nora ephron, nick cage + knowing yourself: a living room love affair with hannah robbins
The Fluf: Where do you get your interior style inspiration?
Hannah Robbins: My grandma! My grandmother, Grammy. My grandparents lived in Texas for a long time and we describe ourselves as maximalists. I just think if you love something, put it everywhere. But I remember sort of growing up at her house and every object had a really cool story, all the walls were covered with little trinkets from them travelling all over the place… Everything is meaningful. She took a lot of pride in decorating and making little vignettes everywhere and having these big, themed dining room tables. Everything was always really bright and colorful and fun. Just sitting here and looking up at my mantle and thinking about my family and my girlfriends and about all those things is just so nice.
TF: It’s definitely maximalist. I like that it’s really organized though, it’s like organized chaos in the best way.
HR: It’s just absurd. I love it.
There are some napkins up there from Baylor – my grandparents met at Baylor – a book review of Eudora Welty’s book, pictures of all of us from Tori’s wedding the other day, some Frida postcards… those little bird candle holders are my favorite thing that I have.
And then that little “I got this” (wood block), my grandfather’s good friend is a woodworker and they collaborated on that little piece and sent it to me last week. “I got this” is something that I used to say to my grandfather when things were stressful and he thought it was funny. So they made that for me, I thought it was very sweet.
TF: Aw, it is. What’s your favorite book right now?
HR: Right now? Oh God. Right now it’s this book that’s over there it’s called Madness Rack and Honey, it’s a collection of essays. Also reading right now: Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff, bought that at Avid the other day.
Really Avid Bookshop’s essays section is ballin. Their poetry is ridiculous, literary criticism like fire. Those three sections are so good. And they’ve gotten much better. Over the last three years, they have consistently brought in better and better stuff...
It’s like my favorite place. I don’t have time to work there but I just want them to let me come hang out and choose books and be in love with them.
TF: Could you pick a favorite book of all time?
HR: Golly. Golly golly golly. Um… no. I probably couldn’t. I think different books mean different things to you at different times. Maybe my old beat-up Emily Dickinson anthology that I’ve had since like fifth grade that I carried around everywhere.
But I’ve got books from my grandparents that mean a lot to me. An Alfred Schweitzer anthology that my grandfather gave to my aunt her first day of college and then 40 something years later, she gave me the same book on my first day of college and it’s inscribed to this day on the same day. So that was meaningful.
Antigone, the play, like any iteration of that, I’m all about it. Ann Carson’s Nox is really beautiful. There’s a Carl Sandburg anthology that I checked out from the library that I’m not returning. Like ever. And Huck Finn was my lucky book for a long time – anything I ever wrote on that book, I did very well on.
I’m gonna like forget one of them and be really upset when you leave.
But I just think they mean different things at different times. Which is what’s really lovely about growing up with words.
TF: It’s like you’re worried about forgetting a child haha. You can always email me… or literally walk right next door.
So tell me about Hillary over there.
HR: HIIIIIILLS. Hillary is… We’re ready. I think out of the people who are currently seeking the office of the President of the United States, she has the best foreign and domestic policy experience to make lasting and safe change in our nation. Furthermore! I’m not saying that you should vote for a woman because she is a woman but I’m saying that is thrilling to me that it is possible in this part of my life to live in a nation that is led by the kind of woman that she is and I think she’s incredible.
TF: Also the pantsuits, you know?
HR: You know, the pantsuits, and also I like that she is not afraid of the volume of her hair. I like a woman who is ready to embrace that. And she is a really smart lady. With an iron fist.
TF: And an iron hairdo.
HR: She’s just literally made of metal. If you cut her open, she is like magma. It’s amazing. I tried it once, she asked me to stop. It was weird.
[At this point, Catie barges through the front door & interrupts…]
TF: Hey we’re doing an interview, do you have anything to interject?
Cat: Han, what’s your inspiration in life?
HR: [pauses to think & then realizes the obvious answer]
It’s Cat Stew. My darling, my love. Light of my … fires? I don’t know.
[Catie is pleased with the situation, tells us to “Put that on the record,” and leaves.]
TF: Tell me about Nicholas Cage. What does he mean to you in your life?
