The art of not listening

Actress and journalist Michelle Meadows on design, the importance of aesthetics, and the noble art of not giving a shit.

In the press, the name Michelle Meadows is frequently preceded by the word “multi-talented”. She has worked for 10 years as a journalist of interior design and architecture, until recently for the magazine Residence. On the side of that she has created a career as an actress, with leading roles in both TV comedies and drama series. A kindred spirit, Michelle seems to care less about the medium at hand and more about the act of creation itself. And she practices yoga. Mostly Vinyasa, since she prefers flow over static asana. She says her practice has taught her to find physical balance, to relax more effectively and to breathe. But that’s not what we’re discussing here. We want to talk about art. About design. About the creative process, and how to make yourself at home.

FS: Can you start by briefly describing your relationship to art?

MM: I have a need, almost like an addiction to create. It’s one of my strongest drives in life and something I have learned to live with. I dabble in photography, design and crafts pretty much on a daily basis and have made my living in film and writing. I am the type of person who would much rather spend her vacation planting a garden, rebuilding a house and crafting recipes from foraged foods than relaxing on a beach or shopping. This creative side of me is very inspired by art.

FS: Why is it so important – the act of creation? What is the drive behind it?

MM: Well, part of is curiosity. You have an idea and you want to see if it would work and what it could look like. I also have an urge to learn how things work. If I see something that inspires me, I immediately want to do something like it myself. There is also an element of stubbornness, I guess …. Like when I renovated my little summer house and wanted to do all of it myself. All the building and painting and gardening. The first two years it looked like a junkyard, and it took ages to get it all done. To the point where I got angry letters from the landlords telling me to get my shit together. Ha ha. But I would just refuse to pay someone else to do it, I really wanted the place to be formed by my hands and my ideas.

FS: Does this mean that you put a lot of your self-worth into your creative efforts? What happens if you fail? Do you ever get creative blocks or anxiety?

MM: I do get blocked in writing. Funnily, since that has been my area of work. Every time we planned for a new edition of Residence I would always start with all the things that have nothing to do with writing itself – collecting images, organizing the layout, answering emails, ha ha. Postponing actually writing the article until the very last minute.

FS: Is there anything else that competes with creativity for importance in your life?

MM: Independence means a lot to me. To be free. Not having anyone else tell you what is right. And being kind to the planet.

FS: Is that your personal life philosophy?

MM: Not per se, but…  I really don’t like wasting. That’s important. Don’t waste resources, don’t waste the planet, same for people and relationships. And don´t waste things. We are the country of H&M and IKEA for good and for bad. These companies have done a lot to democratize fashion and design, but they are also symbols of a society of short-term consumption and constant exchange.

FS: You told me before you are a sentimental person.

MM: Yes, and I think my home reflects that. I love old things with history. The house itself is 140 years old and a lot of the pieces I have collected have been around for at least 60 years, some even 300. The apartment is also decorated with accessories that I have inherited from different relatives and I love how these things remind me of them. The photo on the opposite wall was bought by my mother before I was born for example. I always leave books and letters lying around. Personal things loaded with stories and relationships.

FS: Things – contrary to how we normally think about it – do not have to be considered superficial?

MM: That's right. All my things represent something – this lamp, for example, a 2 meter high white and golden floor lamp in the shape of a palm tree, represents my childhood. For a short while we lived in LA surrounded by palm trees. Some of my friends believe it´s a wacky object, but I don´t care. I don´t follow trends. I don´t buy a piece because there is a gap in a corner I need to fill – I buy things that hit me with an instant sensation – things that appeal to me.

FS: They do not all have to be designed by a famous Danish man?

MM: Exactly. It´s also a practical thing. I have not always been able to afford the classics, but it doesn´t matter. There are always options. Not having the means to go buy a really pricey piece in an auction should not stop you from exploring design. Allow yourself to look in other places. Find cheaper things, but different things that you like and find a value in.

FS: Do people ask you for decorating advice?

MM: Sometimes, yes. But when it happens, I always advise them not to listen to me. I try to tell them to simply buy the things they enjoy; create the mix they like and as far as possible not follow trends. Because that is what will create a space that you yourself feel the most at home in. And that is the point, right? Not to impress others. 

FS: In theory, yes.

MM: When I was a young adult, I had to move from place to place and didn’t have the chance to decorate rooms and spaces. I never felt at home – rather I always felt like I was in transit. This affected me a lot and made me feel unsafe. It made me realize that aesthetics in the context of interior design is important. Therefore, I have dedicated ten years of my life working as a design journalist. In my work, I have had the privilege to visit hundreds of inspiring individuals in their homes and have deepened my understanding for how aesthetics affects people. I’ve found that an interior doesn’t necessarily have to be picturesque, it just has to be you. By surrounding yourself with things you love you will feel at home.