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Style Talk With Jeanee Duval And Dayle Bennett of Gift Scout

Jeanee Duval and Dayle Bennett are the creators of Gift Scout, a lovely gift guide built around seasonal trends. These best friends have known each other since grad school, and even though they’re 600 miles apart, they collaborate on the latest lifestyle magazine that’s filled with entertainment spreads, fun DIYs, and of course, gifts! I chatted with the pair just before Mother’s Day to discuss great gifts for mom and entertaining tips for Mother’s Day brunch.

Tell us the story behind Gift Scout. How did the two of you get started?

JD: Dayle and I are best friends. We met in grad design school and our friendship flourished when we both were employees at Hallmark Cards, Inc. We ran the Kansas City craft show circuit together. We encouraged and supported each other with our craft and blogger business and respect each other as designers with our own unique strengths. Now Dayle resides in Atlanta and I in Miami. But 600 miles haven’t diminished our friendship. We speak on the phone weekly.

Back in 2006 or so Dayle got me interested in participating in themed gift swaps on Flickr. You’d join a group and receive a secret pal to send a gift to. It was more fun to gather and package up cute little goodies to mail than it was to receive them. Dayle is a super pro at gift wrapping. She can wrap a gift with three pieces of tape! I don’t know how she does it.

Gift giving was also a big thing at Hallmark Cards. The business of gift giving definitely trickled down to the employees. Every week there was a birthday, wedding, baby or retirement celebration. Themed celebrations with top notch coordinated presentations decked out with decorations, matching cake and gifts were a sight to be seen. Everyone was always trying to top the last party. That is where Dayle and I discovered our love for gift giving and gift presentation.

Dayle and I never worked on a project together. We didn’t even work in the same department at Hallmark. I’d been wanting to find a way to share my trend spotting skills. One night the idea just jumped out to me. A gift guide! And Dayle could showcase her DIY skills. We both love a cute gift guide. But we didn’t want it to be your typical for her / for him guide. So we decided to group the gifts by trends for the season. And Dayle does gifting DIY to coordinate. We went through several names, then Dayle came up with the Gift Scout at the last minute! It’s so perfect. We’re scouting everywhere to give the best gift giving inspiration. 

DB: Jeanee covered it!

In the Gift Scout, you cover everything from design trends to DIY manicures. Where does the inspiration for each issue come from?

DB: Jeanee and I are constantly researching ideas for each issue and future issues. The DIY projects are inspired by the trends and the seasons we are covering for each issue. We always try to have gift-wrap solutions and lifestyle DIY in each issue. Our plan works well with Jeanee working on finding the items and applying them to each trend and I work on finding the perfect projects and DIY to tie it all together.

JD: I have tons and tons of trend research that I collect from various sources. Dayle and I go through it and we pick what we’re both drawn to the most. The guide is very girly and feminine. I also try to post some gender neutral items. For the summer issue we plan to focus on dads and grads. 

After we choose the trends we go to our private Pinterest board and start pinning gifts and DIY project inspiration that’ll fit into each trend section. Once I start grouping gifts together they start to tell a story. Some trends fall by the wayside while others blossom.

We love your Spring Spread. Any tips for recreating this brunch for Mother’s Day?

DB: We talked about adding entertaining for this issue and Jeanee ran with the idea. We love giving our readers entertaining ideas and can’t wait to share more ideas for entertaining in future issues.

JD: Yes. I totally made the Spring Spread for Mother’s Day or a girl’s brunch. I really wanted to make simple foods look fantastic with presentation. A quick and easy preparation of 1-2 items mixed with a couple of store bought items works best. All it takes is some fresh flowers and coordinating table decor to make the food presentation more festive. Of course a cocktail with patterned paper straws is always a winner! To me, brunch is more about catching up on girl talk than the food.

What’s next for Gift Scout?

JD: We’re working on our third issue for summer. Hopefully we can meet up soon so we can work on an issue together! I miss interacting with Dayle in person. She’s Laverne and I’m Shirley! We’re always looking for brands to work with to feature in the guide.

DB: Yes, we are so excited to work on the next issue. Anything we work on together is fun and exciting. We are natural collaborators. Its a pure joy working with my bestie on any creative project.She is so talented. We love great design and we have blast creating our style guide.

Jeanee and Dayle shared with us some of their favorite gifts for Mother’s Day. See them all in the latest issue of Gift Scout!

Style Talk With Dana Hill of COCOTIQUE

Dana Hill, Founder of COCOTIQUE, shares her inspiration for creating the newest beauty box specifically for women of color.

