Life as a Creative: Simple Wisdom and Magical Interior Design

photo credit: Daniel Kulinski
photo credit: Daniel Kulinski

In my last article, I introduced you to talented author, Gail Van Kleeck. Gail has a relaxed and endearing presence about her and showed me a glimpse of her life chronicled as a creative.

She is the author of How you See Anything is How you see Everything: A Treasury of Simple Wisdom,which is a collection of simple stories that came out of her life experience, including “Making Stroganoff” highlighted in my recent post.

Her most recent book, The Magical Interior Design Guide is her latest creation. After over 35 years as an interior designer, Gail has highlighted a unique blend of design strategies, based on how a person feels about their home and wants to feel about living in their home. I talked with Gail about her numerous books about life, as well as her most recent book (Kindle version) weaving together interior design and living, which empowers readers.

SG: Tell me about “Making Stroganoff” and the story behind the story.

Gail: For many years I did whatever I could to get my mother-in-law to accept me, to help her not to judge me, to be loving in some way. She would say hurtful things. I just kept on trying. And then one day, I felt that she had crossed the line. I was really angry, so I thought I needed to distract myself, and I decided to make stroganoff. After I had combined most of the ingredients, I realized I was out of onions. When I called my neighbor to see if I could borrow some from her, she didn’t have any either. I was not angry with my neighbor for not giving me something that she didn’t have. Then I reflected on the way that my mother-in-law had been raised and what she valued in life, and I realized that I had been asking something of her that she didn’t have to give. That changed my relationship with her and I began to think about what she did give me. Over time, I became more evolved in my way of connecting with others and started thinking about what the other person was giving up. “Making Stroganoff” was the first story I wrote from that collection.

SG: How did you transition to writing additional stories?

Gail: I thought that perhaps life lessons come to us in gentler ways and we don’t have to be bludgeoned over the head by a 2 by 4, if only we would pay attention, and I started thinking that maybe life lessons were all around me if I would just pay attention to them. For instance, if you notice yellow cars on the road, in the beginning, you think there are none of them, and then all of a sudden, there are tons of yellow cars. Because this is what you focus on and then that is what you see. When I started to look for lessons in life, they were everywhere – little tiny things and that excited me. So I wrote the stories for myself and to share – I wanted it to be for more than me. When I told people about “Making Stroganoff”, people would say, `Oh, I have people in my life that didn’t have the onions.’ So I thought if I shared the things I had learned, perhaps I would validate what was happening for them.

SG: As you take your writings of simple wisdom in new directions, you have incorporated it into your other passion – your career as an interior designer. Tell me about your interior design book.

Gail: I’ve been helping people in their homes for so long. I think a home needs to be more than beautiful…it needs to feel welcoming and to be nurturing to our spirit as well. I think caring for our homes is one of the ways we take care of ourselves and I want to help readers do that.

SG: You worked as a hospice volunteer for many years. How did that experience change you?

Gail: It touches everything. When people are finishing this part of their life’s journey, it informs you of what is really important and what is not. I learned so much about myself and much more than I helped anybody, they helped me. And it is a terrific privilege to be in the presence of someone who has stripped away everything but what is necessary. But it informs everything and it changed my decorating for sure. (Previously) I was helping people decorate beautiful houses, but I am not sure that they were welcoming homes. It totally changes the kind of conversations I like to have with people. I really try and be purposeful in my way of determining what my clients really want to feel in their homes.

SG: How do you manage your time and different kinds of creativity?

Gail: Sometimes I feel like I am galloping through life. But when I start writing, I am lost in it. I usually begin in the morning. Since I have some flexibility, I try not to schedule clients until 10. It does not always work, but I try to protect that time for my writing or something else that is “me”. However, I am still creating throughout my day and it is not uncommon to awake at 2am with a spark of creativity, and then I must write it down. Sometimes when I email my clients with a design idea, I jokingly tell them, “You woke me up!”

SG: Where do you envision the direction of your life moving forward?

Gail: My dream regarding The Magical Interior Design Guide is that the word would spread and more and more people would start to use it…not because I am the one who wrote it, but because it truly helps them.

I think when we’re happier in our homes, we go out into the world as better people and I want my book to make that kind of a difference. So many of the people that I’ve worked with through the years are overwhelmed with the thought of decorating, and I’ve written my book for people like them. It is designed to give the readers more confidence so they can have more fun with their decorating. I’ve intertwined some things I’ve learned about life with some of what I’ve learned about creating a welcoming home. If my readers smile when they read it, my dream of helping people with what I have written will surely have come true.


How do you manage your time and different kinds of creativity? How have your past life experiences shaped your current creativity?

Gail Van KleeckFor more information about Gail’s vision, and her latest book, click here. You can read her blog, download free resources, or order her book about her unique perspective on interior design and how your home makes you feel, entitled, The Magical Interior Design Guide.

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