Welcome to “Advice From,” a new column I’ve been dreaming up for months now and an opportunity to introduce our community to some truly inspiring women. Every interview (including those featured on Advice From a 20 Something!) is featured in my weekly newsletter, along with recommendations for great things to read and lots of fun extras—kind of my roundup of the “best of” the internet each week :). Subscribe here so you don’t miss any inspo, and without further ado, allow me to introduce Heather Bien! xx, Megan Lierley, Managing Editor, Advice From a 30 Something
Heather Bien is a writer, marketer, and designer living in Washington, DC. She’s also a contributor to Advice From a 30 Something, and we’re so lucky to get to share her sharp writing, creativity, and excellent design skills with this community!
You just launched your e-design business—congratulations! Can you tell me a bit about how the interior design process works when it’s done virtually?
Yes! Thank you! It’s been such a fun venture already. I worked in interior design full-time for a few years out of college, before I got into writing/marketing/content so it’s been great to pick it back up. When I work with e-design clients, I first chat with them about their design goals, their inspiration, and their interpretation of the challenges in their space and how I can help then. Then, I have them fill out an extensive questionnaire that details their space as it stands currently, the pieces that they have and want to keep, pieces they definitely want to add, style preferences, particular style choices they’d like to see incorporated, budget, and more. I want to have a holistic view of what they love –– and don’t love. I also have them send floor plans, measurements, and any photos available. I use that information to create two design boards, typically one will follow closely the direction and inspiration they’ve provided, while the other breaks the mold a bit (though still maintains their personal style!). I send the boards to the client for review and we do one round of questions to finesse the design and arrive at the final product!
Most of us are spending more time at home than ever before, and I can’t speak for everyone but I’m feeling anxious about being cooped up again this winter. Can you give me your top design tip(s) for making your space cozy for winter (assuming I can add small touches but don’t want to do a total overhaul)?
Faux fur. Texture. Candles. Hygge was a buzzword a few years ago but it truly is the best way to make your home feel cozy in the winter. Additionally, the more we’re cooped up, the more I want to purge. Go through each room and see what items you can edit out. Only once you’ve done that should you add back in a few intentionally placed cozy items.
Let’s talk home office—top tips or must-haves for creating a beautiful space where you feel like you can be productive?
First of all, cut out the clutter! It’s so much easier to concentrate when you don’t have office papers or otherwise staring you down. Second, I know many of us don’t have a defined space for a home office but find one place where you can reliably work in quiet. If it’s in your bedroom, consider facing a small desk out a window (great Zoom lighting, right?!) so that you don’t have to look at your bed all day. If it’s in the living room or dining room, maybe you find a beautiful box or basket that you can gather your items in each evening and bring them out again the next morning. You want to remember you live here and you don’t need your work computer staring at you all evening. Lastly, to whichever space you choose, add a beautiful candle, a notebook that makes you smile, a print that inspires you, and a carefully chosen and relevant industry book to create a professional, but minimal, space.
Your designs feel earthy and grounded yet modern and sleek—I love the pops of color! Where do you draw inspiration for your projects?
Oh my gosh, everywhere! I love taking walks through my neighborhood and looking at the color palettes of the different houses and how they take a historic style and run with it. I’m constantly saving images off Instagram (of course!) and then revisiting my decor folder to see what themes start to evolve. Thrift stores and antique shops offer endless inspiration. And coffee table books! New York Design at Home is one I turn to again and again. But, at the end of the day, all of my inspiration has to balance with being liveable. I’m not one for overly styled spaces, it needs to be functional.
You work in content for a tech company, have your e-design business, a lifestyle blog that you’re constantly updating with fresh, new content, and you freelance write. Can you walk me through a typical day for you—how on earth do you stay organized and on top of deadlines? Any organizational tools or tips?
I live by my paper planner and a Google Sheets doc with upcoming, in-process, and pending projects. I try to structure my days in the ways my brain seems to function best. That I get up early to work on anything related to my lifestyle blog or newsletter –– the things that require creative thinking but that I can crank out easily and without a brief. Then, from 9 until 6ish, I’m concentrating solely on my day job. I usually try to fit in a 10-minute workout or two at some point to break up the work day and get moving. After I log off from my day job, I get out for a walk for some fresh air, do a barre workout and switch my thinking from day job to freelance. Then, in the evening, after dinner, I tackle any e-design projects or freelance writing assignments. Basically, those times when others might be watching TV, I’m working on projects but I love it!
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received (and if that’s too difficult, the best advice you’ve received lately)?
It’s a work-related nugget of advice that informs the way I write everything, from email to social to web copy: people buy from people.
What’s your favorite book of all time and why?
I actually don’t have one! I read non-fiction books for their functional purpose. I’m always consuming content, always reading –– newspapers, essays, articles, blogs. But I’ll never be a 52 in 52 reader so I don’t really have one favorite book.
What book do you keep going back to, learning or experiencing something new every time you read it?
The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin. This book gave me so much insight into myself (an upholder!) and those around me by helping me learn what makes them tick and giving me a better and more sympathetic understanding. Similarly, the Five Love Languages is an eye-opening book, if you can get past the cheesy cover. On a professional note, Radical Candor can totally change how you relate to your team in the workplace and how you can bring out the best in those around you.
Name a book that’s helped shape your worldview.
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. If you’re a creative, this is a must-read. There’s creativity out there to be found –– if you actively pursue it.
Best recipe you’ve tried recently?
I made the Za’atar Chicken from the Mediterranean Dish but subbed in thighs for chicken breast. So succulent. So GOOD.
Hardest question: What’s your favorite piece of art, ever? (Can be a book, album, song, painting, drawing, sculpture, building…!)
Oh my gosh, you really are coming at me with the hard questions! I’m going to cheat and give you a few across categories. Music: St. Paul and the Broken Bones Half the City Album. Furniture: Saarinen’s Tulip Chairs and Table. And, on a personal level: the wedding portrait I commissioned by a super talented and quirky artist.
What’s your favorite part about being a woman?
Our ability to create meaningful community wherever we are.
My newsletter has an “ETC” section, where I share anything I’ve loved recently that isn’t reading-related. What product, podcast, article of clothing, Airbnb listing, or new restaurant is your go-to “omg, you have to try….” right now?
I wear Mallory Shelter Jewelry’s Half Moon Hoops with everything and you need the Underbares Everyday Bra in your life. Also both of these are small businesses. I recently listened to a podcast where I learned 85% of consumer spending comes from women so before you make any purchase think about that –– your dollar is a vote. Are you standing with the small business or Amazon?
If you were writing a book about your life, what might your 2020 chapter be called?
Frothy Coffee and Failed Vacations
Thank you so much, Heather!
This interview is part of a weekly series that appears in Megan Lierley’s weekly newsletter. Subscribe here!