A PURA Muse is a woman who inspires us with their content, business, work ethic, values or beliefs. This woman is aligned with the goals and motivations that we strive for each day here at PURA Botanicals (if they are already a PURA lover, it makes it all the better!). Our monthly muse is working to elevate their community through their business, volunteerism, or their commitment to wellness, and they consistently advocate for well-being & intentional living.
The PURA Muse June 2021: Interior Designer Holly Baker
Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey as an interior designer both locally and internationally…
One of the most defining moments of my life was when I bought my first house, sight unseen.
I had just finished my business degree at the University of California and I distinctly remember my mother calling me up to advise me that property would be a great investment in the prequel to the Northern Alberta housing boom of 2006. She had found an advertisement in the classifieds for a house in my hometown of Edmonton, and I jumped on it! I hastily surrendered the $5000 deposit necessary to secure the house, packed up my car (full to the brim with Californian curios), and drove ‘home’.
I was a broke, twenty-two year old college graduate, and in 2006, You-Tube wasn’t on the DIY radar. Instead, I borrowed several books about home renovations from the library as I sought to transform my housing purchase into my home. Unlike many of my current projects, this house was relatively new, but (in my mind anyways) it was in desperate need of some personality. I learned so many things through trial and error and, as life would have it, more from my mistakes than my successes. Personally, unique building materials have always trumped spending money on labor, so I was oftentimes puzzling over installation logistics. With limited resources, my mantra was that, ‘I will always find a way’. After making small improvements, like learning to tile and add crown moulding, my partner (who later became my husband) and I felt we had earned our renovating sea legs and we decided to sell the house. This first house purchase was a great lesson for future projects in relation to never “over-improving” a home and it also served as the gateway to my long-term career in design.
At this point, I was working in marketing by day, and upgrading my house at night. I have always been passionate that everyone should love their home and find a sense of belonging the moment they open their front door. While I didn’t consider myself an interior designer, my obsession with design had started to translate into regularly renovating and flipping houses. My houses were my space to be creative and I was my own best client for a long time. Over the next few years, however, I wrestled with an all-too-real imposter syndrome. After all, why would someone hire me when I didn’t even study design in school? I was approached by a couple of production companies about creating design shows with them, but it wasn’t until Style At Home knocked on my door that I finally relented and agreed to share my design sensibilities with the media at large. Soon afterwards, I was approached by HGTV to host a show with them and this time, I took the plunge.
I guess you could say that my love for interior design and architecture has always been in my blood. I can remember childhood days spent pouring over design magazines followed by lovingly sketching my latest floor plan inspirations. My father was a serial restauranteur so I grew up in the back corner of many a commercial kitchen. Throughout my childhood, he was always starting new restaurants and businesses and I have lately come to realize that my father’s affinity towards risk profoundly affected my future self. My parents encouraged me to go into something business related, so my love for design remained a hobby for several decades before blossoming into a viable career. Initially, I wanted to pursue a degree in architecture, but discovered it didn’t speak life into my creative bones. After some deliberations post high-school graduation, I decided to take myself on a road trip to Palm Desert and complete a business degree at the University of California. The desert countryside reminded me of home with it’s wide open skies, mystical sunsets, and continuous horizons. The architecture in the desert, however, was completely unfamiliar, and as a result, incredibly fascinating to me. In Palm Desert, I found moments of culture and time preserved: Casita style homes, 80’s renaissance projects, and mid-century modern icons. It was my first dose of design possibilities and from there, I was hooked.
Who/what guides your interior design inspiration? How has your design aesthetic been influenced by the Northern Alberta landscape (long, harsh winters and endless summer nights) and culture and how have these ingrained ‘time and space’ design sensibilities shaped your projects further afield?
I’m a self-proclaimed minimalist. My biggest design philosophy is that less is more. My eye is happiest when I don’t have to take in too much (especially distracting clutter). I have always been inspired by wide open spaces such as deserts and prairies which is reflected in my airy interior designs. These landscapes of very little definition are the canvas of my work and I superimpose their muted, sandy colors to create different layers of soothing. I feel very tied to the beautiful nothingness. Throughout my life I have moved countless times and spent so much time travelling that I have learned to live with very little. I love to declutter and reorganize and I can confidently say that I have never regretted letting things go. While minimalism is an overarching theme in my designs, I live to take risks. I love punches of black and color - as long as they are strategic.
