There is a quote that Fiona Mechem has always loved. It comes from Elsie de Wolfe, known as America’s first lady decorator, who said, “I will make everything around me beautiful. That will be my life.” For Fiona, a business owner, interior decorator, wife, and mother of three children, creating that beauty – both in the careful curation of her clients’ homes as well as in the special moments she fosters within her own family – has become a way of life. Picking daisies from the front yard and setting them on the kitchen table, pointing out a poignant line of poetry to her children, noticing a bird perched in a nearby tree…all small, precious moments of beauty that make life special.
Born in Chicago and raised between there and Santa Fe, New Mexico, Fiona rotated between her divorced parents’ households, spending part of each year with her dad, a very successful and charming man she always thought of as her hero and another part with her mom, with whom she had a more complicated relationship. As Fiona got older, she and her mother often clashed, Fiona chafing against her mother’s expectations for her, the only girl on that side of the family. That strain was mitigated, somewhat, by the care Fiona’s mother took in her home. Even amidst the chaos of a busy household filled with children, her mother took the time to make the house inviting. There were fresh flowers in vases, interesting books laid out on the coffee table, and carefully folded linens in the bathroom, touches Fiona would later incorporate into both her personal and professional lives.
Fiona attended Scripps College in California for college, earning a degree in art. Not sure what she wanted to do with her education, she decided to pursue a master’s degree in teaching only to quickly realize, after completing that degree at National Louis University , that her professional aspirations lay elsewhere. Back in Chicago, she landed a job with Crate and Barrel as an assistant to a buyer, and within a short period of time managed to work her way up the ladder to become a buyer herself, responsible for approximately 25% of Crate and Barrel’s furniture assortment and traveling throughout Europe, Asia, Mexico and Canada to develop new designs for furniture and décor. It was a dizzying, exhilarating ascent, filled with inspiring co-workers, professional challenges, and exciting opportunities. The one thing it wasn’t, however, was a career conducive to family life, and as time went on, that became more of an issue.
A few years into her career with Crate and Barrel, Fiona reconnected with a childhood acquaintance who had moved to Chicago. While she was initially uninterested – she tended to go for artsy types, so this tennis pro-turned corporate executive didn’t even seem like a romantic possibility at first – but their friendship blossomed into something more and Fiona found herself wondering how she would manage the frequent international travel her job required with the demands of motherhood, which she felt sure was on the horizon.
Fiona married, relocated to Denver with her husband and soon, their first child was born. While Fiona treasured the time at home with her young son, she also felt that she needed something more, some kind of creative, professional outlet she could pursue while raising children. She and a friend teamed up to start an interior design company, during which time Fiona welcomed two daughters into the world, and she eventually broke off from that partnership to start her own business, Cottonwood Interiors, through which she helps her clients create beautiful spaces, elevate everyday living and, most of all, feel “at home” in their homes. Through careful curation of color and texture and the inclusion of meaningful objects from travel or the past, Fiona helps her clients turn their homes into an expression of who they are and what they love so that, after a long day at work, walking in that front door feels like a warm embrace.
Finding the right balance between career and family is never easy, and like any working mother, Fiona has moments of feeling stretched too thin. Over time, she has gotten better at establishing boundaries and saying no to projects that will overwhelm the rest of her life. The goal, she frequently reminds herself as well as her children, is to never let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Fiona strives to do the things she cares about well instead of perfectly, and to show up as much as possible for people she loves and the causes she believes in, building community with close friends, neighbors, and colleagues as well as sharing a mission with fellow parents to support local schools and the arts. Just like in good design, life is all about the right blend and balance, adding in just enough of what makes you unique while creating the space to enjoy it.