Quick Takes With: Helen Rice

We’ve been following Helen Rice’s shrewd design eye for a decade: first through Fuzzco—the creative agency she co-founded that’s turning 20 this year—and more recently via a few new projects, among them PM Residence, a rental flat available through her project Serious Buildings, and a “home ephemera shop” called Ponytail. “Growing up, I wore a ponytail because I was busy being a tomboy,” she told Julie in our recent feature. I wanted the shop to be an expression of a new phase in my life where I didn’t take things so seriously.”

Here—for our second installment of Quick Takes—Helen shares her litmus test for a good housewarming present, a movie palette that inspires her, and what’s *not* on her bedside table (or anywhere else in her house, for that matter). Read on:

photograph by cyle suesz. 17
Above: Photograph by Cyle Suesz.

Your first design love:

The architecture in Charleston. I was born about five blocks away from where I live now.

What was the last thing you watched that stuck with you? 

I was really struck by the color compositions and beautiful sadness of Grand Prix (1966). It made me realize how much inspiration there is to find in old movies, especially the ones not everyone is looking at. 

What are you listening to?

The Studs Terkel Archive Podcast is so great. I enjoyed his conversations with Leonard Bernstein, Tom Wolfe, and Mel Brooks.

Your best house upgrade:

The filtered water tap that comes out of the wall in my kitchen. 

What’s on your bedside table? 

Nothing. I like how clutter feels in other people’s homes, but I can’t stand it in mine.

helen’s best kitchen addition. 18
Above: Helen’s best kitchen addition.

Best host or housewarming present to give?

Something useful or consumable. A great knife sharpener, bottle opener, or set of cloth napkins. 

And a budget purchase you can’t live without? 

L.L. Bean’s Extra Large Boat and Tote

A design pet peeve…or two? 

I hate seeing a huge header where there used to be a wall. Just leave the wall in that case—or there’s just got to be a more elegant way to accomplish opening one space to another.

I also really don’t think there’s ever a need to stain wood floors. Just get the wood species that is the color you want, or let it naturally age. Stained floors just don’t wear well in my experience. 

What item from your closet do you have on repeat?

Jeans from B Sides and gray sweatshirts.

ponytail. “i buy objects for the shop like i do for my own home,&am 19
Above: Ponytail. “I buy objects for the shop like I do for my own home,” Helen says.

Something you’re coveting?

This mohair rug from The Rug Company.

Lastly: What’s your signature design move? 

I leave rooms a little unfinished, and I think there are two causes:

1. I like when everything can be put away and cleaned efficiently. When a space is cluttered, my mind feels cluttered, so I tend to not over-dress a space.

And 2. There’s a certain energy that rooms have when you’ve left something else to do. There’s this feeling of opportunity. Maybe the opportunity is to add more stuff later.

Thanks, Helen! You can follow Helen’s work via @helenrice—also Fuzzco, PM Residence (available to rent as of June), and Ponytail—plus, keep an eye out for Helen’s design eye on a bistro called Merci, coming soon to Charleston.

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