Inserting myself as part of the story of a house and living within a literal piece of history - in a thoroughly modern way - stirs my soul. Each home tells a story, and the older a home, the more memories are left to unearth. I find that entire communities come together when a piece of the past comes back to life which brings me inexplicable joy and ultimately, creates lasting legacy.
Tell us a bit about your experiences working in production design for HGTV and the lessons you learned from designing for entertainment, beauty, and function…
I remember my television days as being simultaneously exhausting, extraordinarily inspiring and some of the absolute best experiences of my life. The first show I hosted was HGTV’s New Orleans Reno which was the opportunity of a lifetime. I actually chose New Orleans as my backdrop since it was full of dilapidated character homes bursting with potential. I travelled from Edmonton to New Orleans off and on for two years and worked with such amazing people. At first, I was asked to simply host the show and hire out the design crew, but I realized that I very much wanted to have full creative control of each project so it was completely ‘Holly Baker’ approved. Working in New Orleans, immersed in a culture that values preserving history, was incredible. Seeing first hand what New Orleans had been through with Hurricane Katrina was an eye-opening culture shock and I was so fortunate to give back to a community that had been so ravaged, and yet, so dedicated to cherishing its architectural history as an important part of their identity.
What current design projects are you in the thick of at the moment? Has the pandemic caused you to pivot in any way/s?
Prior to the pandemic, I was working with A&E, hosting a show called Vacation Rental Potential that helped clients add value to their current Airbnb listings. This show involved so much travel and I was crisscrossing the United States several times a month. I very much had the feeling that I was in a travelling circus. Unfortunately, this show came to a halt due to many factors including pandemic travel restrictions, but I was able to channel my vacation rental expertise on a more local level when I started assisting vacation rental owners in my hometown of Edmonton. I enjoy working on vacation rentals because they offer more creative freedom since the owners are not as attached to a vacation property as they are to their own home. I wholeheartedly believe that Edmonton is an underrated destination in and of itself with its summer festivals, endless summer nights, and bustling restaurant scene. When I design a vacation rental property, I want it to ooze cool and offer each vacationer their version of a rockstar weekend. Renting a home is a unique way to experience the city as a local, and I think that Edmontonians do such an incredible job of welcoming strangers in their midst. Even though working in my own backyard was a big pivot, I am always looking forward to whatever the future may bring.
As your family and your career have grown, how do you think your definition of ‘self-care’ has changed? How are you practicing self-care during this season of your life especially considering the ebbs and flows of the current pandemic?
Surprisingly, I have turned to cooking as a large part of my self-care during this season. Even though my father was a restauranteur, I travelled so much as an adult, that I never dedicated my own resources to learning how to cook. Lately, I have found so much joy in putting textures and flavors together as well as bringing my own family around the table to share my efforts and catch up on the day. I have a daughter, Wren, who is twelve years old and often travelled with me. When the pandemic started, I made a conscious effort to ensure that our world did not stop spinning, but chose to look at things in a different light and busy myself with finishing odds and ends in my own backyard and spending time with my family.
Describe your ideal AM/PM skincare routine and what are your favourite PURA product/s?
My skincare routine is very minimal, just like my design philosophy. The most important step in my AM routine is applying SPF as I see it as a beauty investment in ‘future Holly’. Several evenings of the week, I am a huge fan of derma rolling using PURA’s Pink Quartz Roller in tandem with their luxurious Hyaluronic Ruby Serum. I dim the lights (I highly recommend dimmers to all my design clients), turn on my essential oil diffuser, and completely unwind. I also love PURA’s Countess Cleansing Nectar as I find that the aroma of this potion is a huge exhale for me. When I have a few extra moments in the evening, I absolutely love applying PURA’s moisturizing Cocoa Honeycream Mask (crafted with honey from Alberta) and rinsing it off in the shower.
When it is safe to jump on a plane again, where is the first place you will be going?
These days, I have been feeling very patriotic. I would love to see more of the east coast of Canada and explore the beauty of the maritime provinces. I feel as though the allure of PEI is tugging at my heartstrings.
Catch Holly on Instagram @lacasabaker and on her website http://hollybaker.org/