Almost a year ago we introduced you to Ann Ueno as part of our Holiday Style Spotlights. At the time we knew Ann as the blogger behind the sweet site, Ann Written Notes. Today, we’re so excited to introduce you to Ann’s amazing new site- House & Host! While working full time as a Director of Marketing for Starwood Hotels, Ann found herself wanting to further explore and express her interest in interior design, and thus House & Host was born! It’s quickly become one of our favorite sites, as we love Ann’s inspirational, yet honest, take on love, life, and entertaining. Oh, and did we can’t get enough of her eclectic style and amazing taste? In conjunction with the recent launch of her new site, Ann was kind enough to share her incredible Chicago home with us, and tell us a bit more about her exciting new venture!
What sparked your interest in design?
My interest was sparked when I was around 6 or 7 years old. My mom was always decorating our house and rearranging furniture and I loved it! Every couple of years she would let me redesign my bedroom and we would pick out new paint, bedding and accents. I lived for that project and the feeling of preparing, being creative, doing the work and then getting to appreciate the end result was something I was very attracted to.
What was your approach in decorating your home?
Global and personal. I want my home to be a reflection of who I am, who my husband and I are. Our home is a collection of books, artwork, accessories, photography and furniture that all tell a story. My vertical wall gallery in our living room is five photos from France that I took. Our dining table is an over-sized farmhouse table from Restoration Hardware as we LOVE to host and have people enjoying food and wine in our home. An elephant from New Delhi, India. Milk glass lamps from my grandmother. Reupholstered chairs with Caitlin Wilson textile. There is always a story!
What was the biggest challenge you faced in decorating your home?
We have an open living and dining area that was very tough to figure out! We were in our house for at least a year before I finally figured out what to do! The problem was what I needed to do was going to cost money. So, the slow process of updating, buying and rearranging happened and now we are set. Um, well, for the time being.
How will House & Host differ from Ann Written Notes?
House & Host is more focused on interior design, travel and hospitality. Yes, you will definitely hear some personal stories from me still. But I created House & Host to be more niche, more specific, more aligned with my passion points in life.
What’s your favorite spot in your home?
The dining table. Eating Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon. Drinking a fabulous red wine from Chianti (from our trip this summer!). With Rick and 4-5 friends. A few candles. Lights dimmed. Laughter in the air. That is my favorite spot for sure!
What is your favorite spot to shop for decor?
Honestly, I don’t have just one favorite spot. I love getting used coffee table books from Amazon. High quality furniture from Restoration Hardware. Vintage accent pieces from flea markets and antique stores. Chic staples from Z Gallerie. Frames from Pottery Barn or West Elm. And tons and tons of art and accessories from the streets of the world during our travels!
Do you have a favorite DIY project you’ve completed in your home?
I am not a DIYer in general. But, if I had to say, and if this counts, all of my wall galleries! I am OBSESSED with wall galleries and all of those are Ann-made, Ann-created.
You love to entertain. What’s the best party you’ve thrown?
The best party I have thrown are the intimate ones. The ones with a few close friends or family members. Nothing fancy. A few simple touches (like Moscow Mules to start and a great playlist on Pandora played on my Jam Box), good food and wine and most importantly, authentic, real conversations. Those are always the best parties.
Any foolproof tips for entertaining at home?
Plan ahead. I get this question a lot and the reality is you have to plan ahead. It takes the stress down exponentially the day of the dinner or the party. Get your meal plan and grocery list set 4-5 days prior. Clean the day before (and don’t stress about the cleaning! You are just going to mess it up anyways!). Buy fresh flowers the day before. Set the table the morning of. Light the candles two hours before guests arrive. Just don’t try to get it all done the day of! You want to enjoy yourself and for me, I know it’s hard to be able to relax and be present when I am stressed. Besides, who wants a stressed out host?!
You love to travel. How have different trips influenced your design aesthetic?
How haven’t they is the question! I am constantly inspired on the road. In the air. On the streets. In the hotel. At the restaurant. I am always snapping shots as reminders. Travel truly is what fuels my creativity and my design ideas. The colors of India. The rustic and chic design of Italy. The art from Spain. The vintage accessories from Vermont. The list goes on and on and I continue to collect both tangible and intangible designs from all over the world!
What’s the next design project on your horizon?
Finishing my master bedroom! It’s almost there (after, um, three years) but needs some finishing touches like curtains, bench and a few new pieces of art for the wall gallery.
[Photos by Kristyna Archer Photography]