“What You Value Is What You See” How Riley Reed creates rituals in her everyday routines

Find your ritual

From the way we drink our coffee in the morning to how we set the table and invite others to gather around it, rituals are a signal to show up fully and find beauty in every moment. Here’s how some of our favorite people weave rituals into their daily lives. See everything

Conversation with Riley Reed is something to enjoy. “While I’m a photographer, I’m very inspired by words,” she says above a cup of coffee at her home in South Austin. She reflects, adding thoughtfully, “Actually, many of the images I’ve created have started with words.

The founder of Wake Beauty, everything she does serves one powerful purpose: to elevate our ideas of beauty to new levels of consciousness. She brings a calm, focused honesty to any subject. It is a characteristic approach on which she has built an elegant and free-flowing career. You can listen to Riley interview writers and activists at her podcastcatch her moderating panels on beauty industry disruptors, or even book her for a therapeutic photography session.

She is one of the most inspiring people we know (and the first person we asked to interview for this series). Read on to discover the rituals that fill Riley’s life with beauty.

How do you start each morning?

I take a few moments to think about how grateful I am to be here: here on earth, here in my home, here in this season of life, here with my body and my mind.

How does the design of your space reflect your priorities and goals?

What you value is what you see. I think it is interesting and important to take stock of what you have shown in your environment. In every room of our home you will find books. Many of them are memoirs, pieces of literature, symbols of design, nature, means, commitments to social justice, and stories of love, loss, growth, and everything human in between.

I have a deep love for beauty, nature and the little things. I covet trinkets that are given to me by family and friends. I enjoy discovering new visual artists, collecting art abroad, and finding ways to bring nature into the home, whether through dried flowers gathered down the street, pebbles found in the Gulf, or wind monsters from our local nursery.

What is the best place in your house?

Definitely our sofa. 18 months ago, when all the couches were on back order, I rented a U-Haul and headed down to San Marcos, determined to find a couch at one of the stores. Lo and behold, I came across a brand new Cloud Collection sofa at the Restoration Hardware sale. It had just been turned in as a return, marked 50%, and I was ecstatic. It has become the centerpiece of our living room and is one of the most comfortable pieces of furniture I have ever sat (re: laid) on.

How would you describe your work-life balance? Do you keep things structured and separate? Or are you a master of multitasking?

I have certain boundaries in place to help me stay focused and remind myself that no part of my life is dependent on another. These include things like a Notion template (thanks Jules Acree!), an office, a ‘do not disturb’ timer on my phone and clear communication with those I love.

But to be honest, my work and life are pretty mixed. I don’t see how they couldn’t be. I don’t have a council of advisors, so my husband, family and friends are who I go to for advice and feedback. My writing and my photography are both deeply personal and dependent on who I am as a person, what I care about and how I want to engage the community. My podcast often focuses on mental health and features guests I really look up to (both at work and in life). There isn’t a straightforward answer here that feels on par with being a socially conscious artist and a solopreneur.

Where do you turn for inspiration when you feel creatively blocked?

A creative block generally equals inertia. If I feel like I’m in that space, I take myself outside to a beautiful place where I can wander, read someone else’s experience on a bench, see massive trees and delicate flowers, or lie in a patch of grass. I really appreciate nature and the feeling of being small.

What are your favorite scents?

One of my closest friends, Cassie, is an apothecary and has an acclaimed collection called High Sun Low Moon, which is available in stores internationally. She has two loose incense blends: High Sun, which encapsulates yang energy with a bright and clear aroma, and Low Moon, which honors yin energy with a sensual and velvety aroma. I use both equally depending on my mood.

Are there chores you actually look forward to doing?

When I was little, my main domestic task was laundry. I have always considered folding clothes to be an art form, and like making a bed, something that should be done with purpose and gratitude. My mother taught me that clothes can last forever as long as they are cared for properly. Knowing that textiles make up a shocking percentage of waste, I go the extra mile to pay attention to materials, labels and hang dry when necessary.

I love the sound of the washing machine, the smell of detergent and the feel of warm towels.

What’s the one beauty product you can’t live without?

Lift perfume by Dominique Ropion in collaboration with Frédéric Malle. I discovered Frédéric Malle’s perfumery in New York City after modeling in a campaign. The hairdresser on set was wearing Portrait of a Lady and I was mesmerized by the notes. The shop was beautiful and moody. There was a multitude of fragrances created in collaboration with Frédéric Malle from around the world.

I sprayed Promise on one of my wrists before getting a glass of wine with my husband next to sit with it. Several people asked me what I was wearing. It spoke to the power of perfume as an integration with one’s own aura and Ropion’s philosophy: “A good perfume,” he likes to say, “must always appear obvious.”

Frédéric Malle is one of my teachers. He believes in giving everyone the opportunity to find the perfume that connects with their personality. His perfume bottles have no marketing, no celebrity ambassadors or launch events. He invests in what is inside. He gives perfumers total freedom – considering himself editor and his perfumers writers – and even has a map that visually describes the different characteristics of all the perfumes he offers. Promise is considered as the deepest and darkest of them all. I like to think it’s a reminder of my threshold for the needs of others, no matter how difficult, and my willingness to go the extra mile, no matter how far.

Does music play a role in your everyday life? How?

I listen to it every day. I turn it on during photo shoots, I use it to set the mood for cleaning, driving and hanging out with friends. I even love some good lo-fi beats to focus on while working.

What is your best way to relax after a long day?

Light a candle, cook a nutritious meal and spend time with my dogs and my husband.

What is the best piece of wellness advice anyone has ever given you?

I lived with my grandmother one summer after my freshman year of college. We used to go for long walks in her neighborhood in Santa Barbara. She would always remind me to breathe in the fresh air, to honor all living things, and to take ownership of my own energetic effect on the environment. That summer and that lesson epitomizes the best advice she ever gave me: “We’re mostly not physical.”

I often remind myself that the quality of being well is determined by factors I cannot see.

What is the best career advice anyone has ever given you?

Rejection has always been hard for me to deal with. I can easily fall into the trap of believing that my worth is determined by external factors and external parties. But it involves spending a lot of time appeasing others, attaching value to contracts that aren’t my own, and associating myself with brands whose priority is themselves.

I had a phone call with my dad once after receiving an email that made me feel really small. I was in tears, frustrated and disappointed. My father told me that I forgot my own worth, that I ignored the viability of a brand and a business I had created out of thin air. He said three words that I have ingrained in my ethos: “Bet on you.”

What is something you are committed to doing every single day, no matter what?

To tell my husband that I love him.

What is your favorite time of day and why?

My favorite time of day is dawn. I love how slow and still it feels. It remains the quietest time of day and allows space to be completely free to do whatever I want. There is so little to interrupt me and so few things to distract me. Even the trees seem to be still sleeping.

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