Tastemaker

Classic with a Twist

Talking trends and the move away from disposable furniture with a local expert

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How did you get started as an interior designer?
I really started as a kid. I used to "play Barbies" by making a Barbie house out of an empty cardboard box and designing furniture and bedding for it. But I don’t think I ever actually played with the dolls themselves.

That’s adorable. Has this always been the career you’ve planned for?
I wish it had been. When I graduated from high school, the expectation was that I would study business in college. I’m grateful for my business experience, though. I always say that interior design is one-third beauty, one-third math (just because you love it, doesn’t mean it will fit) and one-third business acumen.

What do you do when you’re not working?
I have two elementary school-aged children and my husband and I love to take them kayaking, hiking and geocaching. We love to be outdoors. I also have wanderlust, so we are heading to Iceland soon.

How would you describe your style?
I think of it as classic with a modern twist. In a project I’m working on now in Kentucky, I accessorized a pair of traditional Lawson-style gray sofas with Trina Turk apple green embroidered pillows. I love modern colors, especially on accessories, but I think every room should have one old thing in it. I also want everyone to know they can afford original art. Oh, I could go on and on.

Please, do go on. Where do you find furniture to finish a room?
Wickford is a treasure trove of antique and consignment stores filled to the brim with unique finds. I’ve scored several inexpensive oil paintings that were both underpriced and perfect for the space I was designing. Massachusetts’ Brimfield Fair is also incredible for unique finds, as is Route 6A on Cape Cod. And browse the Internet, where, literally, everything is available.

What’s the craziest room you’ve ever designed for a client?
Rhode Island really isn’t a hot spot for crazy design requests – we are New Englanders, after all. But some unique projects have involved designing around challenging existing elements like brightly colored wall-to-wall carpet, a large furniture piece with sentimental but not stylistic value, or an oddly-shaped room. But when it all comes together at the end, it’s so rewarding.

Do you have a favorite design, one that was truly rewarding?
One of my favorites was a coastal kitchen, which required a complete overhaul of the layout, changing the locations of windows and doors and removing a faux fireplace. It was an amazing transformation in only six weeks.

Speaking of coastal, are you inspired by nautical or ocean themes?
I’m absolutely inspired by our seaside location. But I’m not someone who believes in theme decorating. When you walk into one of my seaside designs, you know the ocean is nearby – but it’s not because a decorative sign on the wall says, “Welcome to the Beach.” It’s about color, texture and light.

See any trends for this summer?
A trend I am seeing in general is the move away from "landfill furniture." For several years, consumers were buying an abundance of cheaply made furniture from China. It was meant to look stylish but it was not built to last. There was not a mortise and tenon or dovetail joint in sight. People should know that quality does not have to mean unaffordable – don’t go right to the Furniture Warehouse sofa because you don’t think you can afford something better. Shop around. A quality neutral sofa is an excellent investment. After all, I’ve had my living room furniture for nearly 12 years and it’s still great.

Lastly, what inspires you when you suffer from designer’s block?
Inspiration is everywhere, from the highbrow to the everyday. I recently attended a house tour in Newport – six historic mansions that featured everything from rock crystal chandeliers to green lacquered walls. Tons of inspiration. On my way home that day I passed a magnolia tree with the palest pink flowers and thought, “I can’t wait to use that pale pink in a design.” I never know where inspiration will come from, I just keep my eyes wide open.