HR: Everything. He’s everything. He’s every man I’ve ever loved, every part of myself I’ve been too afraid to unlock…
NO! Like two years ago, they [as in me and Catie. mainly Catie.] taped Nick Cage to our toilet in our bathroom in our apartment that we shared with too many people.
Nick Cage everywhere. He’s all over the place. I found him, among other places, in my [whispers] bras. And my underwear. In my couch, in my computer, in everything. Little print outs of inappropriate photos of Nick Cage and Nick Cage photoshopped onto other people’s faces, Nicholas Cage photoshopped onto PORNOGRAPHY is what’s currently in my closet… It’s everywhere you wish it wasn’t. I love it so much.
[I can’t decide if she’s being sarcastic and I don’t think she can either]
TF: But I think it’s important to note that the Nicholas Cage that Catie put in your bra actually said………. Nippolas Cage.
HR: Nippolas Cage.
TF: And I think it was like Nick Cage’s face photoshopped onto someone’s nipples?
HR: Yeah… Yeah I’ve tried to block that out.
TF: Do you ever fear and / or hope that you haven’t found all of the Nicholas Cages?
HR: I know that I haven’t. I’m not afraid, what I’m scared about is the next tenant of this apartment. Cause like y’all hid them pretty well. They’re everywhere. But it’s been really great… -__-
TF: You can’t escape the Cage.
So any way… I have always loved your decorating style. Like I said, it is very maximalist but it’s very organized. But – this is just my personal observation – I feel like your every day outfit style is definitely more minimalistic than that. But I always feel like there’s something fun and a little bit eclectic about your outfits.
HR: Yeah, I don’t wear nail polish because I hate it and I never wear jewelry because I never quite learned how. I don’t really know how to buy shoes: I’ll buy a pair of loafers, wear them till they fall apart and then buy the same pair of loafers again. Yeah. I think my sense of personal style is definitely: I really only wear blue, black, white, and grey, that’s it. But it makes me happy.
And… oh my God Isaac [her boyfriend] and I dress the same, it’s so scary. Last night he came over and we were like, “We could switch outfits right now and no one would notice.”
TF: The other day the colors you had on and literally everything you were wearing was matching. But on the note of wardrobe, you also have some really beautiful dresses and skirts.
HR: Thank you! In high school, there was a joke that “Hannah doesn’t wear pants” because I wore skirts and dresses every day. I like to dress up; I definitely have a reputation in some of my college classes for like wearing “real clothes.” But for me, taking a shower and putting on actual clothes resets my brain. It’s what makes me function for the day.
TF: I do think, despite the fact that I am currently wearing my PJs to interview you, I think it’s sad that the days of people actually wearing clothes when they leave the house are over.
HR: Let me tell you something, it takes the same number of physical motions – and really fewer – to put on a day dress.
I’ve also been known to go to the nightgown section of Target and pick something out and be like “this is fine for every day.” I’m a big fan.
[ordering Chinese food online] Is there like a salad option? They used to have that right? I just want steamed chicken with mixed veggies. There’s a $10 food minimum?! HOLY GOD. Oh, I just have to have one more dollar of food. Awesome. Ok. Spring roll.
TF: Favorite movie.
HR: Oh God! You’ve Got Mail, Atlantis…
TF: Fucking Atlantis dude. It’s amazing. [I proceeded to watch it again one week later]
HR: Yeah! The Brothers Bloom, Angels in America (which is also a play so I don’t know if that counts), Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is awesome. It’s all you need. Any Nora Ephron movie ever, she might be my favorite writer / spirit animal.
TF: Yeah so tell me about her, slash, your feelings on Meg Ryan.
HR: Nora Ephron is a brilliant voice in American writing... I think very few people have the ability to write with the kind of grace and wit and charm that she did. She said in her life that it was when she turned 40 or 50, I think, when she just kind of got it. And was really comfortable with herself. And that’s comforting to know because I think that I feel a lot of pressure, and I know you do to, to like, have everything figured out when you’re 21 or 22. So it’s great to have those role models in your life who are just geniuses but felt like they got to be that way at a later age.
