Heather & Matt French, Interior Designers and Owners of French & French Interiors
Matt & Heather French
Interior & Lighting Designers and Owners of French & French Interiors
Matt: Mountain Biking & Snowboarding. Heather: Gardening, Raising Chickens, Ducks, Bunnies and Bees!
Matt: Fairhope, Alabama. Heather: Port Charlotte, FL.
SFF: When and why did you start French & French Interiors?
Heather: I started the interior design business a few years back. I worked for local firms and saw a need in the local market for a firm which focused on families and a more eclectic and colorful/patterned perspective.
SFF: How would you define your style and how has it evolved over the years?
Matt: Eclectic, even more so over the years.
Heather: Haute Bohemian/Eclectic with a traditional take. As we've developed, we've leaned more toward traditional. I like using great quality, local artisans and lots of pattern and color! Floral, girl, floral!!!
SFF: Where do you find creative inspiration?
Matt: I find inspiration in discovering past and contemporary designers, adventure, travel, and deadlines.
Heather: I find inspiration in history, the great gardens and homes of the world, World of Interiors Magazine, House and Home Magazine, and pretty much every design book that hits the market! I look a lot to English and Australian design as well.
SFF: What made you want to open a retail store, and how has it been going?
Matt: We have been at our current office location, a 100 plus year old adobe, near the railyard in the design triangle, for about 3 years. When the adjoining space came up for rent, we decided to go for it. We are still primarily a design company, but we wanted folks to be able stop by and shop as well. It’s a great way to meet new people and store and sell things we find. It’s also nice to be able to let clients sit on a piece of furniture similar to a custom one before purchase.
Heather: I wanted to be able to have a closer relationship with the community. Walking into a design firm can be a bit intimidating, which is the last thing we want. We're down to earth, real people, and wanted the community to be able to come in, say hi, have a chat, and look around. We wanted it to be easier for people to see what we do. Also, I'm a total introvert, and obviously love my house, so I'm either at the studio/shop or home. This forces me to be more social, which I love!
SFF: Tell us about your lighting line and the production process.
Matt: Currently I'm focusing on bent brass and glass. I have a studio at home where I prototype new fixtures and manufacture. I bend brass pipe with a few different hand benders and jigs. I’m working on brass casting new structural components, and using a TIG welder for joinery. Modern jewelry and sculpture is a big inspiration for me right now. I work with local artisans for glass blown globes, casting, tin work, and patinas.
SFF: What are some of your favorite projects that you've worked on in Santa Fe?
Matt: Show House Santa Fe is always fun! It’s a fundraising event every October where local designers each get a room in a grand home to decorate, then we host thousands of people. It’s a chance to take chances, and get instant feedback.
Heather: I become super passionate about all of our projects, but the one that stands out the most is the Applegate Estate. It's a 8,000 square foot, 400 year old historic adobe that I totally fell in love with. I've worked on it a lot and have had time to imagine the people, parties and scenes that took place there. The likes of DH Lawrence, Georgia O'Keeffe, Ansel Adams (his photos of it are in the Smithsonian), Mable Dodge Luhan, and many many more who defined the modernism movement partied in this house. It was the home that pushed me to a level of design that now defines our aesthetic. I'll be forever thankful to the wonderful family who gave me the chance to work on their home. It was a pivotal moment in my career.
SFF: What are your future visions for your business? What are some dream projects you'd like to work on?
Matt: I’d love to keep growing all parts of the business, but the lighting is my little side project that I’d like to grow a lot this year. I’m trying to get in the studio more so that I can add fixtures to the line. My dream would be to develop the studio to the point of having a big space full of tools, capabilities and a team.
Heather: I love doing commercial work, in particular, restaurants and hotels! Boutique hotels are so fun!!! We currently have two hotel projects. The Parador in Santa Fe is one of them, so stay tuned, we have BIG things coming on this project!!!
SFF: What's your favorite thing about your work?
Matt: I love the design industry, and Heather.
Heather: My favorite thing about our work is getting to work with our clients. The families that we work for always become friends, and I'm truly, truly, honored to collaborate with them on such a personal level. Helping define their spaces, those moments, those game nights and dinners, it brings me so much joy!
