Dagmar Obert’s love of color, form, and texture help her transform homes with a touch of elegance and comfort. With her eye for design and more than two decades of experience, Dagmar has become one of the top interior designers in Chicagoland. Today, she is a design consultant in the Seattle area and shares her ideas on the Balsam Hill blog.
In this one-on-one interview, Dagmar recounts how motherhood has taught her to look for longevity in a piece of furniture or home decor. ‘The flip side is, if you don’t like a particular style, you can change it.’ One’s decorating preferences have to be realistic. Find out more about Dagmar’s decorating style.
BH: What is your favorite part about being a mother? What is the most rewarding and most challenging aspect of it?
Dagmar: My favorite aspect is knowing that your child is a part of you and your spouse. Each child is a new soul, a created being. There’s hope in that. Knowing when to bridle your child’s passion, when to rein it in, and when to let it flourish or encourage it is challenging. When you see them use their gifts for others in serving and helping the world, you begin to see that motherhood is rewarding. For example, my daughter is magical with words and helps people so much with their writing and marketing while keeping integrity in the product or service.
BH: How has motherhood changed your style and design aesthetics?
Dagmar: I would say motherhood has made me want to have nice things or a specific style, but to have realistic expectations as well. I look for longevity in a piece of furniture or paper or clothing item. I also do not take myself too seriously. The flip side is, if you don’t like a particular style, you can change it. I think things like mid-century modern and minimalism are making a comeback; things are kept simple and clean and not so fussy. I like sanded, worn pieces, not to the extent of shabby chic but strong wood, thick leather, and sturdy with lots of room for everyone to be included. I wouldn’t have said this prior to having kids.
BH: How has your mother inspired your decorating style? Would you mind sharing some decorating advice she’s given you with us?
Dagmar: My mother is very open and does not offer strong opinions. It’s annoying and charming at the same time. It has helped me to always think outside of what is expected. She never squelched or laughed at an idea I had. Her advice: just make people feel comfortable. She’s amazingly hospitable.
BH: What advice has your mother given you that you would also like to give to your children?
Dagmar: The best one is to laugh at yourself and not take things too personally. If someone criticizes you, it’s either true or not. If it’s not true, leave it there. If it is, work on it. Another is that self-pity is a waste of time. I believe this is a quote from Anne Sullivan to Helen Keller. My mother said the same version of this over and over. Truthfully, I saw how much it sapped energy to worry about what other people said and I just wanted to move on and get stuff done or work on the next project or adventure.
BH: Is there an activity you do now that still reminds you of something you did with your mother as a child?
Dagmar: She read the golden book Color Kittens to me and I have been fascinated with color ever since. She also put crayons and markers in front of me early on and just expected me to do something. I think it was to keep me from asking questions. I guess I was pretty exhausting that way.
BH: Do you have any springtime traditions you would like to pass on to your children and grandchildren?
Dagmar: I decorate with lots of green for spring inside our home. Go for the cool spring tones in April and then work toward other flowers in May by planting outside. And Easter is hugely important for our faith. The glory and hope of new life, both internally and externally, we see coming to fruition all around us.
BH: How do you and your family prepare your home for spring? Is there a specific piece of decor you put out that signifies spring has arrived?
Dagmar: I have a very regal rabbit, a sophisticated Peter Rabbit that holds spotted robins’ eggs. I also have a very neat and tidy tuft of grass that looks lie grazing pasture. I put these little fleece sheep on it. The display is lovely and can go right into summer.
BH: What’s your idea of a perfect Mother’s Day celebration?
Dagmar: It would be going to tea or brunch and then spending the day outside hiking or exploring a new area or town. I love anything that stimulates memories and thankfulness, and creates special times you can reflect on when you have to be apart.