I think that she writes with such kindness and zeal and I did tell Isaac once that the only things that matter are “kindness, wit, and zeal”… Or no, “kindness, nuance, and zeal.”
Meg Ryan… I mean, there’s nobody like 80s and 90s Meg Ryan. Right? Like nobody. I could watch Sleepless in Seattle twice a day. Maybe three times. I HAVE watched it twice in a day… I’ve been in that place that Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle is in, and I love watching that movie now so much. It used to make me really sad. But when they meet on top of the Empire State building and it’s like, “Oh. I found you.” I mean that’s like… How can you not?! It’s so good. I could watch that four times a day. I’m stupid, I’m in love. Whatever.
[finishes ordering Chinese, sings a little bit to herself]
TF: You totally “Dress Like A French Girl.” Hashtag ~pinterest~ hashtag hashtag.
HR: I wanted to have a blog for a while, like a styling blog, but what I get more joy out of is helping you with yours and really annoying the ish out of you to make yours great.
TF: Actually, you were the first person who ever encouraged me to have a blog! And I used to resist the idea so much because I just never even thought about it and then I was like “what the hell would I write about” and “I’m not interesting enough” and whatever. And you were always the person who was like “Please have a blog. Be cool…”
HR: Well you already were cool. You were cool but no one was watching you do it. And I knew you were gonna do a really good job cause you’re brilliant and beautiful and you know what you’re doing and are very confident. And also inventive and artistic and I think that you spent a long time in college trying to find out exactly what major you wanted…
TF: Mmm. [I changed my major 3 times. Tooooo loooong]
HR: But what I like about what you’re doing now is that your major is there but who you are and what you do isn’t about your major any more, it’s really authentic to who you are which I think is so exciting.
TF: Well I appreciate that. My GPA does not appreciate my major not defining my identity but … 0_o
HR: I think that this year I have realized that you can have everything that you want... And you can be happy. And nobody is allowed to make you not happy if you don’t want them to. And that’s something that you and Catie tried to beat into me until I woke up one day and I was like “Oh.” It was like all the lights had come on. I really learned this year that you can have everything you want. I feel the most like myself.
TF: I definitely think it takes a lot of practice and you have to say that to yourself a lot. But I’m glad that I’ve been trying to say it to myself for years because I’m now getting to a place where every time I feel that senior year fear creeping in like “Oh my God how am I gonna get a job how am I gonna make money,” whatever, I realize: you know what, I want to be a blogger and I feel like I have something to say. And I know like at least two or three other people who think I have something to say. So what’s stopping me? I was equipped with these skills and I can’t do much else so I’m just gonna do it and be happy and it’ll work out.
HR: And you’re doing a great job!
TF: Thank you. And you’re killing this whole teaching situation, I love that.
HR: Well, it’s a great thing.
My girls are so smart and my….
TF: dreams are comin true!
HR: Yeah. It’s a good year.
TF: Ok. Piece of life advice first and then piece of style advice.
HR: Piece of life advice is love your family well. And make sure that you continue to do that throughout your life. Always make time for them.
TF: I just had an internal burp while you were saying that and I’m hoping that it got captured on the recording. But also that was a beautiful nugget of advice.
HR: Piece of style advice: embrace your body and the stuff that it does. My hair is big. And it’s never not gonna be big. And for years I tried to have people razor into it, it looked horrible. And I tried to get bangs like everybody else, I looked like an idiot from Flock of Seagulls. The 80s band. And until I looked at my hair one day and was like, “You and me are gonna do it. Together.” Until that happened I was so miserable. But after that it’s been awesome, I love my hair.
TF: I love your hair too.
HR: Thank you. It’s just really big. But I love that we came to peace with each other and we worked together. But yeah don’t try to make your body something it’s not- just let it do what it does! That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be healthy or anything but it means that if you’ve got a weird feature or your hair is quirky, just love it. Love your body, love yourself.
TF: Just do it. Just love it.
We'll leave it at that... for now ;) ;) ;)
Han Rob. Sar Craw. Signing off.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Hannah and I could literally talk for days. I told her we should have just turned our whole 48-minute conversation into a podcast so that I wouldn’t have to edit this and she said “I’ll podcast with you any day of the week.” Now that’s luv.