Designer Profile: Interview with Carole Freehauf

For this week's Designer Profile, I am overjoyed to have Carole Freehauf sharing her design wisdom and experience!  Carole is the Principal Designer at Carole Freehauf Design in Massachusetts, and her timeless and sophisticated interiors are the epitomy of refined living.

Formerly a Creative Director, Carole's artistic talents led her to embark on a career in interior design and form her namesake firm in 2004.  Her incredible eye for tailored millwork and use of bright whites with strong, dark wood grains are just two of the things that make my heart swoon when I look at her brilliant portfolio

Read on for more about Carole's artistic inclinations, design philosophy and most memorable destinations!  Thank you Carole for participating in this series!

Can you tell us about your first job in the design field?

I have always liked to make all sorts of things, and spent a great deal of time crafting or creating art as a kid: sewing, cooking, ceramics, jewelry, embroidery, painting and drawing. My first career as a graphic designer and art director was in many ways very satisfying, but home projects, where I could think about a space three dimensionally, and tap into many of those childhood pursuits, influenced my decision to transition into interior design about ten years ago. First I trained as a kitchen and bath designer, and then three years later started my own practice, so I could focus on the design and decoration of any area in a home. This initial kitchen and bath training was really advantageous, as I quickly learned a lot about construction. Consequently many of my projects have involved designing for extensive renovation first, with decoration well integrated into that process. Space planning, millwork, finish selections and furnishings are very much informed by the interior architecture.

What is your design philosophy?

I define it as simple luxury. Live with only what you love, and let a room breath. Figuratively this means, donʼt weigh the room down, or confuse your senses, with excess, and literally, let the outdoors in whenever possible. Pay attention to the tactile quality of objects as much as their form. Celebrate memories with art, mementos, and interesting family photographs. Really think of your home as being synonymous with who you are; fill it with comfort and a sense of calm.
What is your most memorable travel destination?

Itʼs hard to pinpoint one place, as most of my travels have been memorable for different reasons. Istanbul, Rome, Provence, London, Northern California and Wyoming are some of my favorites. Istanbul for the food, moorish architecture, and confluence of cultures. Rome for itʼs visible layers of modern and ancient history. Provence for biking, landscape, and farmers markets. London for shopping; walking; the parks; and museums, especially the Victoria and Albert, and the Churchill Museum. Northern California for spa treatments, biking, hiking and wine. Wyoming for incredible scenery and horseback riding. It would be fantastic to spend a month in each every year.

What are your “best practices” for accessorizing a room?

First, consider function: is the room equipped with essentials that add comfort and ease for how youʼll spend your time there? Then, think a bit like a curator, make each accessory interesting on itʼs own, and in the way itʼs combined with other objects. Natural elements add a sense of calm to a room. Mixing textures and finishes adds depth. Display personal artifacts collected over a period of time, and change or add to them periodically to keep a room fresh.


What has been the greatest lesson since opening your business?

Itʼs really important to continually reevaluate and streamline the design process, which is inherently complex. There are so many details and variables to consider to bring a project to completion. Clients value our ability to articulate and simplify the process almost as much as the end result.



The Trouble with Blogging

Well, that's a bit of an exaggeration.  It's really the trouble of finding things (several things) I love/need/want at multiple times throughout the day.  Blogging has exposed me to the world of Tumbler, Etsy, Lonny, Magpie Lovely and the likes, and there simply aren't enough hours in the day for all the window shopping/inspiration file stockpiling I want to do.  It's to the point that if I were to print photos of everything I loved, large forests would be cleared.  Instead, my laptop's going to die of photo overload.

But sometimes I give in.  I find that one special item and just can't get it out of my head.  Like Dear June's sea-inspired scarves.  It's safe to say that these are so "me" and once discovering Romina's shop via You Are My Fav, I had to have one!

I get giddy like a kid on Christmas morning when I receive a package in the mail.  It's kind of pathetic.  Even the wrapping was so charming...

and voila.  I'm one happy camper. 

 But I also try to recall the urges of my crafty childhood when I can/need to.  I have hundreds of too-small-to-do-anything-with fabric samples thrown in bags, and unfortunately zero desire to create an heirloom quilt.  So instead they wait for awesome DIY projects like this: Little Miss Momma's Tutorial

It was a quiet weekend spent up north........

