Today’s interview is with a friend and great inspiration, Paloma Contreras of the blog La Dolce Vita. Paloma is an incredibly talented woman and a great expert on a topic that I am particularly delinquent on – home, decor and design. I started blogging in March of last year, and Paloma was one of the first bloggers that I remember that was truly just nice to me. She has such a hectic schedule (as you will see) and a hugely popular blog – yet she took some time out to provide support and offer advice. Truly one of the kindest and most talented bloggers out there, and her career path was amazing to hear about (as you’ll see!). Well enough of my gushing for now – enjoy meeting Paloma!
First things first: who are you? What do you do, and where do you live?
My name is Paloma Contreras, and for the past four and a half years, I have written a style blog, La Dolce Vita, which is rooted in interior design, fashion, travel, and all around glamorous things. For my day job, I work as Director of Marketing for Visual Comfort & Co., a high-end decorative lighting manufacturer with collections by Ralph Lauren, Thomas O’Brien, Barbara Barry, and Suzanne Kasler among others. I’m from Houston, Texas.
I know that you’ve had a very interesting path – you used to be a Spanish teacher! Can you speak a little more from where you started and how you’ve ended up where you are now?
I graduated with a degree in Spanish and Italian Studies. At the time, I wanted to go into teaching, so I was a high school Spanish teacher for nearly five years. By my last year of teaching, I’d gotten worn down by the beauracracy of it all and my creative spirit really began to feel stifled. I struggled with my decision to leave teaching, but I’ve never looked back! I founded La Dolce Vita during my last year as a teacher and loved that it fed me so much creatively. My blog was a year old at the time that I decided to leave teaching and was gaining traction with readers. When I initially left teaching, I decided to explore real estate as it’s always been something I’ve been passionate about. Talk about terrible timing!
The market crashed soon after and I didn’t really enjoy the business as I thought I would. Long story short, my blog afforded me the freedom and opportunity to explore other options such as freelance writing and consulting. Fast Forward to August of 2010, when I decided to start High Gloss, a digital style magazine. Unfortunately, we had to shutter High Gloss after one short year, but it was such a rewarding experience. It gave me an entirely new set of skills that I didn’t have before and led to a story on digital magazines in the New York Times. I don’t think I would have ever made it into the Times as a Texas-based teacher! The moral of the story is that I’ve always been in tune with my inner voice and have allowed myself to take risks, trusting that I would eventually land where I was meant to be. None of this would have been possible without the fact that I have a husband who supports and encourages me no matter what.
A favorite spread of mine from High Gloss
You started an online magazine – High Gloss. What were some of the most amazing, awesome surprises you found in doing this endeavor?
I discovered how much I love styling, creative direction, and editing in general. I was most amazed by how wonderful and generous some people can be with their talents. We had a few industry icons, like photographer, Grey Crawford, who served as unofficial mentors to us. I learned everything I know about how a photo shoot works from Grey. We were incredibly fortunate to work with extremely talented and kind people.
What about some of the largest challenges of starting a huge project like this?
There are always a million projects to manage at once, different opinions and personalities to balance, and the business side of a magazine is extremely challenging. We always had plenty of ideas for content and the editorial side of things, but making the business itself work was a much greater challenge.
Paloma’s home featured in Southern Flourish magazine
Okay! Now onto decor and home. What is the favorite room in your house and why?
I love my bedroom right now. We recently got Serena and Lily’s Pondicherry Headboard with Nailhead Trim. I love the glamorous lines and the drama that it adds to the room. My parents gave me an original Parsons console table that they had from the 1960s. My husband sanded it down and painted it in a gorgeous Peacock Blue shade in a high gloss finish. The table now resides in our room. I am just waiting to find the perfect, large-scale starburst mirror to hang above it.
What are some of your favorite decor items you own? What pieces would you say are good to invest in?
