August 25, 2015 • PEOPLE

Please Meet: Chelsea Petaja



Photos: Faith-Ann Young

If there is one thing a Draper James Girl likes, it’s receiving a handwritten note. The only thing she likes more is receiving a very beautifully handwritten note.

Artist Chelsea Petaja pens about the prettiest notes we’ve ever seen. Her hand lettering has graced hundreds of wedding invitations, place cards, and art prints (check out her Etsy store, Oh My Deer).


Chelsea at work on a beautiful piece of hand lettering in her Nashville studio.

Recently we visited her in her Nashville studio, witnessed her talent at work, and asked her our Draper James Seven—seven questions that define a Southern style maker. Her answers exude the same spunk and warmth that she does.

1. What is your favorite Southern city?
I have so many!

I’m from the Atlanta suburbs and grew up going to the laser show at Stone Mountain Park and vacationing on St. Simons Island as a kid, so those spots are super nostalgic for me.

But as an adult, I’ll jump at any chance to spend time in Charleston, SC. I love everything about that city—the food, the homes, the vibe, even the Bravo TV show. But my home and my heart are in Nashville, so that tops the list.

2. Favorite Southern restaurant?
Rolf and Daughters in Nashville.  The bread and butter. The chicken. The cocktails. Oh man.

3. Favorite Southern tradition?
There’s a big difference between “Southern” and “Country” and my family falls into the latter category.

My mom just said to me, “Remember, we’re more Appalachian than Southern Belle.” Ha! I think so many of my favorite things aren’t traditions even mentioned, but the things I take for granted: being able to say that something is “harder than a dog’s head” and be understood; knowing that biscuits and apple butter will always be made from scratch; seeing little girls in smocked dresses on Easter Sunday.

4. Sweet tea or unsweetened?
Does saying “unsweetened” get my Southern card revoked?

5. Cowboy boots or heels?
Heeled booties, which are kind of like a mix, right?

6. How do you describe Southern style?
Narrowly, I think of collared shirts and khakis, pearls and pleated skirts. But the South encompasses so much culture—from Atlanta to Asheville to New Orleans—and there’s too much flavor in this corner of the world to paint it with one brushstroke.

7. Describe your style.
Comfort, unfussy with a little bit of tomboy. I love the perfect pair of jeans and a loose button-up and if I ever tell you that you look “so cozy!” I mean it as the highest compliment.