Janet Parrella Van Den Berg and her husband, Dino Parrella are the creative powerhouse behind UK-based White & Faded. With a focus on restoring old homes and furniture, they bring new life to everything they do while introducing their clients and fans to stylish, sustainable living.
Through their website and growing Instagram account (54k followers and growing!), the pair offers a behind-the-scenes look at their process of restoring their own home in the Garden of England, a large country house originally built in 1767. Plus, there’s The White & Faded House, a beautiful and serene Airbnb located in Waco, Texas. For those who love the look, their online shop features restored vintage products and new products from their collection, helping customers achieve their serene style on their own. Finally, Janet also hosts a digital academy through which she teaches interactive online courses covering topics, such as “chair upholstery” and “double piping.” Janet is clearly quite busy, so we’re grateful she made time for a recent conversation about design, intentional living, and the biggest style differences between the US and England:
Where do you call home?
I was born in Holland, and have lived in the USA, Australia, and Switzerland. I currently live in England, which I now call home.
How did you get into the world of interiors?
I worked as a photographer on fashion style photoshoots. My favourite part of the job was the creation of the scene, something that came natural to me and allowed me to become more and more involved in.
In 2013 I moved back to England. I wanted a break from working as a photographer and started my Instagram page for White & Faded, for which I just posted pictures of our home that we were renovating. Through this, I was contacted by a couple of magazines to publish an article about me, the renovations and designs. So, I kind of rolled into the world of interiors by doing what I love to do.
Why are you passionate about interiors and intentional living?
I believe an interior can tell a story about the person living there, how they view the world around them, their desires and way of living. I love to help people translate their dreams and views into a beautiful living space where they can feel at home and make their story come alive.
Running a business with your husband leaves hardly any space for free-time; having breakfast on the go and no time for lunch is the reality of it. More and more, we start seeing the need to just stand still and breath in the moment… we’ll grab our coffee and walk through the garden, watch the bunnies chase each other, or watch the sun shine through the wisteria, creating dancing shadows that appear on the wall. The temptation is there to grab the camera and photograph it, but I’m learning to just enjoy that wonder and beauty, as it is here now, and gone a moment later. The older I get, I start to see how we can be so absorbed by our notifications and Instagram and Facebook apps, that we forget to live. Intentional living is the cry of my heart to seek the beauty all around me, in family gatherings, nature, beautiful fabrics and playful moments. It brings me gratitude and contentment.
What is your first memory of how the design of a space impacted you positively?
It was my first job as a designer back in 1998. I was asked to help an architect on a project to transform an industrial building space into an office. I was given a healthy budget and they were open to whatever I decided on. When I presented my mood board, they were not so sure about the choice of curtains and floor finish, but I convinced them that this is what they were looking for. On the opening evening of the new office, I was praised for my brave approach and design, and for creating a space that was beyond their imagination.
My biggest compliment was that after 10 years, the office still looked the same as on the opening day!
You’re passionate about restoring historical spaces and pieces – can you share some lessons learned?
An old house comes with a lot of beauty, but also with a lot of hidden challenges. In general, it will take double the time and budget for the updates and renovations. Most of the time, old houses have been altered over the years, but those updates are no longer functional (lowered ceilings, popcorn ceilings, added walls and extensions with leaking roofs). It is better to start with a clean slate, remove old alterations that are not original or not functional, remove carpets to check for wood rot or woodworm infections, and wall coverings for crumbled plaster, etc.
You also have a beautiful shop with both new and antique products. How do you find such beautiful historical pieces?
After his retirement, my dad opened an antique shop with beautiful and pristine items, mainly from France, Germany and Holland. It was basically his hobby to collect antiques and I grew up around museum-quality, beautiful pieces of furniture. He brought me to antique markets and auctions, where I learned how to find what I’m after and to look beyond the current paint colour and alterations. Of course, the style of White & Faded doesn’t fit the style of the almost untouched antiques, but through learning from my dad, I discovered how and where to look for them.
You have an Airbnb in Waco Texas – why did you choose that location to create a guest house?
I have had fans that have asked me if they could come to our house to take photos of our home, and even one person who asked if she could stay the night in our house to experience living in a white interior for herself. These experiences and a long-time desire to renovate a house in America was the basis for our Airbnb. Dino got in contact with a contractor in Waco, TX and having never heard about this city, decided it would be the best place for a new adventure. Not knowing that Waco is actually a buzzing city, we were surprised about the opportunities and community-building atmosphere that this place radiates. We instantly found it fit for our White & Faded House.
How would you explain what defines British interiors and how is it different than the American approach?
The big difference is the way houses are built in Europe. To open and remove walls isn’t that easy in Europe, which has a huge impact on the overall design. British houses are, in general, small with many rooms, built entirely from brick or concrete and you need structural beams to support the walls. To stay within budget, most people open one wall at most, mostly between the living room and dining room, or dining room and kitchen. Because of the lack of space and also the lack of windows, designing bright and light interiors for a British house is completely different from an American house. The Brits are also more traditional, and for me, coming from Holland where we love innovation and something different, it is challenging, yet exciting, to create a beautiful, contemporary and relaxed home.
Beyond your shop, Airbnb, and book, you also offer digital courses. Could you share some of the things that you’ll be talking about/teaching?
I’ve been bombarded with questions about paint techniques, or simple upholstery. Out of this demand, we started the White & Faded Academy with courses and live tutorials/challenges. These courses vary from simple upholstery to transformations of furniture and paint techniques. In the future, we will add styling and other topics that will come up naturally.
Lastly, what is one thing that you find timeless elegant?
The colour white! It’s beautiful in contemporary, antique or feminine style interiors. It never gets tired, it’s incredibly adaptive and oh-so-beautiful on it’s own. White reflects light beautifully and brightens up any space.