Fodor's Travel Tastemaker: Francophile and Design Guru Erin Swift
Erin Swift holds many titles: set designer, interior decorator, prop stylist, magazine market editor, and now author. The common denominator? They all point to her incredible sense of style and taste. She's worked for Architectural Digest and Elle Décor, not to mention O at Home. She has styled dreamy sets and private homes with items found around the world. She has even tried to carry taxidermied items through an airport. That's dedication.
Her latest project was her first book, French Accents: At Home with Parisian Objects and Details. It is a visually arresting book that teaches all of us how to indulge our inner Francophiles at home. But of course, she had to leave home to do her research. She traveled across the US and France to scope out the homes of people who'd been inspired by all things French, and specifically Parisian. She returned to one of her favorite places in the world, Paris, to discover how the French see design, décor, and adding touches of whimsy into their homes. And she did it all in the name of letting us feel a little closer to that state of perpetual Parisian chic...at home.
Working on your book French Accents meant traveling around the US and France. Where did you start?
The journey started with an excursion to South Egremont, Massachusetts the weekend of Hurricane Irene; not the most desirable of travel conditions, but the homeowner [I was visiting] was so welcoming and the home was so beautiful that it made the trip totally worth it. From there on out, the trips became easier and the book really started to come together. On the whole, it was an epic adventure that I would definitely do again.
Where was your most surprising discovery?
Uzes, in the south of France was probably the most surprising discovery. The town is amazingly charming and welcoming. Coming from New York City, it was incredible to experience such a small, quaint place. It was absolutely amazing!
How do you choose pieces for your home, book, etc?
I go with first impressions. If it moves me emotionally when I first see it, I know that it's a classic piece. I also know what works for me in my home, which is very helpful when you're surrounded by beautiful pieces on a daily basis as I am. The pieces in my home are in constant rotation, so just when you think you get bored with something, it comes back to inspire you when it comes back into the rotation. In that sense, I really try to find pieces that are timeless.
What is the craziest item you've ever tried to bring home from a trip?
Let's just say that I've learned that taxidermy and airports are not really friends.
Your version of 'work travel' seems way more fun than most. What are some of your favorite work related destinations and why?
I know its cliché, but Paris is truly one of my favorite destinations in the world. I've been there countless times for work, and I love it every time. Also at the top of my list is Marfa, Texas. I travelled there for a shoot a few years ago, and I fell in love with the place. It's an artsy little town in west Texas that has some of the most amazing sights and incredible characters that you'll ever come across. Paris and Marfa could not be more different, but both have incredibly captivating people and discoveries.
What kind of traveler are you—carry-on or checked bags?
For work, I have to check bags because I have my prop kit and tool kit with lots of sharp objects, but when I travel for pleasure, everything's in my carry-on. That being said, I always forget to take out some prop tool in my bag so I'm sure TSA has a room dedicated solely to my belongings.
What's the first thing you do when you land in a new destination?
I drop my bag and immediately hit the streets to get a feel for the people and the environment. Every city or town has its own energy, so you just have to keep your eyes and ears open to find out what everyone is up to. I am usually not in any one place for too long, so I need to make sure that I maximize my time and get to the places that are truly the hidden gems.
What's always in your carry-on?
A pair of heels (or two), a bathing suit, and a Diet Coke (Coca Light preferably), but that obviously gets added after the security checkpoint.
So what's next? Another book? Will you continue to find reasons to go on work trips in France? Or perhaps explore somewhere new?
Another book? Wow, [the thought is] so crazy...
The Parisian style will always be where my heart is and I am sure there will be certain themes that carry through, but that being said, I have an inquiring mind so my next subject will likely be a bit different.
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