Today is the last installment of our inspiring women series with Pandora Jewelry. From San Francisco with Courtney Klein to Charleston with Helen Rice, this has been an incredible experience for me, being personally inspired by these amazing women all over the country. I feel so lucky that our roles as women have become so open to any of our hearts’ desires and I have truly loved seeing what these women have chosen to do with their lives. What has been truly meaningful as well is to see the choices each of these women make within the Pandora Essence Collection, selecting charms that are chic and stylish, but also representative of their core tenets. Speaking to them about what beliefs they hold dear has told me so much about each woman, and I have treasured the friendships made through this lovely collection. And so here we are now with the beautiful Christina Graci…
Christina is a native of New Orleans, Louisiana. She studied in Baton Rouge and abroad in Denmark, worked for two major interior design firms in New York City, and then came back to New Orleans to live and work. What makes this the city to be in?
“New Orleans has a special place in my heart. The city is so rich in history and culture that you don’t find everywhere. It’s such a diverse city that is so full of life. The people here are also truly unique. Never a dull moment in this city to say the least!”
With her brother Chad, Christina runs Graci Interiors, an interior design firm known for having exquisite and classic tastes, mixing vintage and modern styles with ease. Christina said her passion for interior design showed before she even knew it could be a job: “Growing up my mother and I would re-decorate my bedroom yearly. We would get new draperies, bedding, change the wall color, etc. It was so much fun doing that with her that I guess it just grew on me. It wasn’t until I went off to college that I had the epiphany that I could do that for a living!”
Christina describes her personal style as “classic traditional but fresh and modern. Keeping with traditional interiors is important to me but bringing it into our era and how we live today makes is so interesting and fun.”
When I first heard this, I knew Christina and Pandora Jewelry made the perfect pair…classic jewelry with a fresh and modern perspective on the inspiring woman who wears it!
Christina on what her Pandora Essence Charms mean to her ~
“Hope and Confidence – I chose these because they primarily have a lot of meaning to me in reference to my career. I’ve had to have a lot of hope in my career along the way in order to keep moving forward. Also, in my career you’ve got to have confidence in yourself and in your work to be successful.
Health – A healthy lifestyle is so important to me. Being healthy is living life to the fullest for me – mind, body, and soul.
Loyalty, Stability, and Love – These all relate to me personally in my relationships with friends and family. I feel as though all three are interwoven. You can’t have one without the other and vice versa.“
Above ~ Christina collects rock crystals because she loves the colors…she picks them up wherever she can find them! And speaking of rock crystals, many of the charms in the Essence Collection are made from crystals like Christina’s amethyst above.
As she walked me through her historic condo in the warehouse district, it became clear how much Christina loves antiques…her 19th century French provincial armoire (the first piece she bought when she began collecting), is the perfect chic home for the living room TV. I also loved her Sferra linen blankets cutely tucked away in a Napa Home & Garden basket!
Below the carved Italian columns were painted and made into lamps, and the engravings over the couch Christina bought from a farmer in Baton Rouge for a client, but she liked them so much she bought the rest of the set for her own collection!
“I love repurposing things, it’s so gratifying when a piece has a previous life and I can turn it into something new. I like to put together the things I love.”
The couch came from her mother, but Christina recovered it in a bronze-colored silk velvet fabric. The antique tapestry needlepoint pillow is something Christina fashioned out of a tapestry, plus some Samuel & Sons tassel trim.
“Pink is my favorite color, so anytime I find something that is a shade of pink I like, I try to mix it in. But you have to be pretty subtle about it!”
The blush pink chair she ordered in Baton Rouge she had recovered in Lee Jofa damask patterned fabric, a pattern with just enough pink to keep her satisfied.
Christina is wearing: vintage top (from her grandmother), a vintage cuff that her brother gave her from New York, vintage earrings found at an estate sale, black leather leggings by Theory, heels by Dolce & Gabbana (“They go with everything!“), and Confidence, Stability, and Health Charms by Pandora Jewelry
Christina’s ottoman is unlike any other – the Fortuny fabric is hand-printed and painted in Venice…how chic!
Many of the items in the room such as Christina’s top are from her grandmother, including the elephant plant holder and the French wine jug sitting on the armoire. The rug is Stark herringbone sea grass – “I use it all the time, it’s very durable and the neutral colors means it goes with anything!”
Christina has set her lamps on lucite tables to keep things balanced between old and new. The two leather chairs are from a local furniture market, and the pillows were found at an estate sale.
Books are stacked everywhere throughout the living room – “I have a huge collection of books. I buy books I love and want to look at because I use them for inspiration. I buy other designer’s books! I just purchased a book on the Rienzi house that I am loving. But I definitely love European decorative arts books and books about vintage interiors.”
Favorite designed home: Le Petit Trianon!
Southern Entertaining~ With an antique French country farm table and chairs from the 1940s in a French Style. Christina had a decorative painter do the finish on them and then had the fabric redone in ribbed silk.
“Refinishing furniture gives pieces layers and is a way to redo a room without having a huge budget.”
Above~ Christina is wearing an ADAM gown, a jasper stone necklace her brother Chad made for her, shoes by Michael Kors, diamond stud earrings, and Confidence, Stability, and Health Charms by Pandora Jewelry.
French mirror is French Louis Phillip from Rogers and McDaniel, a great antiques and interiors shop in Baton Rouge.
