They say the world works in mysterious ways. As soon as Hayley and I quit our full-time jobs so many ambitous, creative, and supportive people jumped up to share their experiences with us. Matt Jernigan (pictured above right), the Vice President of Creative at Pottery Barn is one such rockstar who has been an amazing source of West Coast insight and professional inspiration. Matt plays an active role in setting the vision for the catalogs and brand presentation at Pottery Barn. With a contagious positivity and sense of adventure, Matt shares his tips for how he created his dream life, finding inspiration, a love of lobster, the next part of the world he hopes to explore, and so much more in the interview below.
Pottery Barn, as we all know, is an industry leader and authority on everything home and design since 1949. The brand continually brings the best design and new, exciting products to consumers while building a strengthened commitment to our planet and engaging with both their online and in-store communities. I personally love the new initiatives the company has taken to improve their sustainability practices with the catalog and products like collaborating with the Forest Stewardship Coalition and using recycled materials across product lines.
Take a page from Matt’s book and keep smiling (and keep reading)! Blair
SS+C: When you were younger what did you want to be when you grew up?
MJ: Funny – when I was younger, it was less about “what” I wanted to be and more about “how” I wanted to live. I had this clear vision of being this young, successful professional, living in a city and traveling the corners of the globe. I had a chic apartment and lots of interesting friends. How funny that I felt this way from about age 10 on. Then the actual career path was very meandering. It was “how do I create this life?” First it was pre-med, then pre-law, and finally – at the urging of my parents – a career in the graphic arts. They knew me better than I knew myself. My eye for beauty and for an aesthetically pleasing life can be made into a career! From there it was a lot of hard work until I landed at Pottery Barn and worked up from the very bottom.
SS+C: How would you describe your style- fashion and otherwise?
MJ: My style is simple, but not boring. Classic, but with a fresh twist. Fashion-wise it’s a mix of European minimal-chic, with a dose of Americana preppy and a side of California slacker. I wear of lot of solid navy, black, white, gray. I do like the occasional pop of color. My favorite item is a vintage 1957 Rolex I splurged on at an antique & jewelry show in NYC recently. Super classic, and not crazy expensive. That and my parents recently surprised me with an Hermes belt for my birthday. I like a subtle hint to fine things, but I don’t usually rock big logos (kind of tacky in my opinion) and I love to mix something inexpensive, like from H&M or Uniqlo with something designer or uniquely hand made or one of a kind. I try to look casually put-together, but that I didn’t try too hard.
As far as architecture and interiors go – I love simplicity – my home in Sonoma county is almost entirely neutral. After a busy week working on all four seasons of a Pottery Barn catalog, my eyes are tired from all the color and pattern. I like to give them a rest with whites/grays/blacks/camels but still get interest from the materials – rustic wood, glass, faux fur, chrome, all white bedding, etc. We recently painted the exteriors 100% low-sheen black. No contrast trim. So stunning against the green backdrop of the forest.
SS+C: What were/are the most important elements to you when you set up your creative environment?
MJ: Great light, fresh air, lots of table space, and fast internet are the essentials. Then give me a stock pile of black foam core boards and an infinite supply of t-pins. I often joke that the title of my autobiography will be “My Life with T-pins.” I love to make a great inspiration board. I don’t think I can ever take that process completely electronic – even though I love Pinterest and use it obsessively
SS+C: How do you gather and process inspiration? How do you stay inspired?
MJ: Pinterest, foreign shelter magazines like Vogue Living Australia, LivingEtc, Elle Decoration UK, marie claire maison – magazines go in and out of print, but those have been favorites. I also firmly believe in taking inspiration directly from life – which is why I try to balance a healthy and fun personal life with work life. Dinner parties, travel, friends’ homes, restaurants – often real life provides the best new ideas.
SS+C: How long have you been visiting Maine and/or what is your favorite thing to do in Maine?
MJ: I have been visiting Maine for the last three years, after my best friend begged me for years to visit her family’s seaside home in Cape Elizabeth – near Portland. My favorite things to do in Maine are: eat lobster (the Beal’s lobster rolls for $8 can’t be beat!!), relax on the screened porch with a book or magazine and a cup of coffee or cocktail, visit a beach, plunge off the rocks in the cove into the icy waters, explore the great restaurants/cafes/bars/shops of Portland, take long walks, and eat more lobster – l didn’t grow up with classic lobster boils and they are such a blast.
SS+C: How has your style and/or aesthetic changed since you first started working?
MJ: Honestly, what appeals to my eye has not changed vastly in 11 years, but my knowledge has expanded and my ability to discern more subtle nuances in styling, the lighting of a shot, the photographer’s lens, etc. has been more finely honed. I love graphic rooms with contrast, soft materials paired against hard, shiny surfaces paired with rough – and minimal use of accent objects.
SS+C: What is the best piece of business/life advice you’ve ever received? … and would give?
MJ: Listen. Listen. Listen. Talk less. Be the positive change or force around you. Don’t assume what other peoples’ intentions are, you are often wrong. Be confident in yourself. Take the time to recharge your batteries. Exercise. Meditate. Give thanks.
SS+C: What has been your proudest moment since working at Pottery Barn?
MJ: My proudest moments are always after a good film review – where we present photography for a catalog season to our executives. You are only as good as your last film review! So, a few of those moments. Also, being part of a wonderful team that helped to reinvigorate our PB teen brand during a difficult time. Lastly, when I was promoted to VP.
SS+C: What has been the biggest surprise since starting your career?
MJ: That sometimes just showing up with a smile on face year after year is half the battle.
SS+C: What has been your favorite adventure to date? If you could go anywhere tomorrow, where would you want to travel?
MJ: Just got back from Greece and Turkey. MUST. GO. BACK. I’m hoping to get to Japan next.
SS+C: As a tastemaker, what brands (home, design, fashion, or other) do you seek out?
MJ: Pottery Barn, Ralph Lauren Home, West Elm, Williams-Sonoma Home, Hermés, John Varvatos, Burberry, Billy Reid, Ted Baker, Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo, Gucci, Audi, Volvo, Apple, Nike, Levis, North Face, Shiseido, Tom’s of Maine, Whole Foods, J. Crew.
SS+C: What are a few quick style fixes anybody can use to breathe new life into their home?
MJ: Well, everyone knows – PAINT. Then do a quick edit (or major purge) to reduce clutter. Light some candles or votives for easy evening mood. If you want to spend more money – change your pillows, rugs and art. Make a creative centerpiece on your dining table with objects and natural elements you love. Throw a dramatic branch from your yard in a big vase and liven up a corner of your living room.
SS+C: Is there anything else you would like to share about leading the life of a creative? Greatest challenges and/or rewards? Any lessons or tips for others building a creative profession?
MJ: Don’t take feedback too personally. Make sure YOU love it, and then let it go when others do not. Be the most positive person in the room, and make it infectious.