Tips + Trends

Unpacked: Liz Gardner on Feeling Carefree and Finding Your Inner Child

Creative director Liz Gardner suggests recalling childhood to savor a great experience. (Photo: William Clark)

As children, we are happy for no reason at all. Why do we lose that? According to creative director and stylist Liz Gardner, we can learn a lot from kids. As a creator of moments, she takes us back to that carefree feeling of childhood. It reminds us that our lives are not where we’re going, but where we already are, right now. A philosophy that we, at AC Hotels, wholeheartedly embrace. No wonder we’re excited to hear her story.

“I love creating scenarios that recall this magical feeling of what it was like to run free,” Gardner told AC Hotels’ “The Unpacked Project.” “For the 4th of July, I organized a food experience with friends at my parents’ farm. We picked vegetables from their yard, prepared meat that they raised and created this beautiful scene. As we sat down around the table about a 100 fireflies encapsulated us for dinner. That’s what I love to do in all of my work: to create moments in which you feel warm and welcome.”

Like no other, Gardner understands that it requires a lot of hard work to achieve this kind of carefree feeling.

“As we get older, we tend to forget how to be overwhelmed with imagination,” she says. “I feel fortunate to have had kind of an isolated youth on a 300-acre farm. My parents didn’t let me watch television, but there were stacks of books and the outdoors instead. I think that sparked my desire to create things as I had to invent my own stories.

“Through my work as a creative director, I feel that now it’s my turn to remind people of what’s vital: to reconnect with yourself and what resonates with you. Whatever that might be. In doing so, I believe it’s important for yourself and for the world to be able to see and to experience beautiful things. Because that’s how, subconsciously, we turn a good experience into a great one. Just like AC Hotels, it’s my passion to create exactly those scenarios that allow people to savor the moment. From there, anything is possible.”

READ MORE: The Unpacked Project Interviews Nigel Barker, Grant Legan and Erin Spens

Liz Gardner’s Travel Essentials

These are the things that help Liz reconnect and savor each travel experience.

(Photo: Courtesy Liz Gardner)
(Photo: Courtesy Liz Gardner)

My Studio

When you travel, you grow as a person. I process these experiences in my studio and turn it into something tangible. Check out my work to see what that looks like:

(Photo: Courtesy Liz Gardner)
(Photo: Courtesy Liz Gardner)


I collect matchbooks from all over the world. They tell the stories of places I’ve been. Especially the vintage ones offer great font inspiration.

(Photo: Courtesy Liz Gardner)
(Photo: Courtesy Liz Gardner)


I always bring an extra suitcase to fill up with magazines. We opened our own magazine stand so people in Minneapolis can access it.

(Photo: Courtesy Liz Gardner)
(Photo: Courtesy Liz Gardner)

My Backpack

Backpacks are practical and nowadays they can be really cool too.

(Photo: Courtesy Liz Gardner)
(Photo: Courtesy Liz Gardner)

My Camera

Color combinations inspire me just as much as a specific way the light hits a sidewalk. I document all these details to translate them into new creations.

Liz’s Essentials on How to Elevate a Moment

In her work as a creative director, Liz is always looking to create unforgettable moments. Here’s how she does it.

  • Connect the dots: Nothing elevates an experience more than being intentional. Each detail is an opportunity to create an experience that will never be replicable.
  • Work from the inside out: Know whom you are and what you want to communicate in the moments of your life. Don’t second-guess yourself. Move forward with confidence.
  • Be childlike: Dare to be vulnerable. Be open to look at the world with fresh eyes and never try to create an endgame. Savor the moment instead. Enjoy!