When Christina isn’t using the table for dinners, it doubles as her library table for all her books and collections.
The candle is from Coldpiece Pottery, all handmade in Texas.
“New Orleans and Houston are the best cities for antique shopping right now…”
The framed botanical art is from an old bookshop in New York City called Argosy. The prints are of wildflowers from around New York. The frames are English decalcomania, which means there are little cut out pieces that are layered behind glass.
A large clam shell is the home for several smaller shells Christina has found on the beach and from her travels. She loves sea shells and displaying them in fun ways: on wooden pedestals, antique candlesticks, or a giant shell bowl.
Christina’s tips for keeping orchids alive: “Stuff wet paper towels around its roots, or one ice cube a week!”
The 18th century Italian bar table was found at Mac Maison in New Orleans. Resting on top are tumblers by Mignon Faget, a local designer and artist, and vintage decanters from her mother. The large seashell is from a friend – “she was giving it away! I found it so interesting, so I took it.”
The painting in the gold floater frame is Christina’s own work from one of her recent collections, using gold leaf in addition to oil paints.
Below~ Fleur de lis tumblers by Mignon Faget
“I love cooking! I cook for my friends, my brother, and my boyfriend all the time. It’s the Italian in me,” Christina confessed. She grew up cooking and baking with her mother and now has a collection of family recipes she loves to make, including fried eggplant, Italian sausage, stuffed bell peppers, and her grandmother’s pasta bolognese. “My grandmother and I still cook together!”
Recipes aren’t the only things handed down to Christina – she also has a collection of vintage linens. While some are from her mother, she has also collected some from estate sales and shopped for new pieces. It’s easy to see that Christina has a fondness for vintage classic – ruffled edges line some of the pieces and her place settings (with napkin rings she loves!) are simple and beautiful.
“My secret for taking care of table linens? The Rowenta steam iron.”
Above~ the top painting is by local artist Alexis Walter, and the dead bird painting below is from an antique shop in Texas, but she bought it in a Paris flea market!
Christina wears: navy suede pencil leggings by Theory, sweater by Vince, shoes by Vince, a vintage necklace, mother-of pearl-cuff from her mother (who passed it down after owning it herself for thirty years! Christina said she wears it constantly) and the Health, Hope, Loyalty, and Love Charms by Pandora Jewelry
It was so great to walk through the rooms and see how Christina clearly has an eye for mixing various ideas – old and new, local and further away…the kitchen towels on the stove are Dransfield & Ross and the candle sticks are Aidan Gray, but Christina picked up the “catch-all” tray at a garage sale.
Below~ The bar stools are made by Luis Colmenares, a local metal worker who has previously created pieces for various film sets, but the large bowl is a French provincial dough bowl from Houston, TX.
The nightstands are by a British company, Chelsea Textiles. Their pieces are hand made and hand painted – Christina uses them a lot in her work with Graci Interiors. The mirrors over the nightstands are from an estate sale in New Orleans and date back to “1915, 1920…sometime in the early 20th century.”
Current read: “An old 1946 edition of Anna Karenina I found at a local consignment shop. I only like to read historical novels or biographies…my last great read was Marie Antoinette’s biography.”
The black and white French drawings are a gift from a Baton Rouge gallery, Ann Connelly Fine Art.
In addition to having an eye for beautifully styled decor, Christina is a painter, represented by the Segreto Art Gallery in Houston, Texas for the past three years. Her work uses soft abstract neutral colors that merge and swirl with bright, bold blues, purples, and even gold leaf.
Though she has always loved to work in oil, she recently discovered water-based oils and has been working and experimenting with it: “They are so fun and the clean up is so easy.”
What inspires you in your art now?
“Color truly inspires me. If I see a new color or color combination I am immediately dying to try that in my artwork. Most recently though, the works of Cy Twombly have inspired me. His color usage as well as his sporadic use of shapes are very cool.”
Where would you like to see your art going in the future?
“I would love to see my artwork thrive in more cities. Right now I show in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Covington, Houston, and Dallas. I would love to keep expanding that and see where that takes me. I would also love to paint bigger, larger scale paintings in the future.”
Seeing the charms in Christina’s studio reminded me that this is jewelry that expresses, not just jewelry that decorates or accessorizes. Just as Christina paints the beautiful expressions of her thoughts and feelings on canvas, so her bracelet expresses the beliefs and foundations she has made for herself.
Below ~ We paid a visit to her interior design offices on New Orleans’ hip Magazine Street.
On being in business with her brother, Chad: “We started our business together several years ago when we both moved back to the city. We couldn’t very well have two separate “Graci Interiors” so we decided to work together! I think there are always challenges to working with anyone’s sibling but I feel we are getting better and better at it every day. Chad and I both have the same roles in our business together. I don’t think we would have it any other way. We are truly 50-50 and each give 110%.”
Christina admits that she loves designing specifically in New Orleans because it’s more fun: “The homes here have such good bones and so much character. Each one is different and unique in its own way. I never ever get tired of seeing the homes here. They amaze me.”
“It is not difficult for me to stay creative while running a business. It is something innate in me that never stops. I am always building on my creativity. I never get tired of creating.”
Is there a typical day for you as a designer?
“Not at all! That’s mostly why I love what I do! Every single day is so different. One day I’ll be working on CAD and doing furniture and lighting plans while the next I could be furniture shopping all around town for a client!”