ELEVEN SIX WOMEN: ELIZA CLARK + ARDEN WRAY
In honor of Mother’s Day we are thrilled to feature the talented and creative mother, daughter duo: Eliza Clark and Arden Wray. In 2014, Eliza and her husband/chef: Tim Trojian founded and embarked on creating Foxfire Mountain House, a charming Catskills, NY boutique Inn. The interior style and rustic yet dreamy lifestyle was captured in their beautiful book: Foxfire Living. Arden a professional photographer, styled and shot the book which is where the family talents combined and became the catalyst of an interior design brand Byrd Studio. We had the pleasure of capturing Eliza and Arden at Foxfire in some of their favorite Spring 22 pieces, and learnt more of how the magical journey unfolded and the leap of faith that was taken when Eliza came to a viewpoint in her life that she describes as “from the edge of a cliff."
Can you both share with us your backgrounds and career paths and how they came together to working on Foxfire Mountain House and Byrd Studio?
EC: My career has been a long and winding path, or a book of many chapters, let's say. Always as a storyteller of some sort. I began as a novelist after earning a Fine Arts degree in photography and creative writing, then I was a story editor for television, then a director and show-runner for different series (many HGTV renovation shows and antiques shows like American Pickers), then a hotelier with Foxfire Mountain House (our beloved inn/restaurant in the Catskills), and now all the skills have come together with our interior design business, Byrd Studio. I've always loved creating beautiful spaces for all kinds of different people and all the different ways they choose to live.
AW: My career before interior design was as a photographer, shooting mostly portraiture & fashion for brands and publications. I still shoot now from time to time if something comes up that I'm really excited about, but Byrd keeps me very busy these days. In a way, there's a lot of overlap between my work as a photographer and as a designer. Both mediums are all about composition and, echoing what my Mom said, storytelling - creating something beautiful that evokes a particular feeling.
Eliza (left) wears Aimee Cardi back to her own pant & Arden (right) wears Tatum Sweater
Foxfire has a unique, warm and eclectic aesthetic...can you tell us about the philosophy and inspiration behind the interior style?
EC: Thank you! Foxfire takes its inspiration from nature and the beauty of the natural surroundings in the Catskill Mountains. We wanted to create a space that looks like it's been put together over time so we used a mix of vintage and new furnishings. We're always hitting yard sales and frequenting our favorite local antique shops so that came in handy. To help us create a plan for the overall design of the inn, which we were initially daunted by since we'd never done anything like a hotel on this scale before, we came up with a "character" whose mountain house it was. We called him Uncle Desmond and we created a whole character profile for him. He was a world traveler who brought home treasures from his journeys; a nature lover and forager who took long walks in the woods and carried back little nests and stones, feathers and flowers from his hikes; a wine and whiskey lover sat nightly by a roaring fire listening to music.... We had a huge list of traits that really helped us make design decisions in terms of choosing the decor that would go in the inn. It was important to us to consider all the senses so we have curated music playlists, a signature scented candle that's divine, and lovely gardens with a lily pool that is very special and is vibrant with frogsong at night under the stars. We hope that our guests eat and sleep well during their time at Foxfire, and just generally relax into comfortable surroundings.
Arden wears the Tia Crochet tunic
Eliza (right) wears Amelia pant back to her own tops & Arden (left) wears Tia Crochet tunic
We are excited to hear more about BYRD STUDIO: your collective interior design brand? How did this concept come about and when did it launch?
EC: I feel like there was an organic flow to the creation of Byrd Studio - all the career paths that Arden and I each followed individually led us here together. We launched our interior design business in Fall 2020 with our first client. The interior styling of Foxfire Mountain House led to us being asked by the publisher HarperCollins to do a design/cookbook based on the inn. Together we created the book FOXFIRE LIVING with me writing the body of it, my husband and chef/owner Tim Trojian creating and writing the recipes, and Arden styling and photographing each of the hundreds of pictures. It was a true family project and labor of love. After the design book came out, we just organically started getting requests from people who liked what we did at Foxfire and asking if we could help them design their own homes or commercial spaces. Honestly, such a dream come true. Design is a shared passion of Arden and I. From that first client, we hit the ground running and are humbled to now have a waiting list of clients.
It’s a beautiful and rare thing to work as a Mother/daughter team. What are your individual strengths and how do they come together to compliment your collective work and projects?
EC: Arden is just generally brilliant. She has an impeccable eye and sense of style. Add to that, she is excellent at math and numbers. I don't think I had any idea before we started Byrd and interior design, how much math is involved. EVERYTHING is about measurements and scale. I was always big on just eyeballing something and if it looked good to me, then up something went on the wall, or in it went into a room. I've learned that a lot of mistakes get made doing things that way. Arden is a master at sketching and planning rooms to scale so that we can order furnishings and know without a doubt they will fit and look good. I think I bring to the table my understanding of design style and my knowledge of vintage and antiques. I'm a pretty decent picker of quality vintage items.
