“There should be something that makes you smile in every room.” This quote from Annie Selke nicely embodies her design mantra, which is all about creating a sense of happiness and whimsy throughout a home. From bedding to pillows and rugs, her pieces have been highlighted in every decor magazine imaginable, as well as the Obama White House. But years of success haven’t slowed Annie down—her recent rug collab with haute hotelier Kit Kemp has been making waves, and she has plenty more on the horizon (more on that below).
We talked with Annie about how she develops her instantly iconic rugs and fabrics, how she got her start in the world of textiles, and what she’s planning on launching next. See what she had to say below, and shop her curation of hand-selected Chairish favorites to bring even more of her joie de vivre home with you.
When did your love for textiles begin? Tell us about how you started your career in design.
My lifelong love affair with textiles started when I was a child. I collected ribbons and scraps of fabrics and took years of sewing lessons. I then went on to major in textile science at the University of Vermont and received a degree in buying and merchandising from FIT. From there, I worked for Ferragamo and went through the Saks Fifth Avenue training program. My last job in New York was as manager of product development for a concept marketing and licensing firm, where I developed products for Giverny, Versailles, and the American Folk Art Museum.
After moving back to the Berkshires, I realized I was destined for a more entrepreneurial path. I started Pine Cone Hill in 1994 on my dining room table with an industrial sewing machine and a group of home sewers. It’s hard to believe that we’ve continued to grow every year for the last 29 years! A major milestone was the launch of Dash and Albert in 2004, adding rugs to the mix.
What are your inspirations for your line of textiles, rugs, and furnishings?
I find inspiration just about everywhere! I love finding color combinations or palettes by observing the world around me, particularly in nature. I’ve been collecting antique and vintage textiles forever, and those are a never-ending source of joy and inspiration. I am also fortunate to have traveled a great deal and I find color and fabric ideas almost everywhere I go.
We love your Dash & Albert rugs! There are so many beautiful patterns. Do you have any advice on how to find the right rug for your space?
Thank you! I think the most important thing is to consider what will be going on in a space when deciding which type of rug will be best suited for the job. Think about your color scheme and what your intent is for the space and find something you love that meets those needs. And definitely don’t be afraid of a little color!
How did the Annie Selke x Kit Kemp collaboration come to life? Tell us about the collection and how travel influenced the designs.
Two years ago, I was asked “if you could collaborate with anyone in the world, who would it be?” And I immediately answered, “Kit Kemp!” Through my wonderful PR rep, I was able to get Kit’s email and basically wrote a letter fangirling about how much I admire the business she and her family created, and that with our mutual love of textiles we should collaborate. August 2020 was our first design meeting over Zoom (the collection was designed entirely over Zoom), and it was a no-brainer to use Kit’s love of London, New York, and Barbados to explore different styles and inspirations. And, through this process, we finally met in person in August of 2021, and have become fast friends.
What is your typical process for working with other designers to create new products?
First you need to like and respect the other person—you want to be in sync with them and have fun while doing it! Second, the mission is to bring their distinct point of view to life in whatever categories we are developing. We work closely on palettes, products and the personality of the collection and then we go into the sampling process. Once we receive samples, we review them together and approve, tweak, or trash them. It’s important that the collection hangs together and tells a clear story to the customer.
What’s next for your brand? What are some of the things you’re launching next?
Next month we’re launching The Marie Flanigan Collection for Annie Selke, which we are just thrilled about. We partnered with Marie because of her talent and her real clarity of vision and design, and brought her aesthetic to life by creating wonderful rugs, bedding, decorative pillows, throws, and rug benches under her direction. I was blown away when I first saw it, so I cannot wait for everyone else to see it as well. The Marie Flanigan collection launched for wholesale in July at Atlanta market, alongside our first paper products as well. And we are also in the process of Kit Kemp part two, launching in Fall of 2023.
On Chairish & Vintage Shopping…
What do you find most compelling about Chairish?
I can spend hours on Chairish. There is always so much to discover. There is a never-ending, ever-changing assortment of vintage and new art, furniture, and accessories. It’s a go-to resource for any and all projects. In fact, one of the rugs in the Kit Kemp collection was based off of a vintage kilim we found on Chairish.
How does sustainability factor into your design choices and love of vintage?
Many of the rugs we sell at Annie Selke are sustainable—from our popular denim rag rugs that use recycled denim to our famous recycled polyester indoor/outdoor rugs made from recycled water bottles. It’s important to keep sustainability in mind and know that sustainable products won’t diminish good design.
As for vintage, I have always been a vintage shopper and most of my favorite objects are from bygone eras, so I am thrilled to see that vintage furniture is a trending style. Finding items that will last and will be cherished for generations to come keeps waste to a minimum. These finds also add some age, depth, and context to an interior. I recommend adding something unexpected and, in my case, something that brings a smile to your face every time you see it.
Are there any dream vintage/antique “gets” you wish you could have? What’s a dream piece for you?
I do really, really want those Saarinen dining chairs in celadon velvet. I’m also of the “if you love it, you can make it work” school, so I stay open to whatever may see.
Some Design Favorites…
Favorite way to create a statement-making moment in a room:
There are many ways to make a statement in a room, from well-chosen art to a bold and fabulous rug to a dramatic paint color or wonderful patterned wallpaper.
Favorite decorating “cheap thrill:”
A great and shapely table that I bought for $25 that has been included in about five magazine articles because it is so photogenic
Favorite paint color:
Farrow & Ball’s Pale Powder or Benjamin Moore’s Opal
Favorite piece of decor in your home:
A wacky and fun 70’s tiered wall unit in brass and chrome in the shape of a flower
Favorite designer or artist from the past you most often turn to for inspiration:
Matisse and Hockney, both brilliant colorists
Favorite style icon:
Design destination every creative should visit at least once:
Brimfield, Paris, London, India, and any house museum anywhere.
Best piece of career advice you’ve ever received:
“If you love it, you can make it work.” “Do what you love and the money will follow.”
Some Lifestyle Favorites…
Favorite vacation destination:
Favorite hotel that’s inspired your work while traveling:
All of Kit Kemp’s Firmdale Hotels—particularly the Ham Yard Hotel. Also The Imperial in Delhi; The Relais Christine in Paris; The Knightsbridge in London; The Whitby in New York; and Le Sereno in St. Barth’s.
The Ivy in London
Favorite small museum:
The Hugh Lane in Dublin or the Borghese Gallery in Rome
Favorite Instagram account to follow:
Favorite hostess (or thank you) gift:
I usually bring a dozen of our fabulous napkins.
Either the Coral Charm (a type of peony) or a Lily of the Valley
Favorite adult beverage:
Favorite way to unwind at home:
Relaxing with my beloved bassets, Googie and Impy
Favorite entertaining essential:
Great food and wine
Shop Annie Selke's Chairish Favorites
All photos courtesy of Annie Selke