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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Entries in Alex Bates (3)


Spring forward with West Elm

Before the Hols I got to meet up with the always inspiring Alex Bates, West Elm's creative director, to get the lowdown on what was happening at WE for Spring, and what we can look forward to for - dare I say it - Summer!

Alex's current influences centre on both the art world and artistic expession - Art Basel in Miami and the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo - as well as architecture and the move towards greener materials, and then travel, she absolutely LOVES the Jaipur region in India. In store, terrariums and indoor gardening is big news at West Elm this coming season since they are, as Alex explains, healthy, wonderful and calming and we should all be living with plants (and the collection designed by stylist Shane Powers is gorgeous). There'll be more antique influences, like in the rather swank Modern Windsor Chaise (here) and the Scroll Headboard below, which takes a trad form and re-interprets it so it can be layered into an interior to give it what Alex would descibe as soul - it really is all about the mix this year at WE, and how you personally interpret their pieces.

One of Alex's most fave pieces from the new line is the artist designed rug collection, expecially John-Paul Phillippé Art Rug, a fantastic modern design which is woven using natural un-dyed wool (it's lovely enough to hang on the wall). Tabletop steps it up too, as does a whole new look at bath, which encompasses three different looks that you'll see hinted at throughout the store - Swedish, Globalist and Naturalist - and then for Summer keep an eye out for WE to move into the kitchen and really get into cooking and entertaining in a big way, as welll as intro-ing the first David Starck Summer collection. Phew!

From the top - Here's one of the Shane Powers layered indoor garden pieces. Next is the Scroll Headboard, as well as some lovely block printed bedding. Then there's the John-Paul Phillippé Art Rug, see what I mean about hanging it on the wall? LOVE this mixed-up tabletop shot. And finally, here's a bathroom to definitely get stylishly wet in...


{giving it} Owl table lamp

{giving it} is all about my take on what makes a good gift. I spotted this little chap in West Elm the other day while I was checking in with Alex Bates, West Elm's creative director, hearing all about what'll be in store for Spring and Summer (believe me it's lovely, keep an eye out for more on that front soon). Anyway, back to the Owl table lamp - I think it's super-duper cute and would look completely charming just about anywhere. And I don't know whether I really have to say this, but almost anyone I know would love to get a table lamp for a prezzie.


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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