It's not an accident that most women who shop at Anthropologie stores feel transported to a romantic, foreign land as soon as they walk through the doors. For the past 15 years, Keith Johnson, the 53-year-old buyer-at-large for the home and fashion retailer Anthropologie, has been shopping around the world, bringing back art, furniture and home accessories that help make the store a retail destination for fashionable women. "I think Anthropologie is such a touch-of-the-hand experience," Johnson says. "We really love to be an experiential place. You can go there, really enjoy yourself, not buy a thing and come out with an idea or emotion or inspiration."
Hustling through Parisian flea markets and stopping by South African roadside furniture shops are just a few ways Johnson discovers unique items for the stores. His job is now the focus of the Sundance Channel's reality TV series Man Shops Globe. In between taping the TV show, traveling and shopping, Johnson took a few minutes to share his secrets to creating Anthropologie style in your home.
Envision Your Dream Life
Johnson says the best way to begin a redecorating project is with a little exercise that requires you to put down home décor magazines and shut your eyes. He says you should conjure up a fantasy person—a person who is really an extension of you. "Maybe she's a woman living in the south of France and she is married to an explorer. Come up with a total fantasy and then you start to think, 'What would she have in her house?'" Johnson says. "Then it becomes easier and you say: 'Well, she is never going to have a chrome shelf from Home Depot—that is not going to work. But she would have this or that.' It is a really fun exercise."
Don't Be Afraid of Color
Painting and decorating in neutral colors can look sophisticated, but Johnson says the trend is becoming boring. "I'm so tired of everything being white and off-white. I think we all got a little bit too exposed to good taste. We need to be comfortable jazzing it up with color and pattern. Just go for it. Great colors are so pleasing and so uplifting," he says.
Johnson says he came across homes on a recent trip to La Boca, Argentina, that were painted in bright, bold and random colors. The people living there were using paint left over from fishermen and boatmakers who painted their vessels in town. "They are just the most random, crazy colors—I mean it's leftover paint!" Johnson says. "There was purple, bright blue, bright green and yellow—all in one house—and it looked so wonderful. It just looked fantastic. Who would have believed it? It shows that so many unexpected things do go together, and I think we are so cautious about what works and rules and I think we box ourselves in too much."
Decorate with Letters
Some of the top-selling items at Anthropologie stores are decorative letters, Johnson says. "A dozen years ago, I bought an old, fake, letter pharmacy sign in the south of France and we reproduced the letters and we still have them [in the stores]," Johnson says. Whether you use large letters to spell out a name or phrase or use a single letter to add interest to a mantle or wall, Johnson says decorative letters add a personal touch that resonates with many.
Investigate People with Great Taste
If you're in love with your neighbor's décor or a co-worker's flair for turning on office into a well-decorated oasis, pick her brain, Johnson says. "Identify people in your life with great taste and ask them where they got something and what they love and what they appreciate," Johnson says. Once you begin to identify the roots of great taste, Johnson says you'll begin to acquire your own sense of style.