We caught up with Nina Freudenberger, founder of Haus Interior and Author of Surf Shack; Laid Back Living by the Sea and talked about the beauty in slower living and how you can bring surf culture to your home.
When you started Haus Interior, what were your goals and how have you seen them evolve?
When I started Haus Interior, I don’t think I had dreams that were fully evolved. In the beginning I was so focused on doing a good job for my small projects I kept my head down and just worked very hard. It was very challenging and every day felt a little bit like a struggle. Instead, over time, my dreams started to form and I realized I loved doing not just interior design – but I also loved the retail space (so I opened a store in NYC and had it for 8 years), felt inspired to create a line of fabrics and wallpapers (I love nothing more then wallpaper!) and wanted to continue to explore home life, which is why I did the book Surf Shack. I am very stubborn in the sense that if I wanted to try something or explore something, I did the research, formulated a clear plan and implemented. I never sit back and wait for things to fall in my lap. Dreams are so important but you can’t just close your eyes and wish it to happen, you have to take a very active role in making it happen for yourself!
You traveled around the world when working on your book, Surf Shack: Laid Back Living by the Water, what was the binding factor between all the homes and what was the most valuable lesson you learned along the way?
I am so grateful for the amazing journey that Surf Shack took me on – seeing all of these incredible homes around the world. I was inspired by the homeowners. First by their graciousness in letting us into their private space and letting us show it to the world! There’s definitely a level of courage there! But generally, I was so blown away by the risks they took and their commitment to creativity and living the life they wanted. I was struck by the fact that it was not about the best real estate location, the biggest home or the fanciest vintage chair. These people love their homes to the core and love the life they built – and that was felt through the entire home. And if that meant things were worn and used, moved from room to room, repainted or repurposed, it just felt more beautiful. There is so much value in creating a home around something you love doing, and in this case, surfing, that it made the home feel authentic. And nothing beats living authentically!
What about surf culture inspired you to delve deeper into that world?
When I moved to Venice, California, after living in NYC for 10 years, I was so inspired seeing the surfers wake up very early and head down to the beach first thing in the morning (like 5am.) In New York I was always surrounded by the hustle and people working all day, everyday, that I was just so excited to see people live for something other then work. This then made me wonder about their lives in general – what their families were like, their homes, etc. And it felt really important for me to explore that. It was a personal shift that I wanted to experience as well. These people made time in their day to do something they love and I think that is such a beautiful thing – I hope everyone gets the chance to do this as well!
Do you have any evening rituals/ morning rituals that you abide by?
Yes I do! We have two small boys, one is 3 and one is 1 years old, and it’s exhausting at the moment! I have always enjoyed sleep but now it is totally critical. Working full time and getting these guys organized in the morning takes a fresh start, so I make sure to go to bed at a reasonable hour. And it might even be embarrassing, does anyone else get into bed by 10? Well, that’s me. And I always read something before I sleep, I try my very hardest to turn off screen time and absolutely no TV in bed. I just finished Exit West by Moshin Hamid and would go to bed a little early just to make sure I had enough time to read it before falling asleep. Around 4 am my son comes in and snuggles next to us, the sweetest thing but he takes up most of the bed! And in the morning my husband always takes the boys downstairs so I have 10 minutes of my own time in bed to check emails, catch up on the news and write mental lists of what is on tap for the day so that I can be as organized as possible.
How have the cities you lived in affected the way you sleep? Do you notice a distinct difference between them?
Yes I do! Every city has their own vibe - for example, Paris - people walking down cobblestone streets, the echo at night of scooters near great stone buildings! I remember Puglia, Italy, had these sweet birds that would come out at dusk and chirp until late in the evening, and that helped put me to sleep in the most beautiful way. California’s climate allows us to sleep with the windows open year-round and hearing the palm trees move in the wind is my idea of heaven, and in NYC, my hometown, I would never sleep with the window open. I loved feeling cocooned in my little space in a big city. It’s a big world out there and I think it’s important to take it ALL in!
In what way does your home best represent/nourish you?
My family nourishes me, or, more honestly - it is exhausting but nourishing at the same time! Seeing the boys play together and having the whole family home and relaxing is the absolute highlight of my life. Cooking and eating together and talking about the day is simply the best, it always puts things in perspective for me after a long day.
In terms of finding sanctuary by the sea, how can people who live in cities incorporate that lifestyle into their home?
I was really careful to include homes that were NOT directly ocean adjacent in the book because I think that just isn’t possible for everyone. For example, we included a couple in Brooklyn who would take the train out to the Hamptons or to the Rockaways to surf whenever they had time in their schedule (and these are very busy creatives that run a big company!) I loved that they found space for their surfboards in their bathroom. I think on a more general level, just bringing the natural elements indoors is the part that can most simply get you that feeling – plants, warm materials (linens, cottons, lots of throw blankets) and wood (such as a wood coffee table, etc) make a huge difference and really impacts the way your house feels.
Do you have a mantra?
Create a life you are proud of.