Arren Williams is the name, and I'm a stylist, editor and trend reporter. You'll catch my work regularly popping up in print in the likes of the National Post, House & Home and elsewhere. I'm also a guest expert on Citytv's CityLine, and you can occasionally find me on HGTV as well as on ABC 7 News in Chicago.

To keep things fun I've tapped a couple of friends - Julia Black and Jenn Hannotte - to contribute their views on design too. Enjoy!


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5 quick questions: Alex Bates

I was lucky enough to have a fascinating chat with Alex Bates, West Elm's creative director, back when West Elm opened up in Liberty Village in October of last year. She was just back from a whistle-stop tour of incredibly inspiring places and was starting to plan the next collections for the affordably on-trend brand (which also happens to be one of my fave places to shop). To continue that conversation I recently asked Alex if she wouldn't mind answering a couple of questions on her personal style and she happily obliged. And, from the sound of it, she's also racking up more Air Miles as we speak.

Below you'll find a couple of snaps of recent West Elm intros - The Beanstalk bed linens, Beach Glass vases and Twist melamine dishware. Click here to check out more 5 Quick Questions interviews.

Arren Williams: What's inspiring you now?

Alex Bates: All things Calder. His recent show at the Whitney blew me away. The installation of his wire face sculptures was a stroke of genius. I also loved the Met’s exhibition of his jewelry – crazy and elegant. I’m loving simple wire and pencil sketches in general; especially Martin Ramirez’s black and white sketches at the American Folk Art Museum.

AW: What's the next thing you have your eye on for your own house?

AB: I am fixated with all shades of grey, still. You can see it manifested in our summer collection at West Elm. I’m dying to paint my front hall. I think it would be very cozy and create a great background for my art. There is also a pair of vintage Cherner Chairs I want. I know they would look like pieces of sculpture against the gray.

AW: How would you describe your current style, and how has it changed over the years?

AB: My house is more about collecting that decoration. It’s very laid back and comfortable with worn family antiques mixed with modern – and of course a lot of West Elm. It’s a hodge podge of things I absolutely couldn’t live without from years of traveling. Every wall is covered in paintings and tons of books. I am officially out of wall space and have stacks of paintings and books growing in the corners. I’m trying to pare back and I fantasize about a certain Piet Boon house – spare but cozy. I know my little bits would start to slowly creep back in.

AW: Is there anything that can drive you crazy when you walk into a room?

AB: Bad art. Fake flowers. “I Married Adventure” by Osa Johnson.

AW: What's next?

AB: Spring is a busy time for us. We just opened out our new West Elm store at Broadway and 62nd in New York with an amazing opening party and a fun collaboration with David Stark. We’re finishing up our spring 2010 collection and trying to continue to be as green as we can in our processes, materials, and finished products. Next we're off to Italy for the Milan furniture show and then India. We have started some great new partnerships, working with Craftmark and Aid to Artisans in India, and I’m excited to explore new ideas with them.


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