While we’re all spending more time in our homes, you may be considering more intentional interior design choices. It’s not always as easy as it looks in the movies or in magazines. Kathleen Walsh has dedicated her professional careers to making her clients homes exactly the abode they have always dreamed of. Today, Kathleen serves as the Principal of Kathleen Walsh Interiors, and has an impressive list of clients in the Hamptons and rest of the East Coast.
I spoke with Walsh to learn more about her career, design choices, and what has changed in her industry this year.
Can you speak to the early days of your career? What motivated you to pursue a career in interior design?
KW: I initially went to Pratt Institute to study fashion. I have always loved fabric and fell in love with how it can work in spaces. A switch to Interior Design allowed me to combine my admiration for sculpture, architecture and fashion. After Pratt, I worked for design firms across the city, and during weekends I started my own bed linen line called oona and got an MBA from Baruch College. It was a busy ten years.
On the side, in the minimal spare time I had left, I took on design projects of my own. Ultimately, this decision is what launched Kathleen Walsh Interiors. One on my previous clients came to me for a solo project and encouraged me to launch a business of my own.
Your work is particularly interesting because it’s designed to be flexible as a family adapts and grows during the course of life. Can you speak to that aspect of your business and why you think that mindset is so important when designing a home?
KW: I genuinely believe that homes, like people, should be flexible and evolve over time. So, while we always deliver a home that is both beautiful and ready to be lived in immediately, we also design rooms that anticipate life will happen. If I come back and visit in one year, I encourage and fully hope that the homeowner has shifted some things and added some touches to make it truly theirs.
Your portfolio features an array of designs including “West Village Eclectic,” “Westchester Traditional,” “Greenwich Georgian,” “Hamptons Retreat,” and beyond. As a designer, how do you easily “switch hats” between clients?
KW: I love this question. It’s not easy! With the rise of platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, it’s much simpler to market a very branded look that becomes instantly recognizable. However, for my brand of design, that doesn’t honor the individuality of all of my clients. Above all else, my clients are families with their own outlook and combination of influences, and therefore, no two projects look the same, ever.
Our solutions are always sophisticated, our sense of color is proportioned really well, we’re very much attuned to details and there’s always an edge to combining our design elements and selections. I can pull from travel and my own research and do appreciate so many different aesthetic styles. I do understand the evolution of different styles, and relationships between styles and that knowledge lets me meet my clients on their turf, but still deliver something they couldn’t ever dream up themselves.
It seems like you truly make an effort to get to know your clients with a “Discovery Day” as the beginning part of the process. Can you speak to your business’ specific process and why you think it is so vital to the success of the projects?
KW: Thank you for asking this question! I believe that the clients themselves need to feel like they have ownership over their home and our project, and our Discovery Day helps provide that assurance. Feedback has been that clients really enjoy this day, it’s an introduction to the current market, certainly an eye-opener about what’s available to them, a discussion about aesthetic, quality and comfort, and clients are left with a sneak peek of things to come. Ultimately, this experience is about marrying magic with logic. It’s my job to honor my clients’ hopes and dreams while finding a happy medium that I know they’ll ultimately be comfortable living with.
During the day, we devote at least two hours looking at furniture to establish an aesthetic direction everyone will love. We do everything from sit tests on sofas and dining room chairs to a color exercise where I have my clients share gut reactions to different colors and patterns. These exercises help me get into their heads and gently challenge their assumptions.
We follow the day up with a call to ask plenty of questions about how the family lives. My clients walk me through their typical day to help me understand how their home should flow and function. After I understand what their everyday looks like, I dig deeper, asking questions like “how do you celebrate Thanksgiving?” or “how do you host an event at your home?” The answers to these questions help me understand if I’ll be sourcing a table that, most days of the year, sits five, but expands to accommodate a dozen for special occasions, or needs to go away to free-up space for a larger gathering.
We lastly discuss quality levels and budget, and ways to consider that balance. This isn’t something many people talk about at the outset of a project, but I believe it’s important to be as transparent as possible upfront and ensure everyone is on the same page. Ultimately, this day is so vital because, while I will have a complete image of where I think a design solution should go, it doesn’t matter until I can marry those ideas with the clients’ perspective and preferences. After so many years in business, it works for us and my clients’ feedback has been appreciative.
To learn more about Kathleen Walsh Interiors, visit kathleenwalshinteriors.com.