AW: My Mom and I are so similar in many ways, and almost opposite in others. And all of it is useful in working together in this business now. She is much more willing to fly by the seat of her pants than I am, which sometimes can take you to some very interesting places. And she has always had incredible taste. It's very rare that we disagree on a piece or direction for a space - but when we do, or when I can't see where something is going - I will always ultimately defer to her and trust her vision & conviction. She's also an extremely skilled painter, tinkerer, fine-tuner, restorer of things... She'll paint with a one-hair brush and get the little tiny details just exactly perfect. I love the creative process and deal with a lot of the logistics of the business day to day, but I'm a terrible painter and fairly useless with anything hands-on. So, we certainly rely on her skills and our very talented tradespeople to bring our ideas to life.
Eliza, how would you describe your daughter in a few words?
EC: Arden is now, and has always been, remarkable. She is a light. Kind, graceful, diplomatic, brilliant, rock solid, talented. My heart.
Arden, how would you describe your mom in a few words?
AW: Loving, curious, deeply talented, spontaneous, and brave. I'm very lucky.
Eliza (right) wears Zanna Sweater back to her own tops & Arden (left) wears Layla Sweater
Has the pandemic brought silver linings to your businesses and lives despite hospitality and weddings having a challenging time initially?
EC: Definitely. There's no doubt that people are spending more time at home and caring about their home's functionality and style these days. Interior design is at the forefront so that's great timing for us.
You recently moved your design studio into the renovated Fuller building in Kingston. Has this environment inspired your work and creativity?
EC: To be part of a vital creative community is incredibly inspiring. We feel so lucky to be able to share stories and get advice from like-minded entrepreneurs who are creating stellar brands that we admire. I like to walk down the hallways knowing that behind every door, there is something cool going on. Behind every door are people doing what they love, setting goals, living out their dreams. Just like us. That feels really good and is truly motivating.
Are there any exciting future plans you can share?
EC: We have so many projects we can't wait to share! With interior design, you work so many months behind the scenes before finally you can reveal the finished spaces. We have a gorgeous new shop called Newt opening soon in Kingston that we designed; and lots of client's homes that we'll be sharing photos of on our @by.byrd instagram account. And on the Foxfire front, we're hoping to expand to another location this year.
AW: I'm getting married at Foxfire this fall. My fiancé, Matt, is the General Manager at the inn, so we're both looking forward to bringing all our family and friends from far & wide to come and enjoy this place that is so very much at the centre of our lives. We're also on the final stretch of renovating our own Catskills cabin that will be our full-time home. The house sits across a little wooden bridge off the main road, over a babbling creek. I can't wait 'til we can just sit on the porch swing, have a cup of coffee, listen to the birds & the sound of the water, and enjoy the view. We moved down here from Toronto during the pandemic after being back and forth for many years, so having a place to call our own in the landscape that we love is very exciting.
Amongst your busy schedules working on both companies how do you unwind and detach to have Mother/daughter time?
EC: Wine time! There's no doubt we talk about work even when we're not working, but that's what happens when your work is also your shared passion. We'll look through design books together, go antique shopping, and have family dinners all together. When we're just being mother and daughter, we'll walk arm in arm or just give each other hugs and little squeezes. Arden will call me "mom" instead of "Eliza." That's how I know it's our downtime.
AW: It's been an adjustment working together for sure. We've always been extremely close, so now the challenge is to make sure that we protect that mother-daughter and friendship bond. It needs its own space away from Byrd. We do little getaways overnight, just us, fairly often. We'll go to the big antique markets - Brimfield, Madison Bouckville, etc. - and make a mini holiday out of it, staying locally for a night or two. We get a hotel room, order pizza delivery and grab a bottle of wine, and watch psychic shows on TV in our pajamas in the evenings. Don't ask me how it started, but somehow over the years it's just become our own weird very specific tradition. That time is really special and important: to just be mom & daughter and laugh and catch up on everything else going on in our lives that isn't about work, even though we're still out picking for clients in the daytime at the markets.
What are a few of your favorite things to do or places to go in the Catskills?
EC: I love to go to Woodstock to Early Terrible for a drink or two. It's so beautifully decorated in its unique, wild way. And antiquing always at estate and yard sales.
AW: I love Silvia and Good Night in Woodstock for dinner. The view from the top of Kaaterskill Falls is incredible and a great way to show off the landscape to visiting friends & family. And I'm a daily regular at Bread Alone in Boiceville - I like grabbing coffee from the shipping container window and sitting in the sunshine watching their funny wandering chickens when it's warm out.
Eliza (right) wears Olivia Crochet Top back to her own pant &
Arden (left) wears Collette dress back to her own jacket
What does the ELEVEN SIX brand mean to you?
EC: Polished comfort! I love the feel of the sweaters I have and I'm at my best wearing them. I get a lot of compliments because I think people really do recognize quality.
AW: Care & quality. They're timeless heirloom pieces meant to last a lifetime.
What are your favorite ELEVEN SIX knitwear piece(s) from the current Spring collection and why?
EC: I love the Olivia crocheted top with fringe. I can wear it in so many ways, dressed up in the evening when I'm going out for dinner or with big bangles and earrings for a boho look during the day. And I love the Zanna cotton knit sweater with the interwoven candy colors. I've been wearing that a lot because it's always flattering and brightens up my skin.
AW: I really love the Tia crochet tunic dress. I've been wearing it a ton. It's such a cute and easy shape. It looks great with boots & tights, layered over jeans, or with bare legs and sandals.