I’ve been having a little love-hate relationship with my own four walls these past few months. Of course I love my house, but being trapped inside it 24/7 did put a strain in our relationship. Thank god a little thing called Internet helped me escape from time to time, and one account in particular, @troispetitesfilles, was always there -not only to flee drab boredom, but also to fix my quarrel with walls in general.
Victoria Kirton is the beautiful mind behind the account and knows everything about feeling trapped and how to upgrade plain old walls. The acclaimed interior designer describes herself as a nomad living an organized life. The latter means a house filled with books, paintings, antique finds, travel journals, an enormous hat closet and an equally impressive collection of dreamy gowns. As it befits any good tale, there is of course a mysterious garden too. She seemingly spends her days writing poetry, gardening, creating beautiful self-portraits and raising her two daughters in a slightly magical world that feels stolen out of time. In fact, her entire life looks plucked out of Golden Age painting. We spoke on a rainy summer afternoon about art, books and overstepping the constraints that life likes to throw at us.
On her roots: “Yangon born. Museums raised.”
“I was born in Burma and my family decided to move to the US when I was 14. They couldn’t adapt to life here and went back, but I decided to stay and live with relatives. Before she left, my mother asked her English teacher to look after me every weekend, which she did for years. I consider her my grandmother nowadays, and she’s the one I inherited my artistic streak from. She is quite the character: this sophisticated bohemian with a past of camel-trekking through Egypt and climbing the Himalayah. She used to live in a seaside cottage filled with books and paintings, and hosted amazing parties for her artist friends every Friday night. They would have passionate discussions about art and philosophy. I hardly spoke a word of English and thought this was how everybody talked and lived -talk about a rude awakening once I attended high school. She’d drag me along to the museum, disappearing for hours in the Impressionist section, while I did some daydreaming in the Golden Age room -to this day, it’s still one of my favorite art movements. In short, she exposed me to an incredibly layered, art-filled world every week, from Friday tot Sunday night, and those moments really sculpted me.”
On little breaks: “it takes three shots and fifteen minutes to take one self-portrait.”
“I spend all day making architectural drawings on my computer, and I take self portraits by way of a break. It started one day, toying with my camera, emulating Frida Kahlo, trying out different props and different kinds of lighting. It’s a great way to change my mind so I haven’t stopped ever since. There’s not really a message in them, I do it for myself. I guess I was unintentionally looking for a way of connecting with my femininity and sensuality. It’s about owning up and being your own phantasy, you decide who you are and want to be. Both a career woman ànd a sensual creature? Sure, why wouldn’t you? Many people tell me they wished they could live like me, dress like me, but that is just absurd: why couldn’t they? The only thing you need is being comfortable with yourself.”
On morning time: “it’s sensual.”
“I love mornings,! Here’s how my ideal Saturday morning looks like: the house is clean and quiet, the kids are still asleep, the dogs are still for once (I have two of them), I wake up early and read a book, after which I go through my entire skincare routine in the bathroom. Somehow the natural light is very beautiful in there, it’s very cosy and makes me feel at my most sensual, the most in touch with myself.”
On books: “In the morning you read a book that will teach you something, in the evening whatever trash you want.”
My grandmother had this rule about books, by which I still abide. I start the day by reading stuff on history, art, science, etc. Right now I’m very much into natural essays. And in the evenings I really enjoy gothic Victorian novels and whatever Spanish writers come up with!”
On jeans: “I dò own one pair of them!”
I have trouble picturing Victoria wearing jeans and doing normal things, like picking up coffee at the local inn. “Ahah, I do it all the time! I own one pair of jeans, but in general I just prefer wearing linen trousers. I live in a small town, there aren’t many minorities here and there I am, wearing turbans and long, floaty dresses. People actually don’t know what to do with me! I was once picking up my oldest daughter at the school bus, wearing a see-through organza dress. She came up to me and lectured: ‘Mother, there are children on the bus!’ Ahaha… As you know, girls get to a certain age and want to fit in. I used to have a difficult time because it has always been the three of us, I have taken them around the world, showed them different cultures, etc. The problem is I was looking at them through my confident, 36-year old eyes, whereas even if they love our lifestyle, they are still going to be pre-teenage girls. I can’t change that, they want to fit in and dress like their friends do. I have to understand that, they have to go to their phases on their own.”
On motherhood: “I was a race horse, just waiting for the gates to open.”
“I got married very young and had my first daughter at 25. We moved out into the countryside and I had to give up my career in journalism. I turned to skincare instead, but had to leave that too when my second daughter was born -I was only 27 at the time and working through my divorce. From then on, I was a stayathome mom, which is a privilege in some way, but also stands for a period of time where I lost myself a bit, my whole life evolving around these two little girls. I kept busy thrifting and rearranging old furniture, and blogging about it. One thing led to another and I was asked to decorate someone’s entire house for her. Once the girls were old enough for school, I didn’t hesitate a minute and signed up for an interior designing master. Before I knew it, I had my own studio up and running. Clients in Asia and Europe share my love of eclecticism, but here in the US it’s always too much. I have to do it in doses, for instance a small powder room covered in paintings. Paintings are always in my contract though: every single house I design comes with an original set! I work with local painters whom I task to create my vision, I think it’s important for the soul of a house.”
On ghosts: “I had a chat with an ancient chair once.”
“I link to think of myself as a rational person, but my heritage says otherwise. My mom and her sisters grew up in a beautiful Victorian mansion, far away in Burma, you could only reach it by overnight boat trip. We spent every summer there and it was really enchanting, filled with beautiful antiques, with an amazing rose garden. My aunts were great storytellers and bribed us into brushing and braiding their hair in exchange for these crazy, intricate stories. I guess this storytelling habit does haunt me from time to time. I once restored a set of very old 1800s opera chairs and put them in my home. For about a week after that, I woke up in sweat from night terrors, I just felt some weird energy and it seemed like the house was moving too: lights passing by and stuff, it disturbed me. It came to a point where I had to acknowledge it for what it was, so on advice of a friend I talked to those chairs. It’s crazy but I literally sat down in front of the chair, saying ‘ok you and I will have to live together, so can we just be in peace with each other?’ And then it just stopped. Crazy! ”
On travels: “I hate saying this, but if I’d been a man and had I lived in a different era, I would have been Lawrence of Arabia.”
“People like him were free to travel the world, they weren’t held back by anything nor anyone. It’s a hassle, but I need to travel, even with my job and two kids. I normally leave every two or three months, and every summer I take the girls to see our family in Birma for a while, after which we pick one or two countries to travel through on our own. Top of my mind, there are two journeys I’d recommend: floating down the Nile on a traditional felucca -one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had- and crossing India by train. There’s a little town called Pushka there, a lakeside city surrounded by mountains, it’s a really spiritual place and funnily enough it’s inhabited by a lot of Israeli hippies who came there in the seventies and actually never left.”
On Instagram: “No pressure.”
“A lot of people complain about Instagram pressuring you to be this or that, but I’ve never experienced it like that. I took my first self-portrait long before selfies were a thing and still create them for me alone. I love how social media enables you to discover and connect with artists, strong personalities and kindred spirits. Here are three accounts I recommend: my good friend @BehidaDolic (who is the amazing milliner behind my favorite hat), @Shopdoen (an all-female design collective. Most of my dresses or made by them, if not shopped through vintage Instagram accounts) and @Maryamkeyhani (another fascinating, unapologetically creative artist who makes hats, paintings, dresses, sculptures, everything basically!).
On life: “Always be curious! Curiosity drives you to learn, to do things your own way, and just to live more in general.”