The COCOTIQUE beauty box is…

A subscription service for women of color. Each month subscribers receive a box of beauty and lifestyle products chosen for [them] by a team of beauty connoisseurs.

COCOTIQUE was inspired by…

I’ve always been a beauty product junkie and am constantly on the search to arm myself with my ultimate beauty arsenal. I decided to create COCOTIQUE after trying other beauty boxes and could not find what I wanted that specifically targeted my beauty needs.

The company is dedicated to…

Providing content that speaks to [women of color] on every level. It’s essential that we create an emotional connection with our customer base. Historically, women of color have had difficulty finding beauty products that work with our skin tones and hair textures. With that said, we have had to spend an inordinately large amount of money on beauty products to find what best suits us. For this reason, when we do find our holy grail products, women of color are very passionate and loyal to these brands.

The COCOTIQUE lifestyle is…

We’re all about maintaining beauty from the inside and out, and living a meaningful life. The ideal COCOTIQUE woman is that effortlessly chic woman that believes in maintaining balance in her life, and as a part of her everyday lifestyle incorporates healthy habits for her mind, body and soul.

Subscribe for your monthly beauty box at COCOTIQUE.

Style Talk With HGTV Star Contestant Brooks Atwood

On HGTV Star architect and interior designer Brooks Atwood was larger than life with big hair and a big personality.  Now back in Brooklyn, as the principal of POD Design, Brooks has so much to teach all of us about design; knowing how and when to break the rules; and how asking the hard questions can spark innovation.

You have a unique vision as both an architect and interior designer.  What helped shape your outlook?

I don’t see architecture and design as two different things.  At the beginning of my life I was always interested in pushing boundaries and the limits.  I didn’t want to be constrained.  I try every day to act more like a kid.  I try to go back to that innocence where everything is palpable.  My parents were always pushing me, and everything was open.  We didn’t have too many rules and regulations growing up, and that allowed my creativity to run free.

How does living in New York fuel your creativity as a designer?

Growing up, I knew that I didn’t belong anywhere and felt like an outsider until I started visiting New York.  I immediately fell in love with the city, and was determined to make it my life’s mission to move there.  I applied to a bunch of grad schools for design and ended up getting into Columbia.  I moved to the city to go to grad school, and from day one I felt like I belonged.  There were other crazy people like me, who are not really crazy but really excited about design!  Then I found Brooklyn and felt like I fit in even more.  I live in Fort Greene, a very creative environment.

You believe in designing outside of the box.  How does this translate to your work as a professor?

I definitely teach my students to push boundaries right from day one.  We have “don’t’ fucking procrastinate” rules.  They print them out, and take a pledge on our site Goodfuckingdesignadvice.com.  I proceed to show them how to break the rules, why and when.  Of course there are rules to design.  I don’t want them to get arrested, but if they do, I ask them to please call me and I will bail them out as long as it’s a design-related crime.  I keep them on their toes.  They are used to pre-conceived notions of what design is, of what life is, of how they should design.  I try to break all of that within the first few weeks of class.  [We tackle questions like] what is a door handle; why that height; how tall is the client; why is it cold when it should be warm; what does it feel like when you touch it?  [For a room], what does the space smell like; what does a space feel like; how do you design sound in a space?  I’m showing them that there’s different ways of thinking.  It’s all about research at the beginning and throwing out as many ideas as possible.  That’s what leads to innovation.

As an international design firm, how does culture influence your work as a designer?

Incredibly.  Every culture has different needs, styles, aesthetics and beliefs.  Right now I’m loving Australia.  They are very interested in boundary-pushing design.  You have to live in a place and experience the culture.  When I was a kid we moved a lot – Indiana, Illinois, Virginia, North Carolina, Alaska.  My parents divorced, my dad was living in Virginia, and my mom was in sales so we would go wherever the restaurants she sold to were.  In third grade we moved three different times, and I went to three different schools.  That exposed me to so many different people.  When I travel now, I love being exposed to different cultures.

What inspires you as a designer?

Everything inspires me.  I love ideas!  Just great ideas!  Inspiration comes from other designers, walking around, riding my bike.  I tend to crash into parked cars or fall over the sidewalks and trip because i’m looking at something that inspires me.  I love reading design mags and looking at Instagram for inspiration.  I love to see what people are doing and how that can be applicable to something new in design.

A Walk In Your Shoes: Jeanine Hays

A chat with Jeanine Hays about AphroChic style and the upcoming book.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKhOL_I1xlE?rel=0]

Leon Shipp Belt and Angela Belt are the creators and producers of A Walk In Your Shoes, a video series that focuses on the work of creatives.