As a popular destination for decor devotees you’re probably familiar with the lifestyle blog Thou Swell, which was started in 2013. The eye behind these beautiful posts is Kevin O’Gara, who started out pinning and re-blogging interiors as a teen before deciding to launch his own site. As founder and editor the Atlanta native shares his passion for beauty by curating posts about home, garden, entertaining, food, and decor. Though the site is only a few years old, Kevin has already been featured in numerous design articles and has had the chance to partner with many national brands. As if running a prominent website wasn’t time consuming enough, Kevin is also working towards earning a degree in Design and Environmental Analysis from Cornell University. Luckily for us, Kevin managed to find a moment of spare time to sit down and answer some questions for us.
What first sparked your interest in interior design, gardening, and entertaining?
I can’t remember when I first identified my love for interior design, gardening, and entertaining – they have always been part of my life and passions of mine since a young age! I can remember moving the furniture in my bedroom around as a child and gardening with my parents on the weekends. My family also has a strong tradition of family dinners, which we had every night before my sisters and I started going off to college, and the idea of cooking, eating, and entertaining together has always stuck with me.
Who’s your favorite designer?
I admire so many different designers of so many styles, from Ashe+Leondro’s contemporary projects to Atlanta-based Suzanne Kasler’s more traditional work. I also love the eclectic work of John Oetgen, another Atlanta designer who I’ve known for a long time.
What is your favorite textile?
I will always love velvet upholstery – especially in a rich jewel tone – but for some it’s a seasonal fabric, so I would say linen as well, for a lighter, yet just as classic texture.
How do you think good interior design can help improve someone’s life?
For me, interior design is extremely personal, and the more personal it is, the more successful. To create a space that reflects its inhabitants, their lives, their pasts, and their futures, is highly emotional and takes a great deal of sensitivity. To be able to live in such a space is like looking in a mirror, because it creates an honest reflection of yourself.
What era do you think had the best design?
I love watching old movies, and one of the periods I love best is the 30’s, at the height of Art Deco design. I also love the glitz of the 20’s and some of the stark modernism of the late 60’s. It’s hard to choose!
What’s your favorite thing about gardening?
Gardening is so therapeutic for me because although it requires care and investment, it creates such an inspiring reward. To put bulbs in the ground in the winter and know they will reveal themselves in the spring is a practice in hope and patience, and really reconnects you with the greatest wild designs and seasonal cycles.
What’s your favorite plant?
I will always love the staples of southern gardens: boxwoods, hydrangeas, peonies, gardenias, and camellias.
What do you hope to do with your Design and Environmental Analysis degree once you complete the program?
While I love interior design, my degree will give me a design education much broader than interiors, and I hope to be able to influence how people live beyond interiors and rethink housing, urban development, and the products and services people use at home everyday.
How do you think living in Atlanta has influenced your design preferences?
Growing up in Atlanta has given me a great vocabulary in traditional design, as well as a sense of classical scales and proportions, which are key to successfully remixing and reinterpreting these classics in more contemporary settings and styles. I love that Atlanta often brings together the traditional design of the southeast with urban, modern design.
What’s your favorite food to serve guests?
One of my favorite dinner party menus includes two family favorites: Spanish tortilla and gazpacho. Both dishes are simple but delicious and complement each other perfectly. They also can be scaled up or down and served for any occasion, and look beautiful as a tapas-style meal with bread and cheese on the table.
How did you grow your large amount of followers?
Growing Thou Swell took time and patience, but also branding and marketing skills I’ve learned through other work and a strict sense of quality when it comes to the content I produce. Luckily, I love photography and graphic design which has served me well as I have started producing more original projects and collaborations with brands.
What’s your favorite piece of furniture?
Right now I’m loving the versatility of a chaise or daybed.
As someone who stays on top of the trends, what do you think the future of design looks like?
Everything in design, from interiors to marketing, is moving towards a very editorial point of view. That being said, brands and products are being evolved to tell a story, which creates a stronger emotional connection between designers, retailers, and consumers. For interior design, spaces are becoming more imperfect, more detailed, and more personal, to tell the story of its inhabitants.
What do you think is the best way to freshen up a room?
My favorite trick for transforming a room is to invest in high-quality curtains. Hanging curtains not only softens a window, but when hung properly (just 2-3 below ceiling height) they will help extend the height of the walls. Another easy update is to refresh a room with new throw pillows, in coordinating colors and patterns to bring a cohesive element to the space.
How do you think your website will evolve over the next few years?
For now, I will continue curating interior design projects, garden, and recipe ideas along with original posts interspersed while I’m in college, but I hope to expand the website soon to act more as a portfolio for my work and a platform for sharing more collaborations.
Thanks again Kevin for taking the time to chat with us! We can’t wait to see how Thou Swell continues to evolve, and we wish you the best of luck in getting your degree and the work that will develop from that.