ballard’s look, I totally ruined the piece! You, on the other hand, are the queen of painting furniture. Can you share with us your technique for getting such a professional look on all your projects?

Manuela’s painted black cabinetI take my time. I think it took me at least two weeks to paint my dining room table! Generally I do a light sanding, wipe with a tack cloth and use a spray primer like Kilz. I like the primer to bond with the piece for at least a day before I start the painting process. 99% of the time I use a good quality brush for the final coats. I know some people use foam brushers or rollers. I might use a roller for the first coat but the final coat I always use a brush. I lightly sand in between coats and if it’s a heavily used item, like a dining room table, I use a poly top coat. If it’s something that doesn’t get much use I may go with spray paint instead of brush painting. I think the key to a Ballard type finish is to not go overboard with the distressing. Just choose points that would get normal wear and tear – less is more!

Isn’t Manuela a wonder? All the pictures featured today are from her lovely home (and blog) as well. Please be sure to visit her at The Feathered Nest and give her a big “THANK YOU!” for sharing with us today…

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22 thoughts on “In the Trenches: Spotlight on Manuela of The Feathered Nest

  1. Lallee says:

    I so agree! You could not have chosen better than Manuela to kick off your ‘In the Trenches’ installment. She is so inspirational in her decorating. I am always eager to see what she is up to!

    I will definitely be back to see others you bring to us. Nicely done!

  2. Melissa Michaels says:

    Manuela is a wonder, I love how she is enjoying this season of her life (with her daughter in her teens now) and making her house how she really wants it to be! And I also always appreciate her down to earth assurance that she is able to do this now but has lived with it “not done” for many years. She is so gracious to let us know that so we don’t feel inferior! 🙂 She is always quick to reassure me and I love her for that!

    Thanks for featuring such a lovely gal!

  3. Rhoda says:

    Well, I’m a big fan of Manuela too. We both started blogging last year around the same time & I have so enjoyed getting to know her. We are gonna meet sometime this year, I hope! Love her and her style! Congrats Manuela!

    xo,
    Rhoda

  4. Adrienne says:

    Congratulations on your new series and your first interview. You chose well. I’m a ‘Manuela’ fan, too. I visit her every day to see what she’s up to. Thank for you for sharing this with us. I’ll be back soon to see what you have to share. ~Adrienne~

  5. Sue says:

    I am also a great fan of dear Manuela! This was a wonderful interview and justa joy to read from beginning to end!
    Thank you for sharing this!

    Sue

  6. hookedonhouses says:

    What a fun site! I just discovered you but have Bookmarked you and will be back. I’m always looking for good “house related” posts to send my readers to. Thanks! -Julia K 🙂

  7. Becky K. says:

    I’ve been a fan of Manuela since I discovered the blogworld last Spring or Summer. Not only is she extremely talented in her design senses but she is a very friendly and helpful blogger, as well.
    Great Idea to interview her!
    I’ll be bookmarking your blog and coming back to settle in and read, as well.
    Blessings,
    Becky K.

  8. Rosemary says:

    Hi,
    I love Manuela and her blog. She is full of great ideas!!
    That was a great interview. I learned more about the wonderful Manuela.
    Keep up the interviews.
    Rosemary

  9. Jen says:

    Such a fabulous first interview! Manuela is such a wonderful inspiration and it has been great having a glimpse into her life. Thank you for sharing!
    ~Jen

  10. Cottage Contessa says:

    Another big fan of Manuela’s here! I think she’s a wonderfully kind and sweet lady who has a gorgeous home and a fantastic blog. Terrific interview, I enjoyed every word!
    Amanda (aka Cottage Contessa)

  11. Shirlee says:

    I really enjoyed reading your interview with Manuela. I”ve only been reading her blog for a short while and it’s a must to check in daily to see what creativity she has going on.
    I’m looking forwards to your future articles.

  12. Toni says:

    Hi,
    I found you through Manuela’s blog & wanted to say this post is wonderful! I’m looking forward to your next installment of “In the Trenches.” Very well done.

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