Home Lifestyle Design Q&A: Local studio blends architecture and interior design

Q&A: Local studio blends architecture and interior design
Q&A: Local studio blends architecture and interior design avatar

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Tell me about your studio?

Well, we’re new to Charlottesville. I’ve been designing in Boston for the past 14 years, and my husband and I just relocated to Charlottesville in June, so I’m excited about that. We do a mix of types of design, from high-end residential to institutional, and a little hospitality and commercial. I like the mix because it allows me to use my muscles for all these types of design, which are all very interesting to me.

Talk a little about the process you go through with each design.

I work with the clients, and I never like to repeat anything in my designs. Be it design elements or furniture, I like each project and each space to be unique. When I meet with a client, whether they are residential or hospitality or whatever, I listen to them and what their design needs are, what their voice is, and go from there. When I kick off any project, I always ask them to send me two images of spaces they love and two images of spaces they hate. They don’t have to explain it in detail, but it allows me into their head. If they don’t know where to start with that, then I usually start with their closet — more if that’s a residential client. Usually your own personal style is an echo of your overall style. It’s very individual.

Do people typically reach out to you after they purchase a new home, or do you do more updates to existing buildings, or is it a balanced mix?

It all varies. I have some clients where we go room by room, and that can last years. Then I have some clients who are doing a ground-up house, and I work with their architect to design it from nothing, from conception through construction and then through furniture installation. Usually in that case, I work with the architect hand-in-hand to select finishes on anything built in. Then with institutional clients, it can be any combination of those two.

What is your background in this field?

I went to undergrad at [the University of Virginia] and moved up to Boston in 2004 to earn my master’s degree in interior design. The plan was to go up, get a degree and come back down a couple years later when the degree was done. But one thing led to another and I started working with architecture firms up there, and then that led to starting my own business and then that led to, 14 years later, moving back down to Charlottesville to start a family and settle down in a quieter area.

What sparked your interest in the first place?

It was definitely something that’s always been a part of me. I actually tried to start UVa as pre-dental, and started taking all the pre-med classes, and I was failing them wildly. I started taking architecture classes at the architecture school just for fun, and loved them, was acing them, was so passionate about them. So then I had to decide if I wanted to go into architecture or interiors, but I ended up going into interiors because the type of design that I do is not decoration. In fact, I hate it if somebody calls me a decorator. I do more interior architecture, so I get to blend the lines between architecture and interior design.

And I think I read that you’re LEED certified? How does that factor into your work?

LEED certification means I studied for and sat for an exam that qualifies me as being able to design LEED-certified buildings, which are just buildings that are sustainable at certain benchmark levels, like platinum, silver or gold. It’s about sustainable design and also healthy buildings — when I work on institutional projects, we work on buildings where the interior is designed with materials that are healthy to breathe in and healthy to touch. A lack of chemicals that are unhealthy for your body.

It sounds like you’ve worked in some pretty big markets. How is that going to change now that you’re in Charlottesville? Will you still work in those bigger markets?

That’s correct. I’m still working on projects up in Boston and here in Charlottesville. I’ve been working with this wonderful firm, VMDO — they’re the largest architecture firm in Charlottesville — and I’ve sort of partnered with them as their preferred interior designer, so I work out of their office every day. But I travel to D.C. a lot for projects, and have only been here since June, so I’m just starting to gain traction. The article in House Beautiful has helped, so hopefully that just keeps going.

Tell us about the article.

Yeah, so I had my first national article published with House Beautiful magazine. That came out a week or two ago. The article is called “Next Wave.” Each year, House Beautiful picks a selection of designers who they are calling the next wave, so designers they want to feature because we’ve gotten to a certain point and they foresee us climbing. I was one of those Next Wave designers. I got the first page and a full, two-page spread. I didn’t expect all of that. That was awesome.

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