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Heather McKeown of Land and Sky Designs: 5 Things You Can Do To Help Your Living Space Spark More Joy

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

BRING NATURE IN. Almost nothing makes me happier than being outdoors! It may seem highly intuitive but more and more we are finding that including elements of biophilic design in the home can have a multitude of psychological and physical benefits. I recommend going for the real thing and bringing one or more large trees into your living space; the bigger the better! It will provide a visual connection to nature as well as supplying vital oxygen that will filter your air. If keeping plants alive is a challenge for you, try using an essential oil diffuser so you can experience the healing aromatherapy of plants without the responsibility.

As part of my series on the “5 Things You Can Do To Help Your Living Space Spark More Joy”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Heather McKeown, Founder, Land and Sky Designs.

Urbane yet understated, comforting yet contemporary, Heather’s designs are a reflection of her own life experiences and inspirations. Almost a decade in high fashion taught her the importance of narratives, even in a focused brand setting. Along the way she worked for Burberry, Tory Burch, and Haute Hippie, among others, as both a stylist and a designer. Experiencing the allure of far off travels, and the organic forms and functions of nature are a major influence on her design philosophy.

Her love of family and everyday experience led her to interior design. Growing up on construction sites, she watched as her father, an architect and builder, brought his own visions to life. This instilled an innate desire to create environments that delighted. She founded Land and Sky Designs as a way of weaving together her passions for life and style with the wants and needs of her clients.

Thank you so much for joining us in this series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

The story of what brought me into this business is a long one — life-long, you could say!

As a child, I witnessed my father, an architect and builder, bring his own visions to life. He and my mother loved to talk about design at home, and watching them create together was, and still is, a truly beautiful dance between them. I was steeped in discussions about construction projects but I do not think I consciously realized that interior design was something I could do as a profession. A designer at heart, I worked happily in the high fashion world for over a decade until one day, I was sitting in the living room at my Hawaiian bungalow and realized that I was decorating three of my friends homes at the same time! Just for fun! I had a moment of clarity that perhaps my passions had shifted and it was time to go down a new path. I made a plan to move back to the mainland and attend design school and that is exactly what I did. The rest is history!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

Actually something interesting just happened today, caused by the catastrophic flooding in our area. We are working on the renovation of a 5,000 square foot retail space that sits mid-way up a very steep road. This morning, the owner called me to say that two homes had slid into the roof, causing part of it to collapse! Tragic! Luckily, no one was hurt. Fortunately, we had not yet not begun the construction phase of the project but this is a reminder that every project has a human element and will always have its challenges.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Yes! I made such a silly mistake for a client that I still kick myself over it today!

I accidentally ordered bar-height stools instead of counter stools for a client’s kitchen island. When installation day came, and the delivery guys propped these extra tall chairs up to the counter, I was mortified! Not only was it such an obvious mistake, but I knew that the lead time for new counter-height stools would be six weeks, at minimum. Thinking on my feet, I immediately called my father who lived an hour away, and asked if he could cut them down and level them. I fessed up to the client right away but told them I had a solution I hoped would work. I felt like I was quoting The Grinch who stole little Cindy Lou-Who’s Christmas decorations, “You see dear, I am going to take these back to my workshop. I will fix them up there, and bring them back here.”

Luckily, my dad and brother are master craftsmen and did a fantastic job cutting down, sanding, and leveling 24 legs in record time. I learned my lesson though: do not double check orders — TRIPLE CHECK them because simple mistakes are costly and embarrassing!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

We are super excited to be working on some very cool projects at the moment. We are especially thrilled to be transforming a century-old property in the Hudson Valley into a boutique hotel and event space. We want to keep as much of the integrity of the building as we can while allowing for ADA accessibility. Most people don’t know this, but the Barnum and Bailey Circus had its roots in the Hudson Valley, so we will be incorporating some little surprises that harken back to this era in American history.

