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Alexandra Stoddard

Alexandra Stoddard is an artist whose specialty is designing interiors which reflect and enhance people's lives. An advisor and "house doctor," she has written 19 books calling people to beauty, integrity and abundant lives. The Decoration of Houses, published by William Morrow and Company, New York, is her latest book. It is a practical, comprehensive guide to interior design and a celebration of the classic principals first set forth by Edith Wharton.

Alexandra has two adult daughters. She lives in New York City and Stonington Village, Connecticut, with her husband Peter Megargee Brown, with whom she lives in love.

Excerpts3:47 secs

You probably already know that abdicating the design of your space to someone is a prescription for madness, that clinically depressed people can be transformed by changing their environment, and that indoors is never as good outside. But somehow, it all sounds different coming from one of America's most trusted interior designers.

Don't like that chair your aunt gave you? Get rid of it. If you don't, it will disrupt your life. You should be attracted to everything in your house on some deep personal level. If you live in the dark, you will be in the dark, insists Alexandra Stoddard. Millions of Americans have come to trust her good sense and emotional strength. Both are manifest in the bookshelf full of books she's written and experienced first hand in her countless personal appearances nationwide.

Stoddard thinks of herself as a house doctor, who helps people when they need healing. If you're tempted to call an interior designer and say, "Give me a look, give me a life," Stoddard says "Resist!" Insanity lies down that misguided path. And those "Joneses" everyone seems hell-bent on keeping up with? Simply cannot be done. It's not only impossible, it's self-destructive.

Get your house right for yourself, Stoddard preaches, and it will be right for everybody else. Surround yourself with light, energy, color. Everything about your home must be a part of you because your outward manifestation is part of your inner grace. Then and only then, your home will be the sanctuary you require for a fulfilled life, your personal center on this earth.

Stoddard marries the art of living to her message of beauty, love and grace. The ties that bind are the connections between mind, spirit and body. Her latest book, The Decoration of Houses, is a practical, comprehensive guide to decorating for today's world. It expands on the classic principals first espoused one hundred years ago by Edith Wharton when she founded interior design in America, unshackling us from Victorian interiors.

Stoddard's design ideas are part of how she sees the times in which we live. She calls them "serious," and believes we must deepen ourselves to get through them. But Stoddard is the polar opposite of grim. Make life into a celebration, she insists, a ritual. Learn what you can give up. Learn that new is not better. Learn to see. Be a gardener of life. You can't do that if you're always half out of control, racing around blindly. Her mentor always said, "Living takes time!." "Hurry Never!" is Stoddard's watchword.

When one looks at Alexandra Stoddard -- whether she's holding forth in a flame red dress from the pulpit of a Jackson, Mississippi, church or negotiating an airport in chartreuse stockings -- she may appear eccentric. She'll be delighted if you laugh. She does. For Alexandra not only talks about being authentic, she radiates it. She urges us to create the spaces in which we pass our lives with equal abandon and authenticity. Beauty is truth. Truth is beauty. And Alexandra Stoddard is intent on reflecting both.

Conversation 1

Alexandra Stoddard tells Paula Gordon and Bill Russell how the 19th century novelist Edith Wharton invented interior design, applying classical Greek and Roman principles to decorating houses, in the company of William and Henry James. Stoddard describes how interior designers intent on teaching others to live graciously must learn to do so themselves. For that, Edith Wharton wrote the book.

Conversation 2

Stoddard decries our outward directed society which denies us the liberation which is our heritage and the legacy of Descartes and Frances Bacon. She describes being appalled by people afraid to execute their ideas in their own homes, relying instead on an interior designer to shape their spaces for them. She distinguishes houses from homes.

"The Joneses" have caused a lot of people a lot of heartache. Stoddard tells why it is impossible to "keep up with them" in today's market driven society.

Stoddard tells how she came to interior design through the garden and its lifelong influence on her. She lists the many reasons why one's home should be one's sanctuary.

The importance of the home increases further as people increasingly telecommute. Stoddard describes her own experience working at home.

Conversation 3

The interior of your home, Stoddard says, comes from your own interior. She describes a healthy mind-body-spirit connection with one's furniture and surroundings. She invites us to explore the invisible energy which she believes surrounds us.

Being a gardener of life is Stoddard's calling and she explains how that affects her work and personal life. She calls the times in which we live "serious," and offers her prescriptions for how to get through them.

Stoddard explodes the idea that money and material goods are what matters. She describes the lure of living abundantly and talks about how she makes that pursuit her own practice.

Conversation 4

Stoddard talks about herself as a "house doctor" trying to help people where they need healing. She makes her case for beauty being without country, crossing all cultural barriers, and ties that sense of beauty to the beauty of the planet, returning again to the objects with which we surround ourselves in our homes. She describes the role that study and learning have played in her life.

Travel is a high priority to Stoddard and she describes why. She makes a strong plea for authenticity and the joys of living a beautiful life -- which is the name of one of her most successful books - approaching life through the rituals, celebrations and ceremonies surrounding eating, sleeping and bathing.

Conversation 5

Stoddard tells the story of her aunt whose life choices were limited by her gender but who found non-traditional outlets for her spiritual pursuits. Stoddard recounts her personal spiritual experience. She decries our culture where she believes everyone is considered a second class citizen if s/he is not wealthy. She tells about the connections her books have to bravery, reminding us that home is one of the most important aspects of our lives. She describes the two elements that constitute an aesthetic experience, urging, "Get your house right for you and it will be right for everybody else."

Connection, integrity and the simple things of life are Stoddard's avenues to the transcendent which she describes.

Conversation 6

Stoddard calls people to pursue a path toward greater truth and understanding of self. She tells sad stories of people who fail to do so. If you're a happy person, she believes, it will be manifested in your house. She relates stories of the profound power of one's surroundings and, with Bill Russell, closes with a bow to John Keats.


Alexandra Stoddard's lovely husband Peter Megargee Brown, also an author, sat with us as we recorded this program. His warm good humor was a welcome addition to a delightful meeting. They are an authentic couple!

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