The Thursday Q&A with blogger Katharine Cornfield
Katharine Cornfield is a self-described introvert, but when you meet her, this entrepreneur, decorator, realtor and blogger seems far from it. And her blog, where, in her words, she writes “about style and life in Canada’s capital, including fashion, design, arts and culture, community-building and bold local businesses is gaining followers.
She’s gone from being a political adviser for a cabinet minister on Parliament Hill to working with her boyfriend, Malcolm Gibb as a partner real-estate agent (Malcolm Gibb Realty Ltd.). From the real estate brokerage, she has developed a business of her own, Housters & Co., where she gives design advice to homebuyers. She sat down with Style intern Deanna Spagnuolo to answer our long list of questions.
Ottawa Citizen Style: Who are your style icons?
Katharine Cornfield: I like, for the most part, classic styles. Katharine Hepburn — she wore pants. I’m drawn to women’s contemporary styles…somebody put together without being over-the-top. Just subdued and subtle, like Jennifer Aniston. I would add Grace Kelly to the classic crowd, and Olivia Palermo to the contemporary list.
OCS: What’s on your beside table?
KC: Books and magazines and my iPhone. I’m reading this book called The Lean Startup (by Eric Ries). You should read it. I read almost exclusively non-fiction books.
OCS: What’s your best home accessory?
KC: Oh! I’m at home so I can look around. I would say … oh, my computer isn’t an accessory. OK then, these short brass lamps that I got from Value Village. They have a gold trim which really makes them pop. And they were my favourite price too: cheap!
OCS: I love Value Village, it’s like a treasure hunt! What’s your best recent fashion find?
KC: I’ve just discovered Talbots pants. They’re heritage cut, which is great because I’m short with a high waist so the proportions work well for me. Yay Talbots!
OCS: Who would you invite for dinner if you could invite anyone in the world?
KC: Just one? I’m always overwhelmed with admiration for people with visionary imaginations, like Jim Henson. I love the Muppets, always have. I’d invite George Lucas too, he has a limitless imagination. And Ralph Lauren, his vision is enormous and he built an empire out of his brain.
OCS: If you can see the debut of any music piece in history, what would it be?
KC: I would’ve liked to be there when they put together the original of Kermit the Frog singing Rainbow Connection. I have a thing for Kermit.
OCS: What’s your earliest memory?
KC: My parents lived in Jamaica and it was so distinctly different. I remember the beach and my step-grandmother never swam but I remember her on the beach in a bathing suit.
OCS: You lived in Jamaica?
KC: My father was a civil engineer working on a water project, so we got to live there for a year.
OCS: What’s your biggest fashion faux-pas? Where, when and how?
KC: When I first started working on Parliament Hill, I was fresh out of university. There was this state dinner, Canada was hosting Korea. I got called last minute to attend and I wore the beautiful red silk wrap dress. It was classic and cocktail length. Perfect. The dinner was at the Museum of Civilization. There was a red carpet and everything with photographers. I get out of the car and take off my coat, and I am head-to-toe static cling. I was so self-conscious.
OCS: So that’s an embarrassing moment, what’s your proudest moment?
KC: The typical answer is when I had my daughter. But it’s not so much that event but the things that followed. I am very proud of making the changes I have made in my career for her. I didn’t want her living with a cranky disgruntled mom. Doing work that I love means that one day, she may do the same thing.
OCS: That’s an amazing way of thinking. Now going from something so heartfelt to: what’s your favourite piece of furniture?
KC: Haha! Definitely my couch. It came from my grandparents’ house. It was made in the ’30s and it’s so different.
OCS: What about the qualities you admire most in a person?
KC: Interesting. I think courage, sense of humour, willingness to do things that might not be conventional, creativity like, thinking about things that are outside the norm. I like open-mindedness; I can’t stand tunnel vision.
OCS: How would you like the world to remember you? What would your eulogist ideally say?
KC: Oh God! (Her boyfriend starts laughing.) Probably as someone who possessed those qualities I just listed, and for people not to think I’m crazy in the choices I have made.
OCS: For whom would you most like to do interior design?
KC: Does it have to be one specific person? I would love to help people who need or want the help. People who want to learn and have a good relationship with their home.
OCS: Describe a perfect day off (it can be anywhere in the world).
KC: It starts with sleeping in. Then coffee, that’s a given though. There has to be sunshine, with a house on a beach overlooking the water. I’d have a leisurely breakfast. I’d read. Ideally I would have my fella with me. Hear that, Malcolm? I’d go shopping in thrift stores, maybe have a dinner out and a show. I love movies and I’m a sucker for musical theatre, so if this beach was next to Broadway that would work out well.
OCS: Who is your favourite visual artist, living or dead?
KC: I’m so drawn to colour and pattern that it’s hard to pick just one. If you look at my Pinterest colour cues board, you’ll get a flavour for the type of artwork I like. Mostly fine art photography, abstract, and pen/watercolour illustration.
OCS: How about the best book you’ve read this past year?
KC: It’s called House Thinking by Winnifred Gallagher. It’s really insightful on how people live. It’s an examination on how we relate to each room in our house. It’s fascinating.
OCS: Favourite food?
KC: Chocolate, popcorn and cherries.
OCS: What’s the most often-played song on your iPod or MP3 player?
KC: Honestly, it’s my daughter’s music, Taylor Swift. For my own stuff though, I like classic rock and Neil Diamond’s two new albums.
OCS: Wine, beer or both?
KC: Oh, both. I like them both but I’m convinced beer is giving me stomach trouble.
OCS: What about Mac or PC?
KC: Oh! PC. Someday I wish I could change but once you’re in, you’re in. I love my iPhone though.
OCS: Do you like fine dining or plain old diners better?
KC: That’s tough. Halfway in between.
OCS: What is the best restaurant in Ottawa?
KC: Oh I love the Fourth Avenue Wine Bar (107 Fourth Avenue). I’m going there after this actually. They have a good wine list, small plates, great food, the best lighting. It flatters the food while flattering the face. It’s sophisticated but not pretentious. God, it sounds like they paid me to say this.
OCS: What is your favourite blog or website?
KC: Just one? Holy smokes. I spend most of my procrastinating time on Pinterest. I love how user-friendly it is.
OCS: Twitter, Facebook or both?
KC: I’m kind of in a love/hate relationship with both. I do them both, but not well. Twitter is like going to a party, but I’m very introverted.
OCS: What’s your guilty pleasure?
KC:Other than my day of leisure and a vacation?
. Just spending a couple of hours in there.
OCS: Where’s your favourite place to spend time?
KC: Here, home. Definitely. Without question. If it could be transferred to a beach, that would be even better. I’m a home-aholic.