In a material world driven by consumption-centric industries, finding balance, purpose and harmony in object selection is becoming the predominant thinking for those of us enabled enough to make conscious decisions. On the frontier of such movements are inspired, engaged and mindful individuals; including Paige Geffen from Object & Us.
Leading the way with her distinct, authentic and subtle example, she’s transforming spaces, and mind-sets, one intrigued, potential-pioneer at a time…
“…I wanted to explore that we can curate our lives with items that speak to who we are, in order to live with more intention and mindfulness. That’s absolutely true, but what’s even more important is that our things have nothing to do with shaping who we are. When we shed our attachment in order to see our objects as tools for connection, rather than as symbols of identity - the real work starts…”
Excerpt from the Object & Us Journal, Objects and Attachment: Letting Go, 10th Jan 2018
Where are you from, and how did you come to be part of the design world?
I’m from Radnor, Pennsylvania, a suburb outside of Philadelphia. I had a lovely upbringing, but I always felt stifled and yearned to live in a city with interesting people. I started drawing when I was twelve, and that was a huge creative outlet for me that continued (along with painting) through high school. I went to college in North Carolina and continued to feel stifled with a small, homogenous student body. I was an art major, and that was my outlet there as well.
When I came to Los Angeles after school, I had no idea what I wanted to do, but I knew it would be creative. After working many assistant/nanny jobs in the entertainment industry, I got a job at an interior design firm. I left after nine months to start my own business with no savings or backup plan, and here I am!
The ride has not been easy. I often read about people’s stories, and most, somehow, feel seamless. I don’t want to paint a perfect picture. I’ve experienced turmoil in creating a lifestyle and career that suits me, but it’s ultimately all been worth it - because there’s no price for living your truth.
I’m coming up on six years in Los Angeles, and I recently moved to Topanga Canyon to live a bit more quietly, in nature. It’s enabling me to reconnect to parts of myself I’ve abandoned or conditioned over the years. I find myself caring less about “the design world” and more about deep desires within, and creating from that place - that’s where Object & Us was born from.
In your own words, please tell us what you do…
A mix of interior design/styling, photo styling, and art direction across different platforms. I selectively take on interior designer clients, and I style and photograph to create content for businesses. I also lead one-on-one sessions through Object & Us - the sessions are basically “object therapy.” I aid people in stripping down to the root of who they truly are in order to help them to connect more intentionally to their objects and in turn, to themselves.
We have relationships with our things, whether we are aware of this or not, and we can use these relationships to aid us to live our most intentional and authentic lives. People are so attached to their things, so this work is really about shedding that attachment and seeing our things as a tool for connection, rather than a symbol of who we are. This is truly the centre and heart of my work.
What does beauty look like to you?
To me, beauty without intention really isn’t beautiful. It feels empty. We can emphasize the marriage of beauty and intention by realizing that they are the same. That beauty comes from mindfulness, from nature, from slowing down, from our hearts. Beauty looks like truth.
What do you stand for?
Equality. Ethical practices. Sustainability. We are in a very scary and pivotal time. It is more important than ever to speak truth and shed light on injustices. So, I also stand for speaking up and taking action in small and big ways.
What are three things that are inspiring you right now?
Boundaries. Less Stuff. Old art books. Also as a bonus - chairs (always).
Which element of your work do you thrive off the most?
Childlike creativity. Being able to create from that space of total intuitive drive. It’s the thing that scares me the most, yet I trust it more than I fear it because it only gets me closer to my truth. I really love creating in secret. Alone. When no one is near, and I can create without self-judgement.
"Equality. Ethical practices. Sustainability. We are in a very scary and pivotal time. It is more important than ever to speak truth and shed light on injustices. So, I also stand for speaking up and taking action in small and big ways."
Do you have a favourite, or stand-out project in your portfolio that you can tell us about?
I actually have not added many projects to my portfolio over the years. Looking back, I wish I had photographed every project, but where I am at now is this beautiful place of a clean slate, so-to-speak.
Moving away from taking on projects that will strengthen my portfolio and into what feeds me (whether people see it or not) is a recent progression that I’m proud of. It’s freeing.
To answer your question more literally, my favourite design project is probably of my last apartment. Solely because I had free reign (other than budgetary constraints) to design and create. To me, my portfolio now is the journal on Object & Us, and I’m excited to see how it evolves and takes shape.
Do you have a morning ritual?
Yes. Rituals create the structure in my days, and so much of my work with others revolves around helping them to create rituals. My mornings are long, private, and restorative. I used to get up, brush my teeth, grab a bite and run out the door. I’m so glad those days are over.
I actually start my work day pretty late in order to give myself a nourishing morning. I usually start with a few glasses of water, followed by bone broth and breakfast. I may make a tonic or something herbal after breakfast, do the dishes, and get organized. I then meditate and journal. Some days don’t allow for this, and that’s okay. Life happens. But I always make sure to connect to myself in the morning.
Who, or what are you listening to right now?
Right now, in this very moment, I’m listening to Mulatu Astatke. Lately I’ve been listening to Luiz Bonfa, Al Green, Francoise Hardy, The Ladybird soundtrack (and all Jon Brion) and Little Dragon. My staples are Joni Mitchell, Air, Radiohead, Broken Social Scene, The Velvet Underground, and Mac Demarco.
What does your ideal Sunday entail?
No plans! Lying in bed as long as I please. Going out for a hike with my dog, Joni. Lunch at a cafe with friends (or alone). Stopping by a local grocer to get ingredients for dinner. Sunset at the beach. Cooking and blasting music. Any or all of that sounds great to me.
Knowing what you do now, what advice would you offer to your younger self?
To dive in. To be bold and fearless and unapologetic in my own skin. To not be so afraid to completely draw outside of the lines. I drew on the border, teetering on the edge, but I would tell myself to go way past that border. I’m so sick of ‘should-ing’ on myself - no more!
What is happiness to you?
Happiness is presence. I certainly can’t be happy-go-lucky in every moment, but even when I’m angry or sad - I can be present. To me, that’s freedom. I need a lot of freedom in my life, and I’ve always known this, but it’s becoming more and more clear as of late. I don’t work very well with typical structure (like a 9-5 schedule or a pre-paved path), and so my structure has to be self-directed (which comes from my rituals). Otherwise, I feel too restricted and stifled. Of course I can choose to be present anytime, yet having more freedom in my life truly allows for this to come naturally.
Photography by Claire Cottrell | @clairelindsay
Words by Ellen Watts | @_theatelier_ with Paige Geffen | @paigegeffen | www.objectand.us