We are also working on designing a kitchen, bath, and tile showroom for one of our favorite vendors. We have worked with them for years and have a lot of fun together, so we were honored that they chose us to redesign their expanding marketplace. We are highlighting a fresh look to enhance individual and unique displays in the space, while allowing for a streamlined overall aesthetic. We want clients and contractors alike to be able to easily interact with products, so we have planned for an experiential design/playroom in which customers can make style and budget decisions in a more intelligent and comfortable fashion.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

I believe that we have the power to create our reality. If ever something is not going my way, this saying reminds me that it’s on me to make it better.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I am eternally grateful to my father for exposing me to architecture and design, and for encouraging me to own my own business.

When I was a child, my father started his professional life working at an insurance company, but he would build homes on the weekends and off time. I could sense that his day job was not his calling, but with four kids, it supported our family’s needs. I remember one day he came home from work extra happy (of note, he is a genuinely ultra happy man all around). He looked at my mom and asked, “Did you see what is in the car?!” He was so excited, I thought he was about to tell us all we were going to Disney World! Not quite. What was in the car was a box of personal effects from his desk because he had just been let go in a round of lay-offs. Unexpectedly, it was the opposite of a sad moment. My little brothers and I fed off his enthusiasm and we danced around in circles, jumping for joy. It was the opportunity he needed to start his business full-time which led to him being more successful than ever. I, therefore, from a young age, looked at being a business owner as something exciting and freeing rather than something daunting or scary. This instilled in me the confidence to believe in myself and totally go for it!

What are your “5 Things You Can Do To Help Your Living Space Spark More Joy” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH SOUND. As Missy Elliott says, “music makes you lose control” and where else better to do that than in the safety of your own home?! Try placing Bluetooth speakers in many of your rooms so you can enjoy the enchanting sounds of your favorite jams, audio books, or whale songs. This will renew your energy and perhaps even get you shaking those hips.
  2. BRING NATURE IN. Almost nothing makes me happier than being outdoors! It may seem highly intuitive but more and more we are finding that including elements of biophilic design in the home can have a multitude of psychological and physical benefits. I recommend going for the real thing and bringing one or more large trees into your living space; the bigger the better! It will provide a visual connection to nature as well as supplying vital oxygen that will filter your air. If keeping plants alive is a challenge for you, try using an essential oil diffuser so you can experience the healing aromatherapy of plants without the responsibility.
  3. MAGIC CORNER. Visualize a spot to create ‘your kind of magic’. Think of an activity that you enjoy doing but do not currently have an allotted space for. Perhaps it is a dedicated yoga/meditation area, or a spot to write thank you letters or journal. Whatever it is, carve out a beautiful zone for that purpose with everything you would need to complete that activity. Feeling supported will encourage you to use this space more.
  4. ADDRESS THAT MESS. De-cluttering is so important! I cannot stress this enough. Studies have proven that clutter often leads to increased anxiety and a negative mindset. Make it a priority to keep your home organized and free from clutter. Start by editing out and letting go of belongings that do not spark joy. Then make sure everything has a dedicated home so that tidying is much simpler and easier to keep up with.
  5. LAYER YOUR LIGHTING. There is a beautiful alchemy that is created when light is layered and integrated seamlessly into a space. I always recommend adding dimmers wherever possible, and having lights at different heights to add interest and encourage your eye to dance around the room. Be mindful of the color temperature of your lighting so that there is a consistency of tone in the bulbs. Cool lighting has a bluish tint and can feel sterile and uninviting. I recommend always using warm colored bulbs which give off a slight amber tint, encouraging a more relaxed environment. Another benefit of great lighting is that it will make your skin appear more luminous. Talk about sparking joy! Who couldn’t use a little more glow?!

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I would love to start a Johnny Appleseed movement to get people from all over to start planting and cultivating fruit trees in public spaces and along foot trafficked areas. I imagine people dropping fruit seeds from crop dusters to cover as much square footage as possible. Picture it like a guerrilla marketing campaign, but with planting and watering! It would serve to add more oxygen and bee pollination to our fragile ecosystem while also providing free, delicious treats to passersby and the hungry.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

The Dalai Lama. I am in awe of his grace, intelligence and mindfulness.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Check us out on instagram! @Landandskyid

Or visit us on the web: Landandskydesigns.com

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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