SFF: What's the biggest challenge you face in your work and business?
Matt: No complaints really, the hard parts are worth it.
Heather: I'll be honest, it's budgets. Costs of Goods are getting higher and higher these days, and finding that balance is hard. I'm good at this aspect of my job, but it's always a challenge. Sometimes it’s a good challenge, which makes me stretch my design wings, and sometimes it can be heartbreaking, when as a artist you design something, only to find out its far outside of reality. We use a lot of gorgeous materials and products made by artists locally, as well as from around the world, who should be paid well for their product, and balancing that conversation and level of education within the client relationship is always our goal.
SFF: What advice can you give to budding entrepreneurs in Santa Fe?
Matt: Stay fierce and patient. I don't think you get to a point where you figure it all out. I just try to stay curious and open to change.
Heather: I totally agree with Matt here. Be unique and true to who you are, and market that fiercely. Have a unique voice. Stay away from trends, be bold, be smart about money and educate yourself about business. Entrepreneurship is creative: embrace that, tell yourself you’re great at it and passionate about it, that you love it, even when it's terrifying. Work your ass off, no one owes you anything, so be unapologetically you. Be kind, thankful, graceful... all those things good parents teach their kids. Those lessons stand true in every aspect of life. Explain your process, dig in and try to truly understand how your business works, and then figure out how to monetize it. Living in Santa Fe is so inspiring, we are surrounded by generations of creative business owners and budding entrepreneurs. It's so exciting to see! It's one of my favorite aspects about living here! Support those people and be inspired by them! It's a unique part of our community and I so value the artists we have had the privilege of working with!
SFF: What makes Santa Fe special to you? What are your favorite things about this place?
Matt: I love to be out in the wilderness, and we can go in any direction to get there quick in Santa Fe. I also love the mix of cultures, and that it’s not too serious or cool. It’s a challenging landscape and history, which makes it easier to stay in the moment and aware. Most towns this size have a singular influence and point of view, and sometimes that’s great, but it can be insular.
Heather: We've been here about 15 years, and it's the only place I want to be! My parents and brother (who owns The Hollar in Madrid) have all moved here, so having them close by is one of my favorite things. My cousins, niece and nephew and extended family are a big part of our daily life. I'm in love with the architecture, soul of our community and the laid back lifestyle.
SFF: What do you find most challenging about living in Santa Fe?
Matt: We actually live on land near Madrid, but affordable housing is a tough one right now in town. I hope that gets better because there is a new wave of young creative hustlers trying to stay or land here.
Heather: Juniper pollen!!!
SFF: What are you passionate about outside of your craft?
Matt: Of course I’m all about the outdoor play, music, and art. I also really love to spend time with my family, just going and checking out New Mexico. We have a super fun daughter. I love water, frisbee, our bees and animals, our fruit and veggies, sessioning with my buds, traveling, fishing, camping, soccer, stretching, comedy, hanging with fun light hearted people, Instagram, the cinema, hot sauce, coffee, podcasts, pocket knifes, belt buckles, picking/ thrifting, essential oils, being ahead of schedule, wood heat, comfortable shoes... These are a few of my favorite things.
Heather: Farming, lol. If Matt would let me, I'd have baby doll sheep, fainting goats, peacocks... but it's good he keeps me in check (we currently have 15 animals)! When I retire one day, you'll probably find me selling honey at the farmers market! I'm definitely happiest at home with Matt, Isla, our daughter, and all our animals. The more I can do that, the happier I am. I'm super protective of that time. It's rare and precious.
SFF: At the end of the day, why do you do what you do?
Matt: Creative fulfillment. I worked in the construction trade for almost 20 years after studying film and history, but I was not thriving, I felt like it was killing me. I’m not going to say that there is no satisfaction from being paid for my efforts, because there is. However, it’s the fear of vulnerability that comes from an empty canvas, and the deep relief of overcoming the failures of creative risk that drives me.
Heather: It's in my soul. I'm super driven and passionate about what I do. It's literally what consumes me. For me, it's a must. It's what I'm here to do.