I have stacks and stacks of design, fashion, and travel books. I love them all and feel that they are a pretty accurate representation of our interests. One of the perks of working for Visual Comfort is that we have lots of beautiful lighting in our home. You can’t forget the lighting! It’s the jewelry of the home and finishes the “outfit”, if you will. We also have a Hollywood Regency piece in our foyer that I use for storage. I love the bamboo detail. It’s essential to mix new pieces with vintage or antique items, so when you can invest in some stand-out, statement-making antique or vintage items. The mix really gives a home character.
Snapshots of the Sikes/Griffin home from House Beautiful
If you had to choose one house which overall you love the most for its decor aesthetic – what would it be?
I am currently OBSESSED with the gorgeous West Hollywood home of Mark D. Sikes and Michael Griffin that appears on the cover of the December/January 2012 issue of House Beautiful. It is insanely chic, while being completely inviting. It’s the epitome of “young traditional”– traditional elements mixed with a few modern items and a touch of glamour. I love many different styles and spaces and my answer to this question might change from day to day, but this is the kind of house that I could move into and not change a thing.
Are there any “no nos and rules” in decor like there are in fashion? Are they broken a lot?
Yes, there are, but my biggest rule is to do what you love. If you absolutely love something, even if people deem it too trendy or too anything, get it. You’re the one that has to live with it! You never want all of your furniture to match, though. Matching sets are a big no-no! Mix and layer!
Paloma and designer Jamie Drake
You are a very successful blogger. What have been some of the “highlights” and greatest achievements for you and La Dolce Vita? Do you have any tips to share?
Thank you! That is so sweet. My blog has given me so many opportunities from freelance writing gigs and High Gloss to fun trips to places like Los Angeles, Palm Beach, and Deer Valley, Utah. The work I’ve done through my blog was a major factor in being offered my current job, so there is definite value in having what could be considered a living, pseudo portfolio of sorts out there that enables people to get to know you and your skills and strengths.
I’ve received some press that has made me pinch myself, such as mentions in the New York Times, The Washington Post, and New York Magazine. The most rewarding thing has been the fact that my blog has allowed me to connect with so many likeminded individuals. I love going to events and mingling with people who can get just as excited about things like fabric and lighting as I can! Above all else, my blog has given me the chance to really get in tune with the things that I am most passionate about in life and I’ve had a platform to share all of that. It’s given me the confidence to take risks and the courage to do what I love.
What’s a typical day to day outfit for you ? What about a night one?
We have a pretty casual office and I work in the design industry, so I am lucky that I don’t have to wear formal business attire everyday. Now that it’s winter, my typical “uniform” is black skinny trousers, a long sleeve black tee, and some sort of sweater over it paired with my black Tory Burch Selma Riding Boots (obsessed!) and fun jewelry. Today, I’m wearing black skinnies, a black silk blouse, leopard print fur vest by Adriene Landau, and my black Tory boots paired with a big gold watch, a gold tassel necklace, thin gold hoop earrings, and a fun cocktail ring. For evening events, I’ll usually pair a little black dress with some great jewelry.
What are some of your other passions and hobbies?
Nothing in this world is more thrilling or inspiring to me than travel. It sounds cheesy, but I really feel that it feeds my soul. My husband and I just got back from a trip to Spain a couple of weeks ago. I absolutely love Spain and am actually quite passionate about the culture and the Barcelona soccer team! I also love foreign languages and have studied French, Italian, and Spanish.
Finally – tell us something surprising about yourself.
Hmm, let’s see. People typically describe me as “sweet”, “reserved”, or “composed”, so they’d probably be surprised to know that I am actually pretty funny and have a quick-witted, dry sense of humor. I also know the words to most gangster rap songs from the mid 1990s.Don’t we all?? Great to hear Paloma’s fun fact especially since I found myself explaining who Coolio was to a sneering high schooler the other day. Thank you so much Paloma for taking the time to share your thoughts and experiences during this interview. For more of Paloma and La Dolce Vita, go here.