When December rolls around …well, at Lou Harvey’s home its actually way, way before…cue the trees, baubles, bows, tinsel, lights, wreaths, antler-less reindeer… you get the picture. A certified Christmas nut whose motto is ‘more is more,’ Christmas, with all its bells and whistles, is for Lou the perfect excuse to go over-the-top fabulous!
Behind the white shutters of her Mount Edgecombe home, Lou prances around barefoot, putting the finishing touches to a festive dining table and two gorgeous trees she’s got on display to show us just how Christmas is celebrated in her home. She’s petite, perfectly groomed and yet, for someone who runs such a tight ship with a hectic schedule, she’s completely laid back and has a brilliant sense of humour. Her home, decorated with antiques (she’s an avid collector), traveller’s trinkets and soft furnishings, oozes warmth and personality. You also cannot mistake the intense smell of the wonderfully fragrant Tuberose – her favourite flower. Her home is a true reflection of Lou, and the tastefully vibrant brand she’s created and loved for.
Leave it to Lou to present us with a Christmas wonderland of covetable decorations, baubles in bowls, fresh flowers in vases, candles flickering in all kinds of paces, gift boxes galore and a touch of animal print in a table cloth and napkins she’s had made from the same design she used in her leopard print collection.
“What can I say? I’m a designer, creator, traveller, mom, loyal friend, obsessive pinner and lover of all things beautiful!”
I hardly sleep because being busy makes me tick.
“Textiles have always been my first love and using pattern and colour to express yourself in your home is really quite liberating, which is why I love interiors so much, especially ones with botanicals and motifs that pay homage to nature. I’m also inspired by architecture, exotic destinations and of course, our beautiful local landscape, so nothing is ever dull in my life. And Christmas is no exception.”
From the day she decided that Durban had a desperate need for beautiful mom-friendly accessories that were fashionable, but practical, Lou set in motion a completely different kind of adventure – one that would see a dramatic change in her personal life; see her employ and empower nearly 100 local people to form a part of an entirely local production process, send her around the world on a mission to market her brand, propel her into the role of a local and global trendsetter and earn her the label of South Africa’s favourite material girl.
“I’m very lucky to be in a position where I can be at home much more than when I started my business, which is just wonderful. I’m able to be flexible with my time and plan things around my kids’ schedules so that I get to spend time with them. With an office set up at home and my factory close by, I can pop in and out during the day and run errands on the way. Thanks to the superpowers of cellphones, in the evenings, when the household is asleep, there’s an enormous amount of work that can be done, something that has honestly changed my life.”
A typical day in the life of Lou Harvey starts with breakfast with her son, Alec (her daughter, Izzy is a boarder) and dropping him at school before heading to the gym or Umhlanga where she enjoys a brisk walk along the promenade. Then it’s off to the factory to check on production and designs.
Always playing with new product ideas, Lou has launched many gorgeous collections over the years. Among the favourites are her wallpaper collection – the realisation of a long held dream to marry her love of interiors and textile design; the Lou Harvey ColabCollection – a recent team-up with Mr Price Home to produce a colourful range soft furnishings, kitchen accessories, crockery and stationery in designs that are all quintessentially Lou Harvey; and her latest, utterly fabulous, summer collection boasting everything from bags to beach towels and kiddies swimwear, that sees her typical paisley and floral prints merged with colours like turquoise, fuchsia, charcoal and lime green.
“I honestly don’t switch off! I’m not sure how I do it sometimes, but going to gym really does help me unwind… a little. I also love a spoil at the Oyster Box Spa.”
I’m a real early bird, and love to be in my PJ’s by 6pm. Not terribly glam, but it’s perfect for me and works for my family.
“Every night I read to Alec before his bed time and then I catch up on e-mails, respond to Facebook queries before getting caught up in a good book or a new series or movie on Netflix. I’m seriously considering getting a puppy! Who knows? Maybe I’ll find one under the Christmas tree this year!”
No matter how busy any lifestyle, Lou believes that we should always give of ourselves, without any expectation in return. Time, effort, kindness and sincerity are top of her list, as are apologies, gratitude and forgiveness.