...so I took out an egg cup and traced circles like it was my job.

Note: Print out of Emersonmade's fabric floral goodness.  Couldn't resist clicking print.  One page closer to that large forest.

Glued a chain to the back of the flowers (that I got for free, I might add......thanks to the $1000000 I spent at Deserres as a student, I'm now reaping the rewards in gold chains).

And here it is!  Well, two of them.  Then I questioned how many necklaces I needed and decided to take a break.  It's been two months and I have a bag of flowers in need of chains, but I suppose that's not the point.  The point is it was free so it doesn't matter if it's hideous (just kidding).  Truthfully, it was fun to just spend time doing something with no purpose other than relaxation and having fun.  The trouble is.......now I always feel compelled to blog about it.

Words of Wisdom


Designer Series: Interview with Eve Robinson

I have no doubt the work of New York-based designer Eve Robinson is going to take your breath away!  Her keen eye for elegant furniture, soothing palettes and powerful architectural elements is truly just the beginning of her talent.  I couldn't resist presenting these photos in extra large format.  

Scattered among these spaces from Eve's portfolio, she shares her design philosophy, greatest lesson and how she got started!

Can you tell us about your first job in the design field?
My first project was working for a childhood friend and her husband.  Their aesthetic was much more traditional than mine but they trusted me.  I have done a total of 5 projects for the clients over the years.

What is your design philosophy?
Less is more.  Don’t overdo anything.

What is your most memorable travel destination?

What are your “best practices” for accessorizing a room?
Choose beautiful pieces and be conscious of color but don’t overdo.

What has been the greatest lesson since opening your business?
Follow up, provide excellent service, and check everything twice.

Thank you Eve!


Designer Series: Interview with Phyllis Harbinger


New York is home to so many talented Interior Designers, and I'm so pleased to introduce another favourite! 

Phyllis Harbinger, founder and principal of Design Concepts/Interiors, is likely a familiar face!  With appearances on HGTV's Designer's Challenge and Battle on the Block, Phyllis has turned her design talent into an incredible portfolio and brand.

Phyllis shares how she discovered her design talent, her favourite project and what she has in the works!

When did you know you were destined for a career in interior design?
Growing up, I was fortunate to have a large bedroom.  To my Mom's surprise, I must have changed my room around on a quarterly basis to spice things up.  This should have been my first clue that I was meant to be a designer, but it took another 20 years for me to find my calling.
My husband and I purchased a beautiful one bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side.  There were many for sale in the building and some were renovated but pricey.  I saw this one and said, I could make this great.  It was a landmark street and we were on the 4th floor at tree level with Brownstones across the way and lots of southern light.  It was a happy place.  But, the floors were dark, the kitchen counters had sparkles, the kitchen floors were vinyl and the bathroom was a bit of a mess.
Unbeknownst to me, I had an inner voice telling me to have vision.  I could see that it would not take that much time or resources to make this space look great.  We stripped the floors, put in new counters, painted cabinets, reglazed tiles and bathtubs and voila - the space was awesome.

We sold the apartment approximately two years later and made a 50% profit on our investment.  That is almost unheard of in Manhattan real estate.  We were thrilled.  That is when I started to realize that I loved design.  Space planning was fun for me.  That is when I enrolled at The Fashion Institute of Technology and experienced an education that changed my life.

What's inspiring you right now?
Right now, I'm inspired by details.  Architectural details like moldings, drapery details are also exciting.  At a recent Kips Bay Show House, the dining room featured embroidered panels adorned with crystals.  They were incredibly beautiful and I look forward to using an interpretation of this idea on a new project.
What is your most memorable travel destination?
My most favored travel destination is Barcelona, Spain.  I studied there during my college years and it was my first experience on European soil so it holds a special place in my heart.  I was not an Interior Designer back then and yet the beauty of the city, Gaudi's architecture, the influence of Miro and the Catalan people were all incredibly valuable and have influenced my work and the way I live.
What is your preferred room to decorate/design in a home?
I love designing bathrooms.  They are extremely challenging but so rewarding.  There are so many facets of the design - the planning, selecting the fixtures, tiles, wall details, designing the tile layout.  It is wonderful to transform a space so integral to our daily lives.

Do you have a favourite project to date?
My favorite project is a home in West Hampton Beach. The house sits on the ocean dune with views of both the ocean and the bay.  It is a spectacular modern structure with tons of light.

What's the biggest design risk you've taken?
The biggest risk I have taken happened in 2003.  One of my former students recommended me to a friend who was building a 10,000 square foot french Chateau.  Studs and plywood were up but the project required that we design every detail.  I had never had a project of this magnitude but I had a vision for what the house would look like and I knew that I could do a great job for the client.  An entire binder of drawings and details were created for this project.  We designed every detail from the doors to the moldings to custom furniture, closets and built-ins.  The project spanned three years and during that time, I needed to add staff and be present at the job site twice a week.
What has been the greatest lesson since opening your business?
This is a business that is built on details.  Details cannot be overlooked.  You learn something every day.  In design as in life, you cannot be a diva.  You must rely on the expertise of your support crew to have your back and give you good advice.  Many times, you may not wish to hear what they have to say but you must listen and learn.  Our systems have improved significantly after each project as we learn and grow from the knowledge shared with our trades.
What's next for you?
2011 has been devoted thus far to rebranding and marketing.  I am launching my blog complete with my new logo.  The new logo and brand will also appear in the new few weeks on my website, Facebook and Twitter page.  I am also looking forward to taping my first few episodes of a new web-based design show.  Stay tuned!!

 Thank you Phyllis for this great interview!


Designer Series: Interview with Sally Steponkus

Her infectious smile, entrepreneurial ambition and creative talent have made her one of House Beautiful's Top Designers to Watch, and I'm so excited to finally introduce Sally Steponkus as the next designer in this series! 

Sally has been decorating homes since 2001, leading her namesake design firm to create spaces with the perfect balance of traditional and energetic elements.  The greatest part of Sally's work is she makes glamorous design livable and unpretentious, and that's likely a reflection of her cheerful personality!

On a personal note, Sally's entrepreneurial drive is equally as inspiring for me as her keen eye.  As you'll find out below, Sally was only 24 when she set out on her own (yours truly better get moving...).  Love her!

Can you tell us about your first job in the design field? 

I worked as a memo girl in the Robert Allen showroom at the Washington Design Center for a couple of summers during college, pulling samples for designers and getting to know the fabric line.  It was busy and hard work but I loved it.    Everybody’s got to start somewhere!

What’s inspiring you now? 

Oh, lots of things:  the weather, for one.  When the sun shines and I know Spring is coming, I definitely feel like using brighter colors and cheerier prints and more whites (well, I always love white furniture).  I also take an antiques class and read a lot about antique decorative arts, which often influences my designs and very often a showhouse if I am currently working on one.  Sometimes old movies stick in my head too or a period TV show (Downtown Abbey on PBS!)

What is your most memorable travel destination?

Venice, for sure.  It’s the most gorgeous and romantic place I’ve ever been.  And I can’t wait to go back. 

What is your preferred room to decorate/design in a home? 

Probably a formal Living Room, because I don’t get to do them that often.  Clients rarely have these any more – everyone is forgoing them and doing just the huge Family Room, so when I get to play up some formality and elegance in the LR, it’s a nice change.  It’s a shame that people are deciding to omit these rooms that are used for entertaining, conversation and reading – just because there’s no TV perhaps?  But I love doing them, often in softer, more ladylike colors.  I have one on the horizon at a new client’s home and can’t wait to get my hands on it.  I have pale pink walls in mind.

What has been the greatest lesson since opening your business? 
That if I have confidence in myself and believe success can happen, then it will.  I have taken a lot of risks and they’ve all worked out for the best:  I opened Sally Steponkus Interiors when I was just 24, and then I hired both of my part time employees to work full time at the same time in June 2010 AND got our first office outside of my actual apartment that I live in at that time as well.  Every time I take a big step like this, I have to have confidence that it’ll work out and it always has, thank goodness.  I have been so lucky to have extremely supportive parents, fabulous friends and an incredible staff whose support I lean on all the time.  This is how I am able to go out every day and do my very best at what I love.

Photography credit: Angie Seckinger
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