Specialties: Interior design, decorating, hosting, and writing.
Notable Projects: The Bee Cottage Story: How I Made a Muddle of Things and Decorated My Way Back to Happiness (Skyhorse Publishing, 2015). Television host of Southern Living Presents.
In a crowded market of good decorating books, Frances Schultz’s title has resonated with readers for combining a dismal but humorous personal memoir with practical interior design tips.
“The first sentence of my story, I’m sorry to say, ends with a heartbreak,” says Schultz, author of The Bee Cottage Story, a book based on her popular House Beautiful magazine series on the makeover of her cottage in Bridgehampton, New York.
“Decorating and renovating the house became a metaphor for renovating life — my head and my heart,” she says of her publication, which details her life after a broken engagement with her fiancé. “What I experienced is something that I think many women have experienced in some form or another.”
The popularity of the book may also rest in the accessible design concepts — largely based on color choices, furniture arrangement, and smaller details. “Decorating is kind of like good manners,” says Schultz. “It’s all really based in common sense, not attempts to intimidate.”
Schultz grew up in North Carolina with a tasteful mother who shared many of her Southern customs and design aesthetic with her daughter. Schultz later brought her flair for Southern hospitality to New York City, where she branched out her established journalism career to serve as the editor at large of Veranda, and later spent six years hosting the cable television show Southern Living Presents.
Schultz now brings her design sense to California’s cottage gardens and bungalows from her new home in the Santa Ynez Valley. “There are definitely concepts that apply everywhere,” she says of translating the book’s advice to work for Santa Barbara’s architectural styles.
Schultz’s primary advice is to first think of the way you live in each space. “If you don’t have a really clear design sense and vision, move in and just kind of put things in the middle of the room, and let them find their places,” she says.
Schultz says that light and space play a big part in choosing color and décor and that sometimes it just takes a little practice to get it right. “I have stayed up by myself with a glass of wine and pushed every piece of furniture around for the third time in five years,” she says of decorating her spacious living room. “I just could not get it right. And I know what I’m doing!”
Schultz is busy speaking and traveling to promote her book, which is in its sixth edition, but her dream project would be to collaborate on a line of housewares, accessories, and small furnishings. “It would center on your grand English aunt meets your eccentric Southern cousin kind of thing,” she says.
Schultz has traveled widely in Europe and has a special connection to the aesthetics of English and French gardens and country homes. “They are never quite perfect; they are a little messed up, a little frayed,” she says. “I like that. It shows that there’s some living going on and that comfort and functionality is just as important as appearance.”