“Life’s too short not to take the time to acknowledge those who deserve or need it, and admitting to our faults take humility and courage, but it is something that should always be done.”
Being true to yourself, and genuine with others should be a way of life. Most importantly, never, ever hold yourself back… well when it comes to the good stuff I mean! So I like to go all out, but I do it with love and good intentions, and usually a good dose of laughter.”
And Christmas… well, Lou says it’s the time of year that just lends itself to the spirit of giving and feeling good.
“It’s all about spending quality time with loved ones – lots of food and laughter in a house full of people – that’s how I like it. I get into the festive spirit way before the rest of the world does. Because of work shoots (and some fun ones too), décor goes up long before December, so the house is a factory of festivities from about October. I get first dibs on all the gorgeous Christmas decorations and décor accessories from Vegmo Accessories in Springfield Park, who are my absolute go-to and the ultimate in all décor, candles, trees and everything you need! It’s a Christmas lover’s dream!”
It’s become a tradition in the house of Lou Harvey to put up three trees every year at Christmas – a trendy one, a traditional tree and one for the kids, and she’s been known to hire a snow machine. Alec helps decorate the tree, and both kids love wrapping presents and writing cards.
“Jingle Bells and Silver Bells and It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas plays for days on the sound system!”
I suppose because I’m like a Christmas elf, and a ‘can’t-help-myself’ shopper, I spend more time filling the trolley than I should!
“But it gives me an opportunity to pick up on all the changes in Christmas décor trends, my favourite of which is the fact that we now have different coloured trees. I’ll take one of each please!”
When it comes to adding that special festive feel to your home if you’re low budget and light on space, Lou says a good place to start is by hanging ribbons and homemade gingerbread men on your tree.
“These make really gorgeous statement ornaments and will save you from buying costly Christmas decorations. Also, silk flowers, (like the ones I get from Vegmo Accessories, are a beautiful and voluptuous way to fill up a tree. You’ll use far less baubles! Use greenery from the garden and existing accessories from around the house where you can. Christmas baubles can be used in décor and flower arrangements, and you can easily simplify centrepieces by using candles, candles and more candles. Also, I use fairy lights everywhere because they’re really pretty and create a warm and magical ambience.”
Every year Lou has Christmas stockings made for each family member using designs from her annual collections and, in-laws and all, they celebrate Christmas Eve with a traditional dinner.
“My in-laws are Jewish, so they come over and we have a combined Hanukah and Christmas celebration. We also never forget to leave carrots out for Santa’s reindeers. It’s important for me that my kids (the youngest especially) are allowed to believe in the things they choose to for as long as life allows, especially in the things that bring them fantastic joy. I remember how excited I was when I got my first Love Doll from Santa for Christmas. I also wanted a horse but never got one, which in hindsight I understand since Santa wasn’t actually gifting it to me for free based on good behaviour. I also, rather vividly, remember the day my brother broke the news to me (aged six) that Santa did not exist. I was completely devastated and in utter disbelief, but eventually got over it. Still, for the sake of little hearts and minds, I like to do my best to indulge in the myth, as we all do, and try to make sure that the excitement never dies! Besides, disguising presents is relatively easy in my home!”
I really don’t want anything for Christmas this year, but I do need my family and am happiest when I am surrounded by the people I value so much.
“During the holidays, we’re going to my family’s game farm with my dad, brother and sister and all the cousins. Christmas day will be spent opening pressies, going on game drives and lolling in the pool. I will be seeing the New Year in with my life partner in Dubai, and I simply can’t wait! If anything, I’ll be grateful for the time off in treasured company, and hoping for a healthy, happy and peaceful year ahead.”
Michigan Behn of Michigan Behn Photography, 083 304 5250
Volenti Laurentina of Volenti Laurentina Make-up, 0835532700
Tyron and Yugi and Hair on Edge, Flanders Mall, Mt Edgecombe, 031 502 1250
Vegmo Accessories, 031 574 7500, www.vegmoaccessories.co.za