She has traveled the world and lived an extraordinary life, a life about which most can only dream. Now, Baroness Monica von Neumann is sharing her tips for a beautiful, soothing atmosphere that is easily attainable to all.
Raised in Detroit, nurtured amid the lively Motown soul, which resonates through the city, Monica Ford was a dancer and a dreamer. At age 5, she began planning her ideal life, one surrounded by the music and arts she loved. That year, she and her mother moved to Los Angeles, where everything began falling into place for her future. Immersed in the golden California sunshine, Monica kept the soul of her hometown close while easing into the relaxed sophistication of her new L.A. lifestyle. As a teen, she studied dance at Roland Dupree Dance Academy, putting herself on the entertainment track. With stunning looks, talent, and drive, a career in dance began to materialize. However, fate was about to twist her plans.
On a warm evening, Monica, then 18, traveled to Palm Springs to attend an annual event. It was a trip that would forever alter the course of her life. There, the handsome Austrian-born Baron John von Neumann met the vibrant Monica: it was love at first sight. Their courtship was a swirl of the best that life could offer — travel, culture, restaurants, and new adventures. Their marriage was one of lasting beauty and respect, one of dedication to helping others by supporting many worldwide charities. Her husband was the first importer of Volkswagens to the United States.
After 26 years together, the two were separated by the only force that could do so: Her beloved husband succumbed to cancer in 2003. During this crushing time, von Neumann drew upon every moment of strength and resilience she had built through the years.
Upon her husband’s death, von Neumann also held firmly to the benevolent legacy he left behind, dedicating most of her life to the charitable causes dear to both, causes such as Inner-City Arts and Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Also, she clings to faith. “I wake up every day, and the first thing that I do is pray,” she says, “whether it is something that I am thankful for or a difficult situation that I need help getting through. And then I can start my day.”
The Baroness seems to be lit from within; she has a warm glow that is both welcoming and alluring. She lives out loud, genuinely celebrating life. You can see her radiance from a distance: her silky chestnut hair; all the jewels, all the glamour that is Baroness — a perfect balance of natural beauty and adornment. Within minutes of talking with her, it is clear that her beauty is complemented by beautiful things but not predicated upon them. Her passions are sincere and ultimately humble: She collects influential art but loves Pier 1 and HomeGoods for home accessories. She loves beauty — and believes that we should surround ourselves with objects, scents, foods, and sounds that will enhance our lives.
“Everyone should create a space that is inspiring and welcoming,” said von Neumann as she is propped up on a sofa next to an elegantly adorned coffee table — one of her favorite places within her spacious home. “After a long day at work, you need a retreat. Creating a place for yourself, surrounded by your favorite things, is so important.”
That passion for creating beauty in the home has turned into a career designing candles with as a fragrance as intoxicating and evocative as the Baroness herself. The idea to create Baroness von Neumann Candles was inspired by her extensive travels and a desire to capture scents that represent each memorable location, whether metropolitan or exotic; ethereal scents that would enrich the warmth of homes; scents that could provide their moments of beauty. The Capri candle, for instance, is created with the essence of grapefruit, Italian basil, and lily, perfect for a fresh, inviting scent at home. Garbo, with old wood, Scotch, and vintage lavender, is a blend of chic sophistication and is delightful for a living room or entryway.
“Creating Baroness von Neumann Candles was inspired by my love of design and is dedicated to the life of my husband. The travels that we took, all around the world, are represented in the scents. It sometimes takes me six months to get the scent perfectly right. The design of the candle shows my husband’s family crest, which was so important for me to include in the design.”
To further enhance the experience, von Neumann recommends mixing one scented candle of her collection, with unscented tapered candles of various heights to create drama. As we spoke, I was inspired by her thoughts on creating an oasis in one’s home – and by her corresponding passion for spontaneous dinner parties. She delights in having friends drop by so that she can cook “a huge pot of pasta, last minute and easy — a moment of real glamour is being surrounded by good food, friends and people that you love, and we need to get back to more of that.”
Here are the Essentials for a rich and inviting coffee table and couch from Baroness Monica von Neumann:
- Tons of pillows and a comfy throw blanket — “I like to switch it up during different seasons.”
- A low coffee table that you can showcase some of your favorite objects
- A stack of coffee table books. “Choose something that will make you want to curl up and get lost in the pages.”
- Fresh flowers or a potted plant. “If you don’t have a green thumb, an orchid is a great choice. A white orchid is elegant and will last for weeks and weeks with little care.”
- A candle or grouping of candles. “A beautiful scent is an indulgence that will transform your mood, and a delicate flame has such a great calming effect.”