Tastemaker Tuesday – Zoe Gowen

We’re back with another fun Tastemaker feature, and this time around, we’re featuring a shelter publication and design industry maven – Zoë Gowen! She’s a true gem of a person, and someone Steve has known since his Larson-Juhl days. We appreciate her love of art and strong Southern vernacular. We think you’ll enjoy getting to know Zoë and her take on interior design…

Zoë Gowen

As Southern Living’s Senior Homes Editor, Zoë Gowen canvases the South looking for the best in decorating and inspiration for the magazine’s 16 million readers. She has helped to launch the careers of designers, stylists, architects, and other rising creative talents in the world of design and architecture. Before joining Southern Living, she worked at an art gallery in Washington, D.C., specializing in museum-quality, nineteenth- and twentieth-century art. A graduate of Sewanee: University of the South, she majored in American Studies with a focus in Southern Culture and Art History.

1. Three words that describe your aesthetic?

Bright, relaxed, classic

janet gregg living-room2-xl
Design by Janet Gregg

2. Would you please share a little about your favorite space?

Growing up, you’d always find me sprawled out reading in the living room. It sat in the front of the house with a lot of windows on one side and had two big arched openings to the dining room and the hallway on two  other sides, but not many people would go in there. It was the perfect place to be close to the action, but not overwhelmed by it (there were always a lot of people and a lot of activity in my house). Thinking about it now and picturing my current house, you can easily see bits my old favorite room’s cantaloupe colored walls and the chintz covered sofa.

Design by Richard Norris courtesy of HouseBeautiful
Design by Richard Norris courtesy of HouseBeautiful

3. What’s the source(s) of your inspiration?

I’d honestly say that I get a lot of interiors inspiration from reading magazines both new ones and the one-zillion that I own. My friends and co-workers are an interactive source of inspiration. They never fail to encourage (or sometimes discourage) me from executing whatever crazy idea I’m pondering. Lastly, I can’t understate how many ideas I get just from people watching. I actually look forward to airport layovers. There are so many people from all walks of life to observe!

dinner guests

4. Name three people (alive or dead) you’d invite to your dream dinner party…

Oh wow! This is a fun question. I could take this in a lot of different directions. First off, apologies to all of my deceased family members who are reading this! You know I’d prefer to catch up with you all. For mass reader appeal though, I’ll limit my dream dinner party guests to famous dead Southerners since I work for Southern Living.

Thomas Jefferson – I’m a big history and architecture nerd, so I’d really like to ask him about his design decisions in the 18th century. Without him, would our government buildings all look like Colonial Williamsburg?

Flannery O’Connor – Is there anyone with a drier sense of humor? She could also give me some writing tips.

Elvis – He’d have to wear his white Vegas jumpsuit. I’m from Memphis and a big fan of his and Graceland. Ideally, this dinner party would take place in the clouds inside the Lisa Marie, but we wouldn’t eat peanut butter and banana sandwiches (yick). Instead, we’d have my favorite foods: chicken salad, shrimp remoulade, watermelon, and chocolate chip cookies.

Design by Celerie Kemble; Photo by Laurey W. Glenn courtesy of SouthernLiving.com
Design by Celerie Kemble; Photo by Laurey W. Glenn courtesy of SouthernLiving.com

5. A piece of/type of furniture you couldn’t live without?

A sofa. It really is where I spend the most time when I’m home. I believe whole-heartedly that a sofa should be both comfortable and pretty. Yes — it’s possible! I just got back from High Point Market and I’m finally going to pull the trigger on a very chic sectional. I’m debating between a floral pattern, a stripe, or a solid coral with trim. Please advise on your thoughts in the comments below.

Design by Ada Saul; Photo by Laurey W. Glenn courtesy of SouthernLiving.com

6. Do you recommend people follow a particular set of rules when mixing textures, finishes, etc.?

I think the only “real rule” is balance: offset pattern with some whitespace to prevent visual chaos, mix in modern pieces with a trove of antiques to keep your house from feeling like a museum, and so on.

Design by Ruthie Sommers

7. Trending… What is something you are currently “into” and something you are “over?”

I hate to preach, but decorating is too expensive to follow trends. You should really figure out what you love and buy from there. Of course, I do fall into trend traps though. Right now, I’m obsessing over daybeds and painted faux-finishes like stries and tortoise. Bold geometric patterns and bright lacquers are on my back burner.

Courtesy of Barton Perrira
Courtesy of Barton Perrira

8. What would be the one thing you would have if you were stranded on a deserted island?

My eyeglasses. I wouldn’t be able to see anything without them and they could also help me start a fire.

Design by Richard Norris courtesy of HouseBeautiful
Design by Richard Norris courtesy of HouseBeautiful

9. Please share a piece of advice you’d offer to someone looking to break into the interior design industry.

Keep your eyes and ears open to everything. The more you see the better for you to develop your eye. When it comes to getting a job, approach the best people. Once you’re there, make yourself indispensable to ensure you stay there.

That last tidbit is smart – become indispensable. Right on! Oh, and we love Zoë’s dream dinner party foods… Bring on the shrimp remoulade and watermelon!

Thank you, thank you to Zoë for allowing this glimpse into her design-centric mind from the perspective of a magazine editor. And a very happy Tastemaker